Acid reflux is a common digestive complaint often caused by dietary imbalance or as a side-effect of obesity or pregnancy. The calming, centering effects of a gentle yoga practice combined with yogic dietary guidelines can help alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux; however, not all yoga postures are appropriate for individuals experiencing acid reflux, and yoga alone may be insufficient to treat the condition. Individuals suffering from symptoms of acid reflux should consult a physician before attempting to practice yoga.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition in which stomach acid rises into the esophagus due to a malfunction of the valve that separates the contents of the esophagus and the stomach. Commonly described as acid indigestion, this condition results in a chronic burning sensation in the throat and chest that is often exacerbated by substances including alcohol, citrus, caffeine, chocolate, high-fat foods and pungent foods like garlic, onions and spices. Conventional treatment includes the use of antacids, prescription medications and lifestyle and diet adjustments; but yoga can supplement these changes to further counteract indigestion and bring patients relief.
According to yoga teacher and Yoga Journal contributor Barbara Kaplan Herring, certain yoga poses promote good digestion and alleviate symptoms of conditions like acid reflux. These poses include restorative postures such as reclined hip-openers, supported backbends and modified side-stretches that reduce digestive acidity and increase blood supply to the abdominal region. Specific poses to try include Supta Baddha Konasana, or Reclining Bound-Angle pose, Supta Sukhasana, or Reclining Easy Cross-Legged pose, and Parsvottanasana, or Intense Side-Stretch pose.
Kaplan Herring suggests that individuals suffering from digestive complaints avoid yoga poses that compress the abdominal area, such as standing or seated forward bends. Full inversions like headstands should also be avoided in order to prevent symptoms like headaches and vomiting. Finally, physically strenuous yoga can exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux and ought not to be practiced when symptoms are present.
Although yoga can be beneficial for individuals dealing with acid reflux, it is not an effective treatment in and of itself. Diet plays a key role in the avoidance and control of acid reflux, as do lifestyle changes to aid digestion such as slower eating and reduced alcohol and caffeine consumption. Remember that these factors are a necessary complement to yoga when seeking relief from acid reflux symptoms, and consider consulting a physician or dietician to determine which foods and substances are best for your individual health.
As with any alternative therapy, always consult your doctor before undertaking a yoga practice to treat symptoms of acid reflux. Certain postures are not safe for individuals with digestive problems, back pain and other health conditions. Do not practice yoga without first seeking instruction from a certified instructor.