Yoga Positions to Promote Bowel Movements

Caucasian woman practicing yoga at seashore
Destressing with yoga can improve constipation. (Image: kapulya/iStock/Getty Images)

The train's not moving through the station. You can't drop the kids off at the pool. You're constipated, and there's nothing funny about it. If you haven't had a BM in a while, you might be feeling gassy, bloated and crampy. Your diet is usually the first target to take aim at -- increasing your fluid and fiber intake.

Exercise is the next best strategy, and the ancient practice of yoga has you covered. Not only does yoga reduce stress that can cause constipation, certain positions help massage the abdomen to get things moving.

Sun Salutations

Cardiovascular exercise like brisk walking and jogging is a commonly recommended strategy for relieving constipation. Cardio gets your blood flowing and heart pumping and can stimulate a sluggish digestive system. Yoga's version of cardio is a flowing sequence called sun salutations, usually used to warm up the body and prepare it for more challenging poses. If you've got 10 to 15 minutes, you can do a mini-cardio workout that should help speed up digestive transit time.

How to: Do the following poses in quick succession, allowing one breath per movement, except for downward dog, which should be held.

  • Begin in Mountain pose with your arms at your sides and shoulders pulled back.
  • Inhale your arms up over your head.
  • Exhale as you swan dive forward, folding at the waist and sweeping your arms out and down.
  • Inhale to a Half Forward Fold looking ahead with your back flat and your palms on your shins.
  • Exhale to a Forward Fold and step your feet back to high push-up position.
  • Inhale for one count, then exhale as you lower down to Four-Limbed Staff Pose, with your elbows bent to 90 degrees and your knees and hips lifted or knees and chest on the ground for support.
  • Inhale into Upward Dog, scooping your chest forward and straightening your arms. Leave your thighs and pelvis on the ground, or lift both off the ground for a more active posture.
  • Exhale back to Downward Dog. Hold for five deep belly breaths.
  • Inhale as you step forward and rise up to Mountain posture.
  • Repeat the sequence for a total of 10 rounds.

Supine Twist

This is a calming and relaxing pose that's perfect when your tummy is feeling crummy. Twisting postures compress and massage, stimulating the digestive system and helping to relieve gas.

How to: Lie on your back and pull your right knee in towards your chest. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, bring your right knee across your body. Turn your head to the right and take several deep belly breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

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