Yoga: Poses to help improve your digestion

Most people, including non-practitioners of yoga, are these days aware that yoga may not be done immediately after a meal, especially a heavy one. But very few people know that there are some practices that are allowed because these actually enhance the digestive process.

These practices work on digestion at the muscular level, as does the supta veerasana (lying warrior pose). Some, like the pitta-kaarak mudra, are based on the ayurvedic principle of doshas, that enhance the pitta (fire) element in the body.

Seated, meditative poses like the vajrasana which is recommended for all as a matter of daily habit before and after a meal are based on the principle of acupressure points or marma points (energy nodes). Vajrasana's impact is near-miraculous. So, though it is initially rather difficult to practice, it is worth cultivating. The dradhasana (firm pose) works on the esoteric principle of swar yoga which is interpreted these days in the language of the body's biological clock.

In all these practices, the basic idea is to switch on the fire element (pitta) or the pingala nadi (also called the surya nadi) which is the active principle in the body.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Kerala, shows you the four practices that will enhance your digestion if done after your meals.
  • Points to note: These practices are specially for those who may, for some reason, eat their dinner too close to bedtime, or are obese, or suffer from chronic indigestion. Those who have extremely sensitive digestive tracts such as irritable bowel syndrome or any inflammatory conditions of the digestive system must refrain from such practices.
  • It is also very important to follow the exact suggestion in practices like dradhasana (where you must lie only on your left side) to ensure the right nadi is switched on.
Dradhasana (Firm pose)

Lie on your left side, ensuring your body is straight, legs one on top of the other as shown. Your left arm must be folded to cushion your head. Shut your eyes. This is a relaxation pose, so you may continue normal breathing as you rest in this position for a few minutes. Try to remain in this position for at least five minutes for impact.

Benefits: This works by tweaking the pingala nadi or the active nadi involved with digestion and metabolism.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt pose)

Sit back on your heels. Flare out your heels, letting your big toes lightly touch. Your right toe may be over the left one, pressing the latter firmly. Let your knees be close to each other and hips rested firmly on the back of your heels.

Place your hands on your knees. Shut your eyes, staying in the pose for as long as is comfortable. The ability to stay longer in the pose is acquired gradually, through regular practice. You may use a folded towel between your ankle and the floor/ mat or between your heels and hips, in the initial stages of practice.

Avoid: If having knee problems or weak ankles.

Benefits: This is a powerful pose, therapeutic for most ailments, particularly related to the digestive tract. It may be practiced both before and after a heavy meal, especially by those who wish to lose weight.

Pitta Kaarak mudra (Fire element enhancing hand gesture)

Sit in any meditative pose. Press down your ring and little finger of each hand with your thumb. Shut your eyes, hold for three minutes for impact.

Avoid: If having inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract or excessively sensitive digestive tract, ulcers, body heat etc.

Benefits: It spikes metabolism, boosting digestion. It removes physical and mental lethargy.

Supta Veerasana (Lying warrior pose)

This is an advanced pose and advised only for those who practice yoga regularly, can already sit in vajrasana for long and enjoy back and leg flexibility.

Sit in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose), as explained earlier. Using your elbows for support, lie back gently, so your head is rested on the floor. If new to the pose, you may attempt it by keeping a bolster under the back.

Lie back, bring your knees together, raise your arms overhead to place it on the floor behind your head. Shut your eyes and relax in the pose for as along as is comfortable. Rise from the pose, by propping yourself up at the elbow to sit back in vajrasana.

Avoid: If new to yoga, or have cardiac or blood pressure problems, knee pain or a stiff body.

Benefits: This exerts a powerful stretch along the entire digestive tract, boosting metabolism and digestion.




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