It's not uncommon to feel like your body needs some help with digestion this time of year, as spring rolls in and starts detoxing all the heavy winter food and sluggish movements. Try incorporating these yoga moves into your workouts and boost your digestion in the gentlest way possible.
Twist It Up
Twists are like magical reboot buttons as they wring out all the toxins and bring in fresh oxygen and energy into the body. They stimulate and massage the inner organs, gently pushing the stool through the colon and helping you get the much-needed relief. A great remedy for bloating and feeling "heavy", twists can be used anytime, anywhere as there is more than one variation to choose from.
Lying twists are the easiest, but probably the most efficient, as you're able to fully use your breath and get into the deepest expressions of the poses. Start by lying on your back, legs stretched long in front of you, hands by your side. Bring your knees into your chest and hug them in, feeling your whole spine flat on the mat beneath you. Leave one knee hugged in and relax the other leg down on the mat. Inhale and grab the knee with the opposite hand to gently pull it across the body into the twist; exhale deep.
Keep inhaling and elongating your spine, and exhaling and twisting deeper. You can look towards the ceiling or in the opposite direction, intensifying the twist even further. Make sure both of your shoulders are on the floor and focus on deepening your breaths and letting your head relax. After 5-10 long breath cycles, slowly come back to the center and repeat everything on the other side.
There are numerous lying twist variations such as using eagle legs, straight legs, both knees bent; so find the one that works for you and listen to your body - you shouldn't feel any pain and your breath should never suffer.
Sitting twists require a little more awareness surrounding the spine and keeping it straight the entire time. Sit straight up, legs in front of you, feet flexed. Bend the right knee and cross it over your left leg, placing the foot next to the outer part of your thigh. Bring your right arm behind you, palm close to your sitting bones.
Push the floor away from you and use it as leverage to keep your spine vertical. Inhale the left arm up, bend at the elbow and gently twist in order to place it to the outer part of your bent knee, pushing into it. The more you push, the deeper you twist. Inhales create space in the spine, exhales bring you deeper into the twist. Stay for 3-5 long breaths and slowly come back to center and switch sides.
Standing twists are the most challenging of the bunch as they require good balance and more mobility in the hips. Starting in chair pose, bring your hands to your heart and twist to the right, placing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, pushing into it to open up your chest and get deep into the twist. Activate your core to keep you steady and bring your left hip back, right hip forward so they're straight in one line. Keep breathing and stay low, feeling your glutes and hamstrings activate. Stay for 3-5 breaths before coming back to center, and repeat on the left.
Stretching out our side body creates more space in the abdomen and allows our inner organs to breathe, increasing blood flow to the area and optimizing their function. When your digestion feels like it's not at its best, stretching out every once in a while gives it a nice boost as a dash of fresh energy gets the wheels turning.
Start in a standing position, legs together, hands by your sides. Feel your feet firmly pushing into the ground and activate your quadriceps by lifting your kneecaps. Engage your lower abs and tuck your pelvis down, stretching your whole spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head. Inhale your arms over your head and clasp your palms, pressing them together so your arms fully extend.
Take a big inhale and exhale by slowly leading your arms to the right, while pushing your hips to the left, feeling the compression in your right side body and the opening on your left. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and keep your breath steady.It's not uncommon to hold your breath and compress so hard you actually end up crunching your entire right side, so be aware of your body's position and keep on elongating and stretching throughout your breath. Stay for 3-5 long breath cycles and gently come back to center before repeating everything on the other side.
Bridge pose is quite powerful and versatile as it can be everything from energizing and metabolism-boosting to relaxing and pain-relieving. It stretches out the back and creates space in the abdomen at the same time, encouraging a healthy blood and nutrient flow to every cell in your body.
Start by lying on your back, knees bent and feet firmly pressed into your mat as close to your sitting bones as possible. Separate them so they're hip-width apart and make a mental note to keep the same distance as you get into the full pose. Place your hands by your sides, palms facing down.
Inhale and lift your hips up, using your feet and your palms to push into the ground and create the lift. Relax your glutes and dig your heels into the floor, feeling your hamstrings and quadriceps engage. You can lift your heels if you have any low back issues and feel that area relax even more. Bring your chest towards your chin and not the other way around, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears.
You can stay here or bring your arms underneath the body, stretching your shoulders and interlacing the fingers. Push your hands into the floor and allow your chest to open up and stretch out. Stay here for 3-5 long breaths, using inhales to push your heels into the floor and create space, and exhales to send your tailbone down and relax your glutes, avoiding any compression in your lower back.
Slowly exit the pose by releasing your arms and bringing them back to your sides, and then rolling your spine into the floor by placing your upper back first, then middle, and then low. Once your whole spine is flat on the floor, bring your knees into your chest and hug them tight, massaging your spine by rocking side to side.
Give these poses a try next time you feel bloated and when your digestion needs that extra push.