Yoga for Digestion and Gut Health
Dr. Kirti Singh

Dr. Kirti Singh

Apr 10General wellness

Yoga for Digestion and Gut Health

This blog is compiled by Athira Krishnan, a content writer for Proactive For Her.

How does unhealthy food get processed? 

If the food you consume is highly processed/refined, gives you empty calories (high sugar/oil/salt content) or is unhygienic, the enzymes in the gut don’t know how to use up all of this excess energy as it is neither useful for building muscles not optimum for body cells to carry out its functions.

All of this excess energy gets absorbed and accumulated in the body either as fat under the skin, fat in the liver, fat around the gut, brain fat or as toxins. This obviously hampers the proper functioning of these organs and may lead to various diseases.

How does yoga help with digestion?

  • Yoga, when practised in a regular and disciplined manner, aids in the overall balance of the body by aligning our body functions and our thought processes.
  • This practice inculcates self-love and gratitude, thus making us understand the benefits that come with the oneness of our bodies and mind making us “think healthy”, making us more aware of whether the food we eat is beneficial to our body or not. Naturally, you will tend to curb the consumption of unhealthy foods.
  • While practising yoga, the abdominal muscles get stretched and this strengthens the muscles and intestinal contractions. This increases blood circulation in the region and lowers the process of accumulation of fat. Engaging the abdominal muscles also promotes the proper secretion of enzymes that aid in good digestion.
  • Practising regular yoga also regulates cycles of hunger, day and night, sleep patterns and bowel movements. It also lowers constipation, sleeplessness and regulates appetite and hormone production. Thus, it boosts overall health.
  • Yoga reduces stress levels in the body and boosts the immune system, thus allowing only the healthy bacteria to flourish in the gut. This means food that is consumed is broken down properly, digested and absorbed by the body.
  • Yoga also teaches you to apply discipline and self-control to your habits and lifestyle thereby helping to manage dependence on food, alcohol, tobacco or other recreational substances.
  • This practice also helps to reduce anxiety by giving clarity to your thoughts and actions and improving your decision-making capability.

Yoga asanas (postures/positions) that help with digestion

By inculcating the practice of performing these asanas into your daily routine, it will overall boost the health of your digestive system.

  • Vajrasana / Hero pose - Calms the mind, increases circulation and improves liver function.
  • Naukasana / Boat pose - Strengthens muscles, increases the secretion of digestive juices and helps to develop self-control
  • Dhanurasana / Bow pose - Increases bodily secretions, improves mental health and improves breathing by opening up the chest.
  • Paschimottanasana / Seated forward bend - Massages the belly and reduces constipation, get rid of excess gas and blockages.
  • Pawanmuktasana / Wind relieving pose - Aids in proper absorption of food, expelling of gas and greatly improves bowel movements.
  • Trikonasana / Triangle pose - Improves appetite and energises the abdominal region.
  • Ardha matsyendrasana / Sitting spinal twist - Improves the functioning of the liver and pancreas and strengthens the spine and abdominal muscles.
  • Ustrasana / Camel pose - Stretches the abdominal muscles, improves circulation and improves bowel movements.
  • Bhujangasana / Cobra pose and Shalabhasana / Locust pose - Strengthens the core muscles, increases circulation and energises the body.
  • Marichi’s pose / Sage’s pose - Overall beneficial for the body
  • Malasana / Squat pose - Lowers constipation, improves balance, improves digestion and focus.

What is Satvik food? And what are its benefits?

Ayurveda categorises food ingredients into three distinct attributes - namely, sattva, rajas and tamas.

  • Sattva involves essence, consisting of refreshing, flavorful, light, ripe and succulent foods that provide energy.
  • Rajas are associated with activity and consist primarily of salty, bitter and spicy foods that are hot and dry, triggering negative emotions like anger, jealousy, greed, nervousness and irritation.
  • Tamas type of foods are inherently decayed with a foul odour and comprise junk food, processed/refined foods and oily items that consume a lot of energy during digestion and are hence, difficult to digest and get absorbed by the body.

Inspired by the ideals of ahimsa (non-violence) and simple living, satvik (sattva) foods are essentially vegetarian, based on Ayurvedic norms. It is prepared using only wholesome, organic, plant-based and dairy produce, strictly avoiding all animal meat. The meals largely consist of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, milk, legumes and various other naturally derived bounties.

The yogic sages have vouched for this elementary custom of cooking and eating food since time immemorial, preaching its fantastic wellness incentives from prompting digestion, bolstering metabolism, improving immune functions, enriching skin and hair and preserving a balanced state of the body and mind.

The common spices that are used are turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel and coriander. The food is neither too sweet nor salty, the alternatives being pink salt/rock salt and use of jaggery/honey as sweeteners.

Tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, products that contain soda, chocolates and pickles are strictly avoided.

Essentially popular amongst yoga practitioners, it is now becoming more popular and an increased number of people are now switching to this form of diet.

Benefits - Since Satvik food is simple, fresh and cooked with very few ingredients mixed together, it is easier to digest, purifies the system and helps in spiritual growth. It keeps our system well balanced and our thoughts clear.

Yoga is an ancient practice whose benefits and healing properties can be traced back hundreds of years back. The benefits are holistic and improve the physical and mental aspects of our being simultaneously. Regular practice of yoga along with a Sattvic diet will definitely aid in gut health and at the same time bolster bodily functions while balancing out your mental health.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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