For a long time I really struggled with digestive discomfort, often experiencing flare ups for seemingly no reason. Without realising, I let it take over day-to-day life – namely my yoga practice, which I avoided during a flare because I assumed it would make things worse.
ife can be so fast-paced which leaves little time for self-care. We regularly eat on the go (compromising time for digestion), sleep less than we need, and unintentionally put ourselves under a huge amount of physical and emotional stress on a daily basis.
As I started to understand the body a little better, learning about the interconnections of the mind and gut, and began tuning into my own body in a more holistic way, I later realised the huge value of yoga (and other meditative practice) for people like me. Allowing yourself just a few minutes of time out, whether that be yoga or otherwise, is incredibly effective at relaxing the body, aiding digestion, and reducing unwanted symptoms.
Having experienced the powerful healing benefits of yoga first hand and for many of my close friends and family (my sister overcame her Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Symprove and yoga), nowadays I strongly recommend introducing yoga and breathwork into daily practice, especially to anyone struggling with gut-related issues.
Below are a couple of useful digestive-aid tools accessible to everyone that you can take with you wherever you go. All you need is a few minutes, a small floor space, and your breath.
Twists are a great place to start. You don’t have to twist too deep, just a gentle twist of the torso is a great way to kick digestion into action, settle the stomach and relieve trapped wind. Lying down on your back, gently let the knees drop to one side. Soften the shoulders to the floor (without forcing them down) and keep length in your spine.. Take the gaze over the opposite shoulder and breath deeply through the nose. If you want something a little more energising and are feeling up to it, you can take a revolved chair pose or twisted lunge. The important thing to remember is to lengthen the spine before entering the twist, and to find the rotation from the ribcage rather than the lower back.
Another incredible tool that we can all access is our breath – taking long, slow breaths that fill the belly with air. Coming into child’s pose, allow the belly to become totally soft so that you’re not contracting the abs. Stay here, feeling the breath drawing in and out. See if you can deepen the breath, imagining it coming deep down into the belly. For me this is a great release for many ways. It encourages a softness around the abdomen as well as bringing a sense of calm to the body as well as helping to calm the mind and body, which leads on to the next tip…
So much of what is going on in our bodies (especially our gut) is linked to our minds. Yoga is a really great tool for reducing stress and anxiety and therefore is a great tool for reducing the physical manifestations of stress on the body. For that, there is no singular pose to recommend but just finding some breath or movement that helps you to reduce the stress levels that you are experiencing. Of course, a lot of that comes down to recognising ourselves and knowing when we need to use these kinds of tools. A regular and consistent practice over time can have such a hugely positive impact. In my own experience, it’s about shifting our attitudes towards self care from reactive to proactive.