Yoga & Gut Health
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know gut health impacts the whole body. It’s now widely accepted that good gut health contributes to a robust immune system, cardiovascular health, brain health, endocrine stabilisation and functioning, improved mood, healthy sleep, effective digestion and has a hand in the prevention of some cancers.
So, we need to treat the gut with respect and care it deserves.
Taking Gut Performance™ to supplement a good diet will help, but there is more to gut health than taking supplements.
We need to support our gut through a diverse range of measures. So we can benefit from an optimal functioning gut – enhancing overall health and peak performance.
A regular and consistent yoga practice can help relieve pain and discomfort produced by a poorly functioning gut. But its more vital role is in keeping the gut in vigorous health. And it’s not all about the OM. Even though it does help.
Yoga has a multi-pronged, synergistic effect on gut health. The benefits come from an interplay of an exercise effect, asana and restorative practice.
Microbial diversity is vital to keep your gut functioning at its best. Research has found moderate amounts of exercise can increase the variety of bacteria in your gut (Clarke et al., 2014). It is also linked to reduced risk of ongoing inflammation.
Now for the yoga poses! Consider the practice of yoga to be like a massage for your internal organs.
Static poses strengthen and stretch the abdominal area. They help tone the muscles that house and support the majority of the organs involved in digestion. This ensures the digestive system is protected in the torso.
Dynamic poses, where you fold, twist and stretch the abdominal area improves blood and lymph circulation. These movements create a squeeze and release effect, supporting improved functioning and stimulating elimination and movement of waste through the small and large intestine. It’s also believed to contribute to the body’s detoxification process. For centuries it has been considered the twisting and strengthening yoga poses encourage the liver and kidneys to flush out toxins.
One of the critical roles of healthy gut bacteria is to signal the proper response to the brain to cope with stress. However, prolonged or excessive amounts of stress negatively impact gut flora, changing the messages sent to the brain. This, in turn, affects the way your body deals with stress – physically and mentally.
Through consistent practice, yoga calms the nervous system. By learning to regulate breathing, and focus on the present moment, it promotes the body’s natural relaxation. Turning off the ‘fight and flight’ response and switching to the ‘rest and digest’ response.
When practising yoga for healthier digestion, you should keep a few things in mind. You don’t want to stress your gut. If you are having issues such as pain, bloating etc., it is already working overtime.
- Gentle yoga is excellent for digestion, particularly if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.
- It is always best to practice at your own speed and not exert yourself.
- For severe forms of digestive disorders and pain, it is probably best to utilise other yoga tools such as meditation and restorative practices.
Try the poses/sequences below to restore balance and promote gut health. Let us know through the Gut Performance Instagram page or tag your gut restoring yoga pics #gutperformanceyoga to show us how you promote your gut health through yoga.
Yoga Poses for Gut Health
Share your fav yoga postures for gut health!
“There are many Yoga Asanas that target the digestive system, helping us detoxify, physically move unwanted stool along and out, and restore balance to our digestive fire (Agni). Asanas and the practice of Yoga benefit our being as a whole. Whether it’s targeting the Endocrine system, the reproductive system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the mind and the soul, its all ultimately links back to our guts anyways. We now know our brain and the gut – brain is linked directly through the vegas nerve, and Yoga is a practice that frees us from anxiety, fear, one mindedness, and of course the ever damaging ego that create chaos on our microbiome and mitochondria. We are a being made up of billions of other smaller beings working as one, everything is connected and when we turn inward to bring our mind and body into harmony with the external worlds around us, the ever-complex, rebuilding, recycling, intelligent community of life that makes us works and lives in harmony… creating our ultimate wellbeing. Yoga, amoungst many other ancient practices, helps us achieve this.” Henry Jefferson
1. Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
Gomukhasana is primarily a hip opening posture. According to many ancient medical holistic practices such as Ayurveda, Vedic, Yoga, Chinese Medicine, Tibetan Medicine etc, our anxiety, traumas, and suppressed fear based emotions all get stored in the hips. Stretching and opening the hips release these stagnated energies and tension, allowing us to feel lighter, more grounded, relaxed and stress free thus improving the function and health of our microbiome. It also allows more energy to flow through the physical body. Gomukhasana tilts the top of the hips forward which elongates and straightens the spine, especially in the lower Lumbar spine which is crucial for upper and lower intestinal alignment. Because this Asana bring about such posture to the spine, it also helps the flow of energy through the spine, opening of the heart and diaphragm, allowing us bring ourselves out of low vibrating emotions such as anxiety. It also helps treat Sciatica. Gomukhasana is also very beneficial for the kidneys as it physically stimulates the organ. If we decide to connect the hands behind the back, we open and clear the rotary cuff on the shoulder.
Entering the posture:
- Sit in an ‘L’ shape (seated Dandasana), legs together directly in front, bring your sitting bones back, beginning to tilt the hips forward.
- Bring the right heel in line with the left knee cap. Then bring the right foot over the other side of the left leg and up toward the outside of the left hip. You should start feeling a slight twist and opening in the right hip.
- For support, bring your hands to the ground on either side of you. Sweep the left foot to the right side toward the right hip, bringing the feet into one line either side of you.
- Ground your hands in front of you and lean forward to lift off your sitting bone and allow your knees to come closer together, stacked in line with each other. Then slowly lower back onto your sitting bones.
- Keep the feet activated in a right angle to protect the ankles. If there is any pain in the knee, step back, the twist should be in the hips not the knee. Allow the hips to open slowly and naturally.
- Raise your right arm in the air, fold behind the back trying to bring the elbow in line with the crown of the head. Sweep the left arm under and being the back to grab the right hand. If you can’t reach at this time, you can use a belt or a yoga strap. Lift the chin to further open through the chest, and the shoulder.
- Closing the eyes when you find your positioning, allow the breath to come to a natural flow, filing into the chest and the diaphragm. Always allowing the breath to further open us into our Asanas. Observing the sensations through our physical body, emptying the mind, and finding the stillness.
- When we want to release from this position, we first release the arm stretching out to the sides to neutralise through the chest, shoulders and scapula. We then let out bodies know we are about to unravel. Using your hands, slowly and gently release the legs and come back to the seated ‘L’. Give yourself time to close the eyes and observe the subtle changes, openings and release of tensions throughout the body.