by Lyndsay Babbitt
Personal Trainer and Certified Yoga Instructor
Yoga is a very powerful practice to add to your daily routine. It is quite astounding how beneficial it can be to your life, and how little most people in the west really know about it. Yoga is so much more than training the physical body, increasing flexibility and strength. The asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath work) practiced in yoga create more subtle changes in the body, beyond what meets the eye. Energy channels and organ systems are manipulated in order to create balance in the body and mind. Amongst the more subtle systems affected by yoga is digestion. Digestion is a key factor in good health and yoga can help dramatically improve digestion through many techniques such as pranayama, asana, and ayurveda.
Asana and pranayama are excellent for digestion because they actually massage and manipulate the internal organs in the body. Here are three techniques that aid in digestion:
– Agniraj breathing: Lie on your back and draw your knees into your chest, wrapping your hands around your shins. Inhale into your belly, expanding the muscles of the pelvic floor and pressing the stomach up to the thighs. As you exhale contract the muscles of the pelvic floor and let the stomach retract down towards the spine. This moves the breath out of the chest (which often causes indigestion and acid reflux). It moves energy downwards and is also very calming.
– Fire Series: Lie on your back with your legs extended straight up, flexing the feet. Draw the navel to the spine and as you exhale lower the straight legs 30 degrees toward the floor. Inhale as you hold the position and exhale lower another 30 degrees and hold. Repeat once more with the feet just an inch off the floor (make sure your low back stays on the ground!). On your final exhale draw the knees into the chest for a rest and then repeat two more times. This is an excellent core exercise that draws heat and blood flow to the digestive center.
– Twists: These are excellent for detoxing and can be performed lying, sitting, or standing. Try sitting with your legs extended out straight and your spine lifting tall. As you exhale twist to the left taking your left fingers behind you on the floor and pressing the outside of your right hand against the outside of your left thigh. Hold for six breaths and repeat on the other side. Twists squeeze and release the liver which speeds of the processes of emptying the body of toxins.
One of the many practices of yoga is something called Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old system of natural healing that originated in India. It translates literally to ‘life knowledge’ (Ayur – life, Veda – knowledge). This practice aims to help the individual find balance in environment, body, mind, and spirit to maximize vitality. Oftentimes digestion is the number one focus in Ayurveda. Agni, or fire, is the essential element in the digestive system and keeping that fire, or heat going throughout the day is key to good digestion. The following are a few Ayurvedic practices to improve your digestion: