Guts are often referred to as our second brains as our digestive health can inform our physical and emotional well-being. Our digestive system is very sensitive, and emotions, stress, and anxiety can impact our digestive health.
Did you know that one of the benefits of yoga is that it can help our digestion? Many yoga postures and breathing exercises are aimed at the digestive tract and can greatly improve our gut health.
Our Second Brain
Our brain and digestive system are intimately connected through a network of neurons, chemicals, and hormones. The gut is continually providing feedback to our brain such as, “Are you hungry?” or “Do you feel bloated?” This information exchange is known as the brain-gut-axis and provides you with constant feedback between your gut and your brain. Our gut, otherwise known as our enteric nervous system, is embedded in the lining of our gastrointestinal system and controls all digestion from our esophagus to our anus.
According to microbiologist Jamie Morea, the gut is the body’s headquarters. 80% of our immune system lives and breathes within the inner workings of the gastrointestinal environment. If there are not enough healthy bacteria in the gut, it can impact your health in many ways, including constipation, diarrhea, headaches, stomach aches, and more.
This second brain is not a thinking brain, but can strongly influence our mood. Stress can negatively impact the gut flora. Normally, when the body is under stress, healthy gut bacteria will work with the brain to ensure that the rest of the body is not impacted. However, high levels of stress can influence how the gut communicates with your brain and have a negative effect your emotional and mental health. Almost 90% of the cells in the enteric nervous system send information to the brain rather than receiving information from it. This basically means that the gut is just as influential to your mood as your head is, if not more.
Yoga for Digestion
Exercise can have a strong influence on both our moods and gut health. As it relates to digestion, exercise can increase the microbial diversity and the presence of healthy bacteria in our guts. Yoga, in particular, can play a significant role in improving our digestion. Yoga for digestion is a serious practice that can not only improve the digestive system but also help detoxify the body and improve your mood. Yoga asanas and breath work will massage your internal organs, helping to stabilize digestion by working the nerves associated with hunger, satiation, and your metabolism. Practicing will also help balance the levels of proteins and enzymes that work in digestion, allowing your body to better absorb nutrients and more efficiently expel toxins. Finally, yoga helps strengthen the muscles of the core and deep pelvic region that surround our gastrointestinal system, aiding in the digestive process.
According to Yoga Journal, there are certain asanas that target yoga for digestion: twisting poses that wring out your digestive tract to help your gastrointestinal system to stay working and moving. These postures include:
- Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose): compresses and lengthens your intestines, bringing fresh blood and oxygen to the cells responsible for healthy gut function
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog): provides energy and oxygen to your intestines and your digestive tract
- Trikonasana (Triangle Pose): stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion
- Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose): compresses and releases the colon, stimulating the movement of toxins in the body
- Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose): great for stretching the belly, particularly after a large meal
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): excellent for compressing digestive organs and creating blood flow to the heart
- Ardha Pawamuktasana – (Half Gas Release Pose): stimulates the nerve to assist in the elimination of waste from the body
- Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Twist): cleanses the body by squeezing and stretching the torso from the pelvis to the neck
- Savasana (Corpse Pose): stimulates the colon, aiding in the elimination of waste from the body
Yoga employs a myriad of techniques that will help your gut bacteria stay healthy, positive, and strong; boost your mood, your immunity, and your overall health! The best part is that yoga for digestion is not a special practice; it is the free benefit you get from including any type of yoga into your exercise routine. Check out Alo Moves‘ series Wring it Out by Meghan Currie, focused on detoxifying and cleansing your body. It will have your gut sending a smile to your face!