How Yoga can Help Improve Digestion
As societies progress, there is a shift in the economic structure of a country. Gradually, there
is an increase in demand for jobs that are intellectually intensive and a decrease in the
demand for labour intensive jobs. This increases the proportion of the working population
with a sedentary lifestyle, affecting the digestive system. This paper suggests the
incorporation of certain yoga practises that could benefit the digestive system of a typical
desk-bound individual in a First World country.
The raja yoga of Patanjali is categorized into 2 types, external and internal. Asana,
Pranayama, Yama, Niyama and Pratyahara form the external means while Dharana, Dhyana
and Samadhi form the internal means. Every stage of Yoga must be practised to cultivate
one’s mind and body in preparation for the other stages. Regular practice of asanas not only
maintains the physical body in its optimum condition and promotes health, it also helps to
cultivate awareness and concentration. The following poses help to massage the abdomen,
remove wind and constipation and relieve digestion. They are especially beneficial for desk-
bound individuals as they strengthen the back muscles, loosen the spinal vertebrae and
relieves strain and stiffness in the back too.
Supta Pawanmuktasana (leg locked pose)
Start with the right leg and follow with the left as they press the ascending colon and
descending colon respectively.
1. Lie in starting position.
2. Bend right knee, bring right thigh to chest. Keep left leg straight on the ground.
3. Interlock fingers, clasp hands on shin below right knee.
4. Keep left leg straight on the ground
5. Inhale deeply.
6. Exhaling, lift head and shoulders off ground. Bring right knee to nose. Stay for a few
seconds. Remain normal breathing. Do not strain right knee.
7. While slowly inhaling, return to base position.
8. Repeat 3 times on each leg. Then with both legs bent at the same time.
Supta Udarakarshasana (Sleeping Abdominal Stretch Pose)
1. Lie in starting position.
2. Bend both knees. Place both soles flat on floor, directly in front of buttocks.
3. Keep knees and feet together throughout the practice.
4. Interlock both hands, place palms under back of the head. Let elbows touch floor.
5. Inhale. While exhaling, slowly lower legs to the right, onto floor.
6. Gently turn head in opposite direction of legs.
7. Hold your breath in final position for 3 seconds.
8. On inhale, raise both legs to upright position.
9. Repeat left side to complete one round. Practise 5 rounds.
You may place feet closer or further from the buttocks to twist upper or lower back
respectively. Start with feet about 60cm away from buttocks and move feet 3cm closer each
time to work on each vertebra, bringing suppleness to entire spine.
As you deepen your practise of asanas and have achieved relative strength and flexibility.
Practise the following pose:
Halasana (plough pose)
1. Lie on back with feet and legs together. Place arms beside body, palms facing down.
2. Use abdominal muscles to raise both legs vertically.
3. Press down on arms, lift buttocks, roll feet over head, bring toes to ground behind
the head without straining.
4. Turn palms up, bend elbows, place hands behind ribcage to support back.
5. Hold final pose for as long as is comfortable.
6. To return to starting position, lower arms with palms down. Gradually lower each
vertebra to floor, followed by buttocks. Resume legs in initial vertical position.
7. Using abdominal muscles, lower legs to starting position.
To complement the practise of asanas, include the following Pranayama exercise:
Bhastrika Pranayama (bellows breath)
The rapid and rhythmic movement of the diaphragm stimulates the visceral organs, toning
the digestive system, ensuring their suppleness.
1. Sit in comfortable mediation posture. Rest hands on knees.
2. Keep head and spine straight, close eyes. Relax.
3. Inhale. Then exhale forcefully through nose, and immediately inhale with same
amount of force.
4. Continue in this manner for 10 breaths. This is one round. Practise up to 5 rounds.
Movements should be slightly exaggerated.
To further alleviate issues of digestive system, you should always take care of your diet.
Avoid heavy, oily and spicy food as they cause acidity/gas in the digestive system. Cold
beverages extinguish the heat of the digestive fire (Agni). Do not drink too much fluids
during and after a meal, take at least 3, (best 4 to 6) hour break before another meal. This
allows Agni to fully process the meal.
Lastly, the strengthening of a healthy digestive system is important as the digestive system
breaks down and absorbs the nutrients of the food that we ingest. It is vital to incorporate
these asanas into our lives and practice them consistently to ensure proper absorption of
these nutrients for a healthy body.