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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Lucas

How can Yoga help your Digestion?

Yoga has been highly regarded for how it benefits the body and mind.

But did you know Yoga can actually have a positive impact on your gut health and digestion?

Stress and Digestion

Studies show that one contributing factor to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome is stress. According to a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Stress-induced alterations in neuro-endocrine-immune pathways act on the gut-brain axis and microbiota-gut-brain axis, and cause symptom flare-ups or exaggeration in IBS. IBS is a stress-sensitive disorder, therefore, the treatment of IBS should focus on managing stress and stress-induced responses."

Going deeper…Yoga and the “gut-brain connection”

According to the Harvard Medical School, the human gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to our emotions. Feeling angry, anxious, or sad can actually trigger a response in the gut, hence the term “gut-brain connection”. Constant stress and depression may be related to various digestive conditions from mild intestinal distress to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Recent studies have found that the gut-brain connection can also work the other way around, providing strong evidence that gut health, gastrointestinal disease, and mental wellbeing are all connected. Having a less diverse gut microbiome, has been linked to several mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Stress reduction can therefore improve digestion, and vice versa.

Yoga Resets Your Nervous System

We know a regular Yoga practice can help as it has therapeutic effects on stress, anxiety, and depression.

Yoga is a powerful tool that can help reset the automated nervous system (ANS). If you feel stressed or anxious, taking slow, deep ‘Yogic’ breaths in and out through the nose can help dial back out stress response. This, in turn, can help to reset the "rest and digest" function of the autonomic nervous system.

If someone is spending a lot of time in a state of high stress, this can have a negative impact on their digestion system. They may feel constipated or loose, that is because the sympathetic nervous system is in fight-or-flight mode. Yoga helps people land back to a state of relaxation and ease, which often leads to positive changes in their digestion.

How else can Yoga help our digestion?

On a physical level certain yoga postures can gently compress and release the stomach and colon, including twists and forward folds. These poses create an internal massage can help move things along the digestive track. The alternation of the stretching and contracting muscles helps tone them and improves the flow of blood and oxygen.

So in this week’s classes expect to see some twists and forward bends, as well as a hand mudra called ‘Pushan Mudra” to help deepen our connection between the mind, body and digestive system – See you on the mats, Namaste x

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