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Hiatal Hernia & Yoga Poses

By Katherine Garner ; Updated August 14, 2017

Dr. Julio Kuperman, a Philadelphia based neurologist, and Dr. Jeff Migdow, a holistic practitioner in Lenox, Massachusetts, are two yogis who believe that yoga can alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by hernias. Their experience is described in a Yoga Journal article. Dr. Kuperman, who has been practicing yoga for 25 years, and teaching yoga for 10, cured his own hernia through his practice. He and Dr. Migdow prescribe gentle poses for the treatment of hernias.

Significance

A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes into the diaphragm. According to the Mayo Clinic, hiatal hernias usually cause few physical problems and often go unnoticed unless detected by medical tests or procedures used when evaluating an unrelated health condition. In those rare instances where break-through of the stomach wall is severe enough to create untreatable heartburn or other painful trauma, surgery is usually prescribed. If practicing yoga can help you to avoid surgery, it may be worth investigating.

Theories/Speculation

Yoga poses of benefit to people diagnosed with a hiatal hernia are those utilizing the third chakra. Yoga theory centers around the seven chakras, swirling vortexes which run from the human tail bone along the spine to the crown of the head. Every yoga pose uses one of the seven chakras as an energy center. The chakras are portholes where energy is absorbed, received, distributed, and donated. When a chakra becomes blocked or flooded, physical or emotional injury occurs. The third chakra is centered over the stomach, says yogajournal.com.

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Types

In his book, "Yoga-The Path to Holistic Health," B.K.S. Iyengar illustrates 27 poses for treating hiatal hernias. Iyengar is an internationally acclaimed guru who has been teaching yoga for 70 years. He uses blankets, bolsters, blocks, belts, and chairs as props for beginners and people who are less flexible. Kundalini,Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power, and Bikram yoga are four more branches in the myriad yoga forms that have sprung up. Ashtanga and Power yoga are more vigorous and Bikram Yoga is done in a hot room.

Warning

Poses that put pressure on the abdomen, such as Cobra, Bow, and Bridge Pose should be avoided. Inversions, such as Shoulder-stand and Headstand, should also be excluded. Downward Dog Pose is a classic pose and an excellent spine stretch, but it places the diaphragm below the stomach and could allow acid from the stomach back into the esophagus, says yogajournal.com. All poses should be done with the approval of your doctor and under the supervision of a certified yoga instructor.

Benefits

Holding yoga poses for an extended number of breaths strengthens and stretches the muscles. Over time, the yoga student becomes aware of his breathing. Mindful breathing is a useful tool for everyday life. By breathing slowly and rhythmically, you relax the body and mind. Relaxed breathing allows the diaphragm to push up toward the heart and the stomach to drop toward the spine. In the words of Iyengar, "The mind is king of the senses. The breath is king of the mind."

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