Intestinal issues run the gamut from diarrhea to constipation, gas and bloating and more serious issues like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. Although yoga isn't a cure for any of these problems, it can help provide temporary relief.
Simply moving and breathing deeply can help relieve the stress that is often to blame for GI upset; specific poses massage and compress the digestive organs to get things moving or expel gas. Try adding a few of these poses to your practice when your digestive system is causing discomfort.
Deep Belly Breathing
Not a pose, per se, but a great way to start a practice with the goal of relieving intestinal issues, deep belly breathing through the nose helps focus your mind and calm your nervous system. This can reduce the stress that causes digestive upset.
How to: Lie on your back with your legs extended. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose, filling your belly -- not your chest -- with air. Take in as much air as you can, letting your belly rise and expand. Hold for a second at the top, then slowly release all the air from your belly, pulling your navel in toward your spine. Try to match the length of your exhale with your inhale. Focus on your breath and the rising and falling of your belly. Pause at the bottom, then inhale again, continuing to repeat for 10 to 20 rounds.
The undulating nature of this pose helps massage the digestive organs and warms up the spine for subsequent poses. The rhythmic breathing helps relax the mind and destress the body.
How to: Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists beneath the shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Assume a neutral spine, not rounding or arching the back and keep the back of the neck long. Inhale as you drop your belly toward the ground, lifting your head and shoulders and tilting your pelvis forward. Roll your shoulders back to broaden across the chest. Exhale as you reverse the position, arching your back up toward the ceiling, tucking your pelvis and bringing your chin to your chest. Broaden across your shoulder blades. Continue to alternate between the two poses for 10 rounds.
Just as the name says, this pose can help release gas and reduce bloating. It also stretches the hamstrings and glutes and strengthens the arms.
How to: Lie on your back with your legs extended and together, your arms at your sides. Bend your right knee and bring it into your chest. Wrap your hands around your shin just below your knee and pull your knee farther into to your chest. Keep your entire back pressed into the ground and breathe deeply through your nose for five to 10 counts. Release your right leg to the ground and repeat the stretch on the other side.
An alternative variation of the pose has you squeeze both knees into your chest at the same time.
Rotating the torso compresses and massages the abdomen and intestines. A Reclined Twist is also a relaxing posture that helps relieve stress.
How to: Lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms out to the side in a T shape. Bend your right knee into your chest and allow it to fall across your body to the left. Drop your right knee to the left as far as you can without allowing your right shoulder to come off the ground. To deepen the stretch, bring your left hand on top of your right knee and apply gentle pressure. Hold for five to 10 deep belly breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
The ultimate calming and restorative pose, Legs Up the Wall is a relaxing way to finish your practice that also helps improve circulation and relieve digestive problems.
How to: Position your mat perpendicular to a wall. Sit down with your left side up against the wall. Keeping your buttocks in contact with the wall, turn your whole body to the left and place the backs of your legs on the wall. Flatten your back on your mat and extend your legs so your knees are straight. From the side, your body will look like the letter L. Place your hands palms down alongside your body or rest them on your belly. Practice deep belly breathing and remain in the posture for five to 10 minutes.