Most people think of stretches as something that we do after exercise – to help muscles recover and heal properly. However, there is a whole world of good that stretching can do for other areas of the body, including our digestive system, to help with recovery and healing!
The Main Causes of Indigestion
Often the main issues that lead to problems with digestion are really easy to solve – if you know how. Aside from monitoring what you eat, as well as how you eat (think about meal times, how well you chew food, etc.), you can target the symptoms, which themselves can lead to further issues! Trapped gas causes great discomfort and pains in the intestines and can stop food from properly moving through your digestive system. This isn’t always that easy – or pleasant – to relieve either. Further, acid reflux can be a real pain to deal with, especially if you suffer from it regularly.
By targeting the areas where we feel these uncomfortable sensations, we can start to relieve the symptoms and get things moving again. Also, a general release of stress can work wonders for indigestion as this can often also be one of the leading causes according to some studies (3).
The True Cost of Digestive Issues in America
Every year in the United States alone an estimated 48.3 million people visit the doctor with digestive issues (1), and millions of more experience issues in relation to indigestion, but will head to a chemist for an over-the-counter solution. You are certainly not alone in feeling bloated, experiencing abdominal cramps, or discomfort after over-indulging!
Further to this, it is estimated that a third of the U.S. population suffers from heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million battle with it daily (2). As a result of this, $10 billion are spent on antacids every single year (2). Not only do these usually taste horrible, but some studies even suggest they might be making things worse, even linking them to Dementia. Also, there are so many natural solutions out there that are free, and much healthier, for example, abdominal stretches.
Stretches You Can Do At Home
We’ve collected ten stretches and yoga poses that you can do at home if you begin to feel symptoms of indigestion. You can do them after dinner, or just before bed, and you’ll never turn to the medicine cabinet for chalky tasting antacids again! All of these stretches are easy for anyone to do at home no matter what their experience level is, and you can do as much or as little of the routine as you would like. It usually all takes well under fifteen minutes to complete.
1. Standing Forward Bend Pose
We’ll ease into the routine from standing, to gently warm the body and get it ready for deeper stretches later on. This simple pose stimulates circulation and helps to massage your internal organs, letting them know you’re about to stretch them!
Simply bend at the waist and hold onto your calves. Over time, work to straighten your legs, but to begin with you can have a slight bend at the knee if it makes this pose more comfortable. You should stay here for as long as you feel you want to and then move into the rest of the routine at your own pace.
2. Extended Wide Squat
This pose can feel intense if you’ve just finished a large meal, but it’s for good reason. This position helps to relieve uncomfortable intestinal gas, so perhaps do this stretch in a personal space!
Simply position your feet into a wide stance and bend at the knees to come into a deep squat. You can then either keep your hands as pictured, or walk them out in front of you for a deeper stretch, allowing your belly to fall between your knees, and stay there for five deep breaths.
3. One-Legged Seated Spinal Twist
After you have completed your squat, you can sit down on the mat and go into the One-legged Seated Spinal Twist. Twists really help to get things moving, particularly abdominal twists! For any stretches that include a twist, you should lift the body on an inhale, and fall deeper into the twist with each exhale to really get the most out of it.
For this move, sit cross-legged and bring one foot onto the outside of the other bent knee. Place the opposite hand on the top leg for stability and use it to help intensify the twist your body will naturally want to do. After five breaths, switch sides.
4. Camel Pose
Staying close to the ground, your next stretch really helps to open up the torso. After twisting the area both ways, Camel Pose will help to get rid of any last little bits of tension. By really opening the torso up, you create loads of room for any digestion going on to move about more freely, as well as helping relieve abdominal cramps.
Sit up on your knees around hip-width apart and gently arch the back to warm it up and prepare it. When you feel ready, place both hands onto your heels (they are there for support not to bear weight!) and arch the back. Relax your head, and make sure you’re shifting your weight towards your knees. You’ll really feel this across your abdomen. Stay here for five breaths.
5. Boat Pose
A fantastic pose for general abdominal strength, this is one that you will only get better at over time. It engages the core which is vital for healthy digestion.
Sitting on your butt, you should bring your legs out and lifted up in front of you. If possible you should straighten them, but they may bend, to begin with! Try not to slouch the back, so you end up in a nice straight ‘V’ shape. Hold this pose for five complete breaths.
6. Bow Pose
This pose is great for relieving constipation and, once more, you will notice it getting easier over time as your core strength increases.
Lying on your front, bend your knees and reach back to hold onto your ankles. Then lift your feet as high can and bring your torso up with you too. Shift your weight forward so you’re resting on your naval and hold the pose for five breaths.
7. Child’s Pose
The best thing about Child’s Pose is its ability to totally calm the body! Not only does this stretch help you to open your hips, but it brings heat to the abdominal area which aids the flow of your digestive juices! As discussed earlier, the relaxing element to this pose will really help combat the stress which could be at the root of your digestive issues.
This pose is really simple – begin on all fours and, keeping your hands where they are, sit back over your shins and stretch out the abs. Stay here for as long as you want, around ten breaths is optimal as you want to stretch and calm the body as much as possible.
8. Knees to Chest
This pose is certainly one to do in private – it’s also known as Wind Reliving Pose! This is hands-down the best stretch you can do for bloating and pains caused by trapped gas. If you bring each knee up one at a time before hugging both to your chest, you stimulate and stretch out each side of your colon (the right side ascends and the left descends) which is great for elimination (8)!
Lying down, you should bring one knee to the chest, then the other, before bringing both in for a full stretch. Rock gently from side to side and after around five seconds release them.
9. Reclining Spinal Twist
This twisting stretch opens up the torso and helps to move things along!
Lying down bring one knee over and across the body and turn the head to look in the opposite direction. You should aim to keep both shoulders on the ground as this will deepen the stretch. Hold the stretch for around five breaths.
10. Cat and Cow Pose
This pose is a lovely end to the routine and is another stress reliever. Alternating between the pictured pose (Cow Pose) and one in which you arch your back upwards (Cat Pose) you will warm up and relieve tension in your back and neck. This stretch helps to lengthen and compress intestines, bringing fresh blood to the cells responsible for healthy gut function (8).
Change the pose for each time you inhale and exhale until you have completed ten breaths (five for each pose).
Complete the routine, or any particular favorite poses after meals, or as you feel you need to, and you will be on your way to optimal gut health for the future. Happy stretching!
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2014). Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/digestive-diseases-statistics-for-the-united-states.aspx
- Cassell, D. (2008, November 10). Antacid sales top $10 billion annually. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from http://drugtopics.modernmedicine.com/drug-topics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/antacid-sales-top-10-billion-annual?page=full
- Jansson, C., Wallander, M., Johansson, S., Johnsen, R., Hveem, K. (2009). Stressful psychosocial factors and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a population-based study in Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 45, 21-29. From http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00365520903401967
- Fuhr, L. (2013, November 15). Yoga Twists Keep Things Moving on Thanksgiving. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Why-Twists-Help-Digestion-32475135
- Sugar, J. (2015, November 25). Ease Your Digestive Woes With This Yoga Sequence. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Ease-Digestion-2521972?stream_view=1#photo-32630717
- Sugar, J. (2015, November 26). Soothing Stretches to Instantly Ease Digestion. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Stretches-Ease-Digestion-6261585?stream_view=1#photo-39077765
- Lee, M. (n.d.) Tame Your Tummy Trouble: Beat Bloat With Yoga. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20737691,00.html/view-all
- Coviello, C. (2014, July 25) 8 Poses For Better Digestion. Retrieved, August 23rd, 2016, from http://www.yogajournal.com/slideshow/8-poses-better-digestion/#1