According to yogic and Ayurvedic thinking, efficient digestion is one of the routes to good health. Sue Fuller, founder of yoga2hear, investigates.
Yoga has an extremely positive effect on the digestive system. The way we sit and stand has a huge impact on our internal organs. Yoga postures help realign the body and improve posture.
When we slouch we restrict our organs of digestion - blood cannot flow freely around the body, the stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen and intestines all become squashed and therefore we are not able to process food efficiently.
Waste can quite literally get left behind inside those organs.
The ancient Indian life science of Ayurverda also pays close attention to the process of digestion - recommending small, regular meals; plenty of vegetables and lentils; and slow, mindful eating.
Yoga encourages us to sit up straight and form new postural habits, which in turn will allow organs of digestion to function more efficiently.
I often tell my students when we are practising seated postures to focus on their torso and the organs inside. I then ask them to imagine what happens to these organs when we slouch, my whole class usually sits up straighter and grows at least an inch in height.
There are many specific yoga postures that will stimulate the digestive system, apanasana (wind release), spinal twists, paschimotanasana (seated forward bend), dhanurasana (the bow), setu bhandhasana (half bridge) chakarasana (the wheel), balasana (child's pose) and many more.
Surya namaskara (sun salutations) will also work wonders for the digestive system. Quite simply any posture that twists, folds or stretches the torso will aid digestion.
It is important to remember not to eat a heavy meal before a yoga practice a light snack two hours prior is fine. It is also recommended that both bladder and bowel are emptied before practicing yoga so that the digestive system is relatively empty and energy is not being used to digest food.
Practising yoga without too much waste in system will give greater benefits and help cleanse and tone the internal organs.
If you wish to practice yoga specifically to aid digestion or to ease symptoms of a digestive disorder choose a selection of postures from the above list.
It is a good idea to start with apanasana (wind release) and gently squeeze the knees in towards the chest.
Then gradually work through postures that become more intense and provide a deeper massage to the organs of digestion.
The great thing is that you do not need to be an advanced yoga student to benefit from the positive impact that yoga has on the digestive system.
By bringing awareness to your alignment and working simply to maintain a straight spine you can improve and aid your digestive system. As well as your regular yoga practice do try to drink plenty of water and ideally follow a healthy vegetarian diet that includes plenty of fresh uncooked fruit and vegetables.
Sue Fuller has taught yoga internationally for over 15 years and written various training courses for the British School of Yoga. She is the founder of yoga2hear, a company producing audio yoga classes on CD or MP3 download. Visit www.yoga2hear.co.uk