If you struggle with bloating, hard stools and uncomfortable or infrequent bowel movements then Yoga might be just what the doctor ordered.
One of the best natural ways of managing mild to moderate constipation is with gentle movement and abdominal massage. Yoga is a particularly effective way of accomplishing this, but it also comes with its own added benefits.
One of the most common causes of digestive issues of all kinds is stress. The hectic pace of modern life and the constant exposure to stimulation that characterizes the day to day existence of most western people has a direct effect on your gastric health.
There are a lot of theories on why that is, but it’s clear that in one way or another stress translates into inefficient digestion and a dysfunctional amount of tension in the lower abdominal region.
Combine this with a sedentary lifestyle that doesn’t regularly strengthen the deep core muscles of the abdomen and pelvic region and you’ve got a recipe for a long and difficult trip to the bathroom.
The poses that follow have been handpicked by us to help massage the digestive system, strengthen the abdomen and relax the mind. If you’re having problems with your gut this is the program for you!
It’s important to note that all yoga programs, especially ones targeting the digestive system, are far more effective when they are combined with a nutritious diet rich in protein, healthy fats, micronutrients, and dietary fiber. There’s no avoiding the simple fact that the quality of what you put into your body determines the quality of what comes out of it.
Here are our best yoga poses to relieve constipation:
1. Savasana, or Corpse Pose
Savasana is often done at the end of a yoga practice to release any tension developed during a vigorous practice and to help the practitioner leave their mat feeling refreshed. However, if you’re experiencing constipation, it might be a good idea to perform Savasana at the beginning of your practice as well.
Simply lie down on your back and systematically release all the muscles in the body from head to toe. Focus especially on the muscles surrounding the abdomen, lower back, pelvis and hips. In some cases, consciously relaxing this area for an extended period may resolve mild gastric discomfort on its own.
If you are a regular practitioner of a vigorous style of yoga, always remember to spend as much time as possible resting in Savasana at the end of your practice. Practicing aggressively without enough relaxation to balance it out can actually cause constipation, even in very strong practitioners.
2. Pawanmuktasana, or Wind-Relieving Pose
This pose is literally named after its effect on the lower abdomen.
Wind Relieving Pose creates gentle pressure on the lower intestine that can help to move stool into the colon and creates the blood flow in the abdomen that can aid digestion.
Simply lie down on your back. On an inhale bend the left leg and draw the left knee in towards the chest. Keeping the shoulders and head in contact with the floor interlace the hands around the upper shin and draw the thigh into the abdomen gently but firmly. Breathe deeply in this pose for about a minute.
Repeat the pose on the other side. Relax in Savasana for some time after the pose is complete.
It is also of great benefit to perform this pose with both legs bent at the same time.
3. Ardha Halasana, or Single Leg Lifts
Lying on the back. Lift the left leg while keeping it straight. Ensure the pelvis is neutral and there is only a slight gap under the lumbar spine.
On an inhale lift the leg to a 45-degree angle and hold it there. Breathe into a relaxed abdomen for 5 breaths before lowering the leg back to the floor. It’s very important not to tense the muscles of the neck or face in this pose. Keep the gaze relaxed.
Repeat on the other side. Spend a moment in Savasana between sides and after the pose is complete.
4. Kativakrasana, or Supine Twist
Lying on the back, interlace the hands behind the hand and allow the elbows to flare out, resting on the floor.
Bend the knees and draw the legs together with the feet flat on the floor. Lift the feet and draw the knees slightly into the chest and let both knees fall over to the right side, entering a gentle twist. If it feels comfortable, rotate the neck so that the gaze moves to the left.
Breathe deeply into a relaxed abdomen for at least 5 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Relax in Savasana for 30 seconds to a minute after completing the pose.
5. Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose
Roll over to a prone position with the front of the body on the mat for Bhujangasana.
Point the toes and draw the feet together. Press the palms into the floor alongside the chest. On an inhale, lift the chest off the floor and draw the shoulder blades together, entering an active back bend. Try not to push too strongly with the hands, use the muscles of the back to enter the pose more deeply instead. Engage the buttocks and ensure that the abdomen stays in contact with the floor. Keep the neck and shoulder s relaxed and breathe deeply in the pose for 5 breaths.
Lower the head back down to the floor and place the head on top of the hands. Relax in this position for 30 seconds to a minute.
6. Salabhasana, or Locust Pose
In this version of the common Locust Pose, we will leave the upper body in contact with the floor and lift one leg at a time.
In the prone position, with the front of the body in contact with the floor. Interlace the hands in front of the body with the elbows out and place the forehead on top of the hands. Pressing the hips into the floor, lift the left leg and hold it in space, keeping it as straight as you can. Hold for five breaths and then lower it back down with control.
Repeat on the other side.
After completing the pose, rest in the starting position for 30 seconds to a minute.
7. Marjariasana, or Cat Cow Tilts
Come into a tabletop position with the shoulders above the hands and the hips above the knees.
On an inhale, tip the tailbone up and back, drop the belly towards the floor, open up through the chest and lift the gaze slightly. This is the Cow Pose.
On an exhale, tuck the tailbone under, puff the back up towards the ceiling, spread the shoulder blades and lower the head towards the floor. This is the Cat Pose.
Move in and out of these two poses very slowly in a flowing, integrated movement. The movement should last the entire length of the breath.
Perform this movement at least five times.
8. Malasana, or Low Squat
The Low Squat is the most common way of going to the bathroom in most of the world. It naturally stimulates the lower abdomen and promotes comfortable, regular bowel movements. Constipation tends to be more of an issue in cultures that sit down to relieve themselves.
The yogic squat, Malasana, can help to correct this imbalance. With the feet turned out on roughly a 45-degree angle, slightly more than hip-width apart, sink the hips as low as you can so that the trunk is between the thighs. Sit up straight.
If this position is uncomfortable, place a couple of yoga blocks on top of one another and use them to elevate your hips. Breathe deeply in this pose for at least a minute.
These poses can help to relieve constipation. However, it’s important to remember that a healthy diet is just as important in maintaining healthy bowels.
We believe that yoga is a whole life practice that includes principles of diet and lifestyle. On our Multi-Style Yoga Retreats and Teacher Trainings we teach students how to integrate these principles in their day to day lives.