Constipation, which is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard and dry stools, and stools that are painful or difficult to pass, affects many of us. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that the condition affects 16 out of 100 adults, and 33 out of 100 of those over 60.
Constipation is a typical ailment. Although prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies can be helpful, some people might be interested in alternative medicines like yoga. Drinking more water and adding fiber-rich foods to your diet can ease constipation, but so can movement. Physical activity stimulates the muscles in your intestine, so they can move your waste along more easily. Yoga has an added benefit when it comes to relieving constipation: Certain yoga poses—particularly twists and poses that put pressure on the abdomen—gently massage your digestive tract, encouraging it to move stool along. In fact, a 2015 study found that yoga can ease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which often includes bouts of constipation.
Sit cross-legged on the floor if accessible. You can also use a blanket, bolster, or a yoga block to aid in your personal comfort while doing this posture. Place the palms of your hands on your knees opening your chest and expanding the space in your diaphragm. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Set your intention on breathing in through your nose for a count of four, completely filling up your lungs. Hold your breath for a count of two at the top and gently exhale through your nose focusing on pushing the breath out through your belly. Continue this breath for eight to ten repetitions.
Sit on the floor or on the edge of a folded blanket with both legs extended straight out in front of you. Deeply inhale as you extend your arms overhead and then gently fold yourself over your legs as you exhale. Be sure to do this by hinging at the hips. Gently hold onto your shins, ankles, or feet only pushing yourself as far as your flexibility allows.
The second way yoga benefits your digestive system is through twisting poses, inversions, and forward folds. These poses massage your digestive organs, increase blood flow and oxygen delivery, aid the process of peristalsis, and encourage stools to move through your system. Doing yoga regularly can result in regular, healthy bowel movements.
“People who are very bloated, have distended bellies, or just have a little extra body fat around the middle may find twists extremely challenging or uncomfortable,” says Rachael Weiss from The Playful Yogi. “My rule of thumb is if it is painful, don’t do it. A little discomfort is okay, as long as it is not painful. If you struggle with twists, consider sticking to supine twisting — on your back — or seated twists.”
Begin with your legs straight in front of you, as you did in Seated Forward Fold. Deeply inhale as you pull your right knee in toward your chest with your right foot remaining on the floor, close to your body. Lengthen through your spine and place your right hand behind for support. As you exhale, twist to bring your left elbow across your body allowing it to either rest on or just outside of your right knee.
Bhujangasana is an integral part of Sun Salutations and vinyasa flows, but it’s also an excellent pose for putting pressure on the abdomen.
Lie on the floor with your legs stretched out behind you. Place your hands on the mat under your shoulders and hug your elbows into your body.
Press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into your mat.
As you inhale, straighten your arms to lift your chest slightly off the floor. Firm, but don’t harden, your glutes as you lift your pubis towards your navel.
Firm your shoulder blades and lift through the sternum.
Hold for up to 30 seconds, then lower back to the floor.