TWIST Tips: Yoga for Healthy Digestion
Thank you to Twist Yoga teacher Jessica Baker for this informative article featured in Portland Monthly with “10 Powerful Yoga Poses for Healthy Digestion”.
Yoga pro Jessica Baker of Twist Yoga shares an easy but effective home practice to get your gut back on your team.
Published Feb 17, 2015
By Jessica Baker
The first day of spring may not officially grace us until Mach 20, but these sunny, sandal-weather days have us ready to shake off winter a little early. Moving out of the the cold and into spring can be a great time to jump start your system, and there are lots of ways to ease into a new season—a fresh eating plan, some invigorating exercise, a new wardrobe, or even a few yoga poses to boost your digestive fire.
So grab a green smoothie, throw on a new pair of leggings, and melt into these ten poses from Jessica Baker, yoga instructor at Twist Yoga and jessicabakeryoga.com, to help aid your digestion. Consider it spring cleaning for your body!
1. CHILD’S POSE—BALASANA
Begin in a wide legged child’s pose to connect with the breath, heat the abdominal area, and get the digestive fluids going. Child’s pose is also a very calming pose, so if some of your digestive struggles can be attributed to stress, this can help ease your anxiety as well.
- Open the legs a bit wider than the ribs, extend arms forward, hips to heels, and forehead to your mat.
- Begin to breathe in and out through the nose and relax neck and jaw
- Take about a minute in this pose to center your body and breath
2. CAT AND COW—MARJARYASANA-BITILASANA
Breathing deeply and continuously while moving between cat and cow poses will massage organs and lengthen and compress the intestines.
- Come to all fours with hands beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips
- Initiate movement from the pelvis that continues into the spine while maintaining a relaxed jaw and neck. Inhale in cow as you draw the heart forward through the arm bones and bring belly button toward the earth (spine extension)
- Exhale in cat as you press through the palms, pulling the belly button towards the spine and rounding the upper back ( spine flexion)
- Continue movement between cat and cow for 10-20 repetitions
3. DOWNWARD FACING DOG—ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
Take time in down dog to breathe deeply into the belly, and become aware of your body’s alignment. Down dog can always be used as a home base to check in with the breath and body. Here are some tips to refine your downward dog:
- Draw heels towards the floor and lengthen the spine
- Press through all five fingers, with special attention to the index finger and the thumb
- Draw scapula down the back, and wrap the outer arm bones in to create stability in the shoulder girdle.
- Relax the neck and scoop the belly towards the spine
- If the hamstrings are extremely tight, bend the knees a bit to enable the lengthened spine
- This pose can be used to transition between poses or from one side to the next
4. LOW LUNGE TWIST
In general, twists detoxify and revitalize the abdominal organs by rinsing and squeezing the mid section of the body. This low lunge variation allows for a deep, yet relaxing, twist.
- From down dog, take a breath in and on your exhale step right foot forward between hands
- Ground left palm to the mat beside right foot and inhale right arm towards the ceiling, pulling the rib cage to the right
- Keep hips square and back leg strong by engaging quadriceps and extending through the heel of the foot
- Hold for five breaths and repeat on other side
5. TRIANGLE POSE—UTTHITA TRIKONASANA
Triangle is an excellent foundational pose to stretch and strengthen the sides and the back. Using trikonasana in this flow to establish breath and space before rinsing deeply within parivrtta trikonasana.
- Step right foot forward to low lunge or enter after low lunge twist by straightening right leg
- Walk left foot in about 6-8 inches, turn foot out 45 degrees and anchor back heel
- Rest right hand lightly on shin or floor and extend left hand towards the ceiling
- Stack shoulders, lengthen spine, chest and neck, draw ribs towards spine, and lengthen tailbone towards back left heel (remember to maintain a microbend in right knee to not hyperextend the leg)
- Hold for one minute with continuous breath in and out through the nose before entering into parivrtta trikonasana before switching sides
6. REVOLVED TRIANGLE POSE—PARIVRTTA TRIKONASANA
This pose stimulates and cleanses the digestive system by compressing the abdominal organs and colon. With this deep twist, toxins can become released that have been trapped within the body. Traditionally, this pose has been said to reduce fat around the waist.
- Release left hand to the earth and square hips to the floor so the sacrum is flat and level
- Railroad track the heels by stepping left foot to the left about an inch
- Keep legs strong as you lift the right arm towards the ceiling with the palm facing away from the body
- Open the chest and roll the shoulders down the back
- Keep lengthening on both sides of the body to create a long waistline between the hips and the rib cage
- Hold for at least 30 seconds or 58 breaths
7. PYRAMID POSE—PARSVOTTANASANA
After a deep twist in parivrtta trikonasana, parsvottanasana adds an extra rinsing with the compression of the upper body to the lower body. Traditionally it is said to eliminate the bad fat in the waist, and make the waist string and body light.
- Enter from parivrtta trikonasana by bringing both hands to the floor and maintaining the square hips and level sacrum, with weight equal in both feet
- Lengthen belly along right front thigh, and keep chest open and spine long
- Hold for one minute
8. HALF GAS RELEASE POSE—ARDHA PAWANMUKTASANA
The name of this pose describes its healing benefit without needing to do any further research. The pose compresses and massages the ascending colon on the right side and the descending colon on the left side.
- Hug the right leg into the right side of the rib cage and knee towards the armpit
- Press the left leg firmly into the earth
- Simultaneously the pose compresses on one side and extends on the other
- Hold for one to two minutes before switching sides
9. SUPINE TWIST—SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA
A replenishing and rejuvenating pose to end your practice. Supine twists relax the body by regulating the sympathetic nervous system. Stay and linger in this wonderful pose before drifting into savasana.
- Enter from ardha Pawanmuktasana by drawing right knee to the left, and stretching right arm straight out to the right
- Stretch can be deepened by using the left hand into the right leg to create greater traction in the spine
- Keep the shoulders heavy into the floor and maybe even close the eyes
10. CORPSE POSE—SAVASANA
Hug both knees into the chest one final time before releasing the body into your final place of rest. The hug will neutralize the spine and add one final bit of compression to the digestive system.
- Palms face up, eyes closed, feet relaxed
- Breath natural as it finds its own ebb and flow
- Stay for a minimum of five minutes to relax, decompress, and to begin to change the way your body responds to stress.
- After all, eliminating stress from our lives can be a cure all for all kinds of ailments.