5 Yoga Poses That Can Improve Your Digestion

Had too much to eat? Work through this flow for better digestion.

November 23, 2016
up dog yoga pose
Lynette Pettinicchi

After an indulgent holiday meal or a satisfying cheat day snack, your stomach may just need a little assistance when it comes to reducing the belly discomfort and improving digestion. "Yoga helps to both calm the mind and bring balance into the body," says Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga!. "These are both key factors in healthy digestion." We consulted with Rebecca on the best five moves to help perk up your whole digestive system. 

This article was originally published by our partners at Rodale Wellness.

wind relieving pose
Lynette Pettinicchi
One-Legged Wind Relieving Pose

"Tight hip muscles can pull on and affect the tilt of the pelvis causing it to compress the intestines, making it harder for your body to process what you have eaten," Rebecca says. This pose helps to open the hips, and let's just say it's also aptly named." Lie on your back with your legs straight. Bring your right knee into your chest and interlace your fingers around your knee or shin. Guide your knee over and up towards your right arm pit while keeping your shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Try to feel your shoulder blades and lower back connecting with the mat. Hold for three to five breaths, release the right leg long next to the left and then repeat on the left side. 

Related: 7 Gut-Healing Foods That Tame Inflammation

twist pose
Lynette Pettinicchi
One-Legged Twist

A simple change in position can do wonders for moving around your just-digested foods. "Twists stretch both the back and core muscles, and can offer relief when you feel full, bloated, or generally sluggish due to big meals, rich food or one too many eggnogs," she adds.

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Bring the right knee into your chest and use your left hand to guide your knee across your body into a twist. Bring your left hand onto the outside of the right knee to help weigh it down. Your right arm can either rest alongside your body or you can stretch it out to the right. You can either turn your head to look towards the right or keep it neutral, looking up at the ceiling if that is more comfortable for your neck. Hold this position for three to five breaths on each side. If your knee does not come all the way down to the floor when you twist and your lower back feels tight or uncomfortable, rest your knee and calf on a yoga block (a pillow or folded blanket or towel can work as a prop as well).

childs pose
Lynette Pettinicchi
Child's Pose

"Stress wreaks havoc on our digestive system and the holidays can be emotional and tense for some in addition to being busy," Rebecca notes. "Child's pose is calming, lets us stretch our back and makes room for the belly, all of which helps to regulate our digestion."

From your hands and knees, spread your knees about hip-distance apart, wider if it's comfortable, and bring your big toes to touch. Sit your hips back towards your heels and walk your arms forward until they're straight; rest your forehead on the mat and feel your belly sinking down in between the thighs. Gently roll the forehead side to side on the mat, stimulating the third eye to help soothe the nervous system. Remain in this position for six to eight breaths. Place a blanket or bolster behind the knees for support if your hips do not reach your heels or if your knees are uncomfortable.

up dog yoga pose
Lynette Pettinicchi
Upward Facing Dog

"This helps to open up the chest and upper back in addition to stretching the front of the torso," Rebecca says. "This movement helps us take deeper breaths which can help to calm your mind and the stretch alleviates the discomfort of being too full."

Lie down on your belly and bending at the elbows, plant your hands on the mat alongside the lower ribs. Take a look at your elbows and make sure they line up over the wrists. Engage the legs by pressing the tops of the feet down into the mat until you feel your knees and the tops of the thighs lift away from the mat. Pressing into your hands pull your chest forward and up until arms are straight and the legs, hips, and thighs are all lifted away from the mat. Move the shoulder blades towards each other on your back and lift your chest forward and up. Keep the shoulders away from the ears. Take two full breaths in this pose. 

Related: A Poweful Belly Breathing Exercise You Can Do In Minutes

band stretch
Lynette Pettinicchi
IT Band Stretch

"When the hips are tight, the tension of those muscles can pull the pelvis out of its alignment causing the intestines to be compressed and less efficient," Rebecca says. "This easy stretch helps to increase flexibility in the Iliotibial band, a thick band of fascia that starts at the outer hip and runs down to the knee."

Standing on your mat, cross your left ankle over the right and forward fold bringing your hands down to the mat. You'll feel the stretch along the right leg. To stand, bring your hands to your hips, hug your elbows together and come up to stand. Switch the crossing of your ankles and repeat. Hold each side for six to eight breaths. If your hands do not reach the mat, rest them on yoga blocks or stack a couple books.