Easing Digestion with Yoga
From the Desk of Katrina Sukola, Yoga Teacher…
During the holidays we find ourselves gathering with friends and family – to eat. Good eating habits out the window, and in with our favorite foods and flavors. Most people think of yoga as a practice to reduce stress, but it can also be used for many other health benefits, including stimulating digestion. In yoga, poses such as twists are known to help digestion and elimination. Think of it as a “squeeze and soak” for the abdomen. After you release the twist, fresh blood rushes to the area, increasing circulation and aiding digestion. Twists are also therapeutic for the spine, keeping it healthy, and reducing compression in the spine. Twists also facilitate letting go of the old and bringing in the new, perfect as we ring in the New Year.
Although it is best to practice yoga on an empty stomach, these yoga poses can aid digestion or digestive problems:
Marichyasana C (Name of a Sage Pose): Begin seated with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee, placing your right heel as close to your right sit-bone as you can, leaving an 8-10 inch space between your right foot and left inner thigh. Cross your left elbow over the outside edge of the right knee, beginning your twist from the base of your spine, and moving the twist up, looking over your right shoulder. Press your right hand into the floor behind you to help lengthen your spine. Stay for five breaths, and then repeat on the other side. This pose relieves digestive issues, such as bloating or gas pains.
Apanasana (Knees to Chest Pose): Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest.
Rock from side to side to help massage your abdominal organs and low back. You may also drop your knees to one side onto the floor, and come into a simple twist. Bring your arms on the floor beside you in a T, or place one hand on your thigh to help deepen the twist. Stay for several breathes before switching sides. This pose also relieves lower back pain and gastro-intestinal discomfort.
Paschimottanasa (West Side Intense Stretch Pose): Sit with your legs extended in front of you, feet flexed. On an exhale, bend forward from the hips keeping your spine long. If you can reach, wrap your index fingers around your big toes, otherwise let your hands fall on top of the shins or alongside the legs on the floor. Stay for 5-10 deep breathes. To come out of the pose, inhale, coming up with a flat back. This pose massages and stimulates circulation to the abdomen and digestive organs and relieves digestive problems such as constipation.
Other poses for digestion include:
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Twisting Side Angle Pose): Massages abdominal organs and squeezes out waste.
Halasana (Plow Pose): Soothes abdominal organs and can stimulate digestion.
Sirsasana (Headstand): Known as “King of the asanas”. Its many benefits include the digestive, respiratory, eliminatory and lymphatic systems.
If you are interested in learning more about yoga and digestion, try OMBE’s five day nutrition cleanse and yoga series. This cleanse includes a yoga five-series, a five-day nutrition guide with comprehensive menu plans, mindful eating tips, and recommended supplements. You will receive easy-to-follow recipes and shopping lists with seasonal items found in your local grocery store or Farmer’s market. Nightly activities to help you reevaluate and clear out other areas of your life, unlimited support from your nutrition counselor and access to our online community to connect with others about your experience will also be available.
Katrina Sukola, Yoga Teacher
Katrina has had a lifelong relationship with movement. Dancing from a young age, including ballet and later studying other styles including flamenco and aerial dance. In 2001, she began exploring different styles of yoga such as Vinyasa, Restorative and Anusara yoga. Katrina completed her 200-hour certification with YogaWorks in 2010, training with master yoga teacher Natasha Rizopoulos. Her teaching is strongly influenced by this method, combining Ashtanga’s focus on connecting movement with breath and Iyengar’s attention to precise alignment. Other influences include her teachers Jillian Pransky, Barbara Benagh and Daniel Orlansky.
In both individual and small group settings, students will experience thoughtfully sequenced classes, cultivating body and mental awareness, and finding balance between effort and ease. Katrina teaches yoga for students to increase strength and flexibility while reducing stress and tension, creating calm in both the body and mind. Through continuous practice, Katrina has experienced the powerful mental and physical benefits of yoga, both on and off the mat. Katrina teaches yoga throughout the Boston area and is a member of the dance company Round the Corner Movers. She continues learning and sharing this ancient practice of moving, breathing, and overall well-being.