Gut Health, Yoga & Conscious Eating

In an earlier article, I covered the basics of yoga and healthy eating for better digestion.  The ancients in India understood the connection between digestion and health and elucidated it through the science of Ayurveda.  Modern scientific studies have shown the connection between gut health and overall wellness.  A nutritious diet that’s appropriate for your body along with a healthy gut means more energy and a stronger immune system.

Yoga can be a powerful self-care practice for better digestion and health.  The choice of yoga asanas and how they are practiced can soothe the gut or, if needed, get things moving.

Pranayama (breath practice) is one of the most useful yogic practices for digestion.  Specific breathing techniques or ratios between the different parts of the breath can be used to create specific effects.  For example, focusing on lengthening the exhale portion of the breath, while gently engaging the abdominal muscles, may help get things moving when your system is sluggish, or decrease stress that may wreak havoc on your gut.

Perhaps the most important idea that I can share is that yoga cultivates awareness of the connection between the body, breath and mind.  In Viniyoga asana (postures), we coordinate the movement of the body with the flow of the breath.  This heightened mind-body-breath connection trains awareness.  We can then use this heightened awareness and apply it to conscious eating.  Through awareness and conscious eating, we can often make choices that support gut health.

You can cultivate awareness through your yoga practice in ways that support gut health.  Once you recognize patterns of eating and digestion, you can begin to explore small shifts that help.  Here are a few questions to contemplate:

  • What is the amount of food that my body can digest at any one time?
  • How much of any particular food is ok for me?
  • How often can I eat foods that tend to be harder for my body to digest (indigestion) or assimilate (food allergies)?
  • Cooked or raw – which can my body handle?
  • What food combinations seem to be ok for my body?
  • How does the time of day or season impact my digestion?
  • Does my gut health change when I travel?
  • Am I eating the most diverse and nutritious diet possible respecting any unique health conditions?
  • How is stress affecting my eating and my ability to digest, absorb and assimilate food?

A yoga practice tailored to your individual needs and interests and adapted to your specific health issues, along with conscious eating can impact digestion and overall energy and vitality.   A Yoga Therapist is trained in applying the tools of yoga for health and healing and can assist you with adaptation of yoga for digestive issues.  Your yoga practice can then cultivate awareness for conscious eating and better digestion.

Jathara Parivrtti:  Supine Twist

Benefits:  Gently twists and compresses the belly, bringing circulation to the digestive organs.

How to Do the Posture:  Move into the posture on an exhalation.  Come out of the posture on inhale.  Repeat the movement in and out of the posture for 6 repetitions, and then stay for 6 breaths, focusing on a steady and long exhalation.