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March 23, 2021

According to Ayurveda, yoga’s big sister, a healthy digestive system is considered to be a pillar of our well-being, and misbalance or ineffective metabolism is a cause of most diseases.

The metabolic energy of digestion called Agni, helps in eliminating the body of wastes and toxins. It breaks down the dense physical matter into subtle energy the body needs, generates internal warmth and produces a clear mind.

Often in Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga you will hear about digestive fire or Belly Agni. The concept of Agni is closely related to the digestion of food, which simply refers to the ability of your body to metabolize nutrients and food into energy that sustains life. Our organism is strong when we have healthy digestion.

Agni, comes from Sanskrit word for fire, and connotes to a Hindu god of fire. Agni is the one who is transforming, and he is the protector of humanity and safeguard of the home. In other words, or Agni is the protector of our home (our body) and transforming food into energy.

Along with the balanced yogic vegetarian diet, Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga couples exercises with rhythmic breathing. Breathing brings life force into the body and cleans the body of toxic materials formed due to wrong diet, unhealthy lifestyle & accumulated stresses. It improves Agni, creates body balance and longevity, rejuvenating the whole system.

Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps us to deal with stress and anxiety levels, and poses like twists can increase peristalsis–the movement of food through the intestines.

Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga poses that can improve digestion:

  • Child pose - Child’s pose actually compresses the digestive organs which help stimulate digestion.
  • Trikonasana (Triangle pose) - improves digestion, stimulates appetite and alleviates constipation
  • Paschimottanasana (forward bending pose) - relieves digestive problems like constipation
  • PavanaMuktasana - improves gastrointestinal movements
  • Matsyendrasana -massages the abdominal organs and alleviates digestive misbalances
  • Ustrasana (Camel pose) - stretches the stomach and intestines, alleviating constipation
  • Supine spinal twist - Twisting encourages detox and movement. As mentioned above, all body twists increase mobility in the intestines and help with bloating
  • Malasana (Garlan pose) -helps to release gasses and bloating

Pranayama for digestion:

Bhastrika Pranayama

Bhastrika pranayama is a hath yogic breathing technique. It aids in increasing circulation in the body as well as producing inner heat at a physical level. It aids in the removal of toxins, reducing inflammation as well as the buildup of phlegm

How to do it

In a seated position, with the back straight and extended take in a deep breath and then immediately breathe out. This can be done slowly at first with time building up the speed of breathing in and out. During inhalation, the abdomen moves out and during exhalation, it moves in. Do a round of 10-15 breaths. As you continue to practice you can increase the amount of breath in a round. Do 2-3 rounds of bhastrika.

The best time to practice this pranayama is in the morning on an empty stomach before a Hatha yoga flow class.

This breathing technique should not be performed by pregnant women, individuals who experience hypertension, heart disease or serious gastrointestinal issues.

Ayurveda is a key element in the yogic systems, and is often included in online yoga teacher trainings (YTT), and yoga certification programs. Tips from Ayurveda for healthy digestion:

  • Incorporate spices like turmeric, cumin, fennel seeds and coriander in your diet.
  • Drink ginger or cumin tea once a day.
  • Avoid ice-cold drinks or food.
  • Don't drink ice water as it slows Agni and digestion.
  • Don't snack, if not hungry.