Stomach Bloating: 7 Yoga Poses That Help

Previously, I wrote about the foods that help and aggravate your stomach bloating symptoms. I had really positive feedback from it so I know many people are affected by it in some form or other (it’s also one of the most common symptoms I see in nutrition clinics). If you regularly feel bloated (once a week or more), talking to or working with a nutritionist like me or any other functional medicine practitioner can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing it.

In the meantime, as a yoga teacher too, here are some thoughts on why yoga poses may help relieve your bloating in the short-term, and what to be mindful of when doing the suggested poses.

 

Why Would Yoga Poses Help?

Often, what happens with bloating is pockets of gas are stuck along the intestinal tract, or some digestive functions aren’t working optimally. By using breath and movement, we can encourage the peristaltic movement of the gut, to help keep things moving along and stimulate digestive secretions.

 

Relaxing the Belly

In poses where you’re folded forwards or laying supine on your back, you want to think of actively relaxing any tension in the abdomen. As women, what tends to happen when we’re bloated is the tendency to want to suck the belly in. This creates more tension in the gut and stops or blocks the flow of peristalsis that’s needed to move things through it. So for the 10 - 15 minutes you’re on your mat at home - you want to think of “letting it all hang out”.

Nobody’s watching - relax your belly, let the gut hang out - who cares about that muffin top!

 

Twisting Poses

In poses like the twists, think of what it’s like when you’ve got the garden hose running and you stop the flow for a few seconds when you twist or step on the hose.... When you release it, more water starts blasting through as you’d built up some pressure within it. Similarly with your small and large intestines - you encourage the movement of food/ digestive juices/ gases by twisting and holding it through a few breaths (building up the pressure), then releasing the twist to encourage a bigger flow/ more movement internally.

The following poses can be done in a sequence in the order they’re presented, and can also be helpful for any other digestive issues like constipation or gas.


 

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

  • Inhale: Kneel on mat, bring knees wider than the hips with toes touching.

  • Exhale: Press hands down into mat and reach forward, bringing the forehead onto the floor.

  • Allow the belly to relax between the thighs. Let it drop towards the floor.

  • Stay here for 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling between the thighs.

  • Keep thinking of relaxing the belly and abdomen. Notice where you’re holding any tension and release it on the exhale.

 

Parvritta Sanchalasana (Low Lunge Twist)

From Balasana/ child’s pose:

  • Inhale: Press hands down into the mat, lift the head up.

  • Exhale: Come onto all fours.

  • Inhale: Step the right foot forwards into a deep, low lunge. Ensure your right knee is in line with and stacked above your right ankle. Left knee rests on mat.

  • Exhale: Place left palm down on mat, in line with inside of right foot.

  • Inhale: Lift and extend right hand up to sky so the fingertips of right hand face the ceiling and feel the extension in one straight line all the way down to the left palm on the mat.

  • Exhale: Rotate the right side of rib cage up towards the sky, which brings the left side of rib cage down towards the right thigh. Think of closing the gap between the bottom-left rib cage and the right thigh.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling.

 

Repeat the same on the left side.

  • Inhale: Press both hands into mat.

  • Exhale: Switch legs - step right foot back.

  • Inhale: Step left foot forward. Ensure your left knee is in line with and stacked above your left ankle. Right knee rests on mat.

  • Exhale: Place right palm down on mat, in line with inside of left foot.

  • Inhale: Lift and extend left hand up to sky so the fingertips of left hand face the ceiling and feel the extension in one straight line all the way down to the right palm on the mat.

  • Exhale: Rotate the left side of rib cage up towards the sky, which brings the right side of rib cage down towards the left thigh. Think of closing the gap between the bottom-right rib cage and the left thigh.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling.


 

Parvritta Anjaneyasana (Revolved Lunge Twist)

From the low lunge twist above, we’ll go a little further with a deeper twist.

From Parvritta Sanchalasana on the left side:

  • Inhale: Press both hands into mat.

  • Exhale: Switch legs - step left foot back.

  • Inhale: Step right foot forward. Ensure your right knee is in line with and stacked above your right ankle. Left knee rests on mat.

  • Exhale: Place right hand on right hip.

  • Inhale: Lift and extend left hand and arm up to the sky

  • Exhale: Twist and rotate the ribcage to the right. Bend left arm and swing left elbow to hook it over the right thigh.

  • Inhale: Bring right hand together with the left in a prayer position.

  • Exhale: Deepen the twist by pressing  down in prayer position into the back of your left arm down onto the top of your right thigh - use this action as a lever to rotate the ribcage even more to the right. Think of pulling the right shoulder away from your ear behind you, and pulling the left shoulder forwards, closer to the top of the right thigh.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling. Your breath might feel more constricted in this twist, but think of that garden hose analogy mentioned earlier. You’re creating some internal pressure to help the internal flow once you release the twist.

 

Repeat the same on the left side.

  • Inhale: Press both hands into mat.

  • Exhale: Switch legs - step right foot back.

  • Inhale: Step left foot forward. Ensure your left knee is in line with and stacked above your left ankle. Right knee rests on mat.

  • Exhale: Place left hand on left hip.

  • Inhale: Lift and extend right hand and arm up to the sky

  • Exhale: Twist and rotate the ribcage to the left. Bend right arm and swing right elbow to hook it over the left thigh.

  • Inhale: Bring left hand together with the right in a prayer position.

  • Exhale: Deepen the twist by pressing  down in prayer position into the back of your right arm down onto the top of your left thigh - use this action as a lever to rotate the ribcage even more to the left. Think of pulling the left shoulder away from your ear behind you, and pulling the right shoulder forwards, closer to the top of the left thigh.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling. Your breath might feel more constricted in this twist, but think of that garden hose analogy mentioned earlier. You’re creating some internal pressure to help the internal flow once you release the twist.


 

Ardha Pawamuktasana (Half Gas Release Pose)

In Sanskrit, Ardha = Half. Pawan = Air (or gas). Mukta = Release. (You can’t make this stuff up!) Pulling each leg into the abdomen helps to compress each side of the colon (right side compresses the ascending colon, left side compresses the descending colon)... As the name of the pose suggests, this helps gets the colon moving, releasing gas. ;)

  • Lay on your back with both legs stretched out.

  • Inhale: Bend the right knee, hug it and pull it towards your right rib cage. It may help to hold onto your shin or the back of your right thigh.   

  • Exhale: Draw your right thigh closer towards your ribcage. Keep your left leg engaged, active, pressing into the floor with your left foot flexed.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling. Keep the abdomen open and relaxed as you breathe and feel the compression in the right side of the colon/ abdomen.

 

Repeat the same on the left side.

  • Inhale: Bend the left knee, hug it and pull it towards your left rib cage. It may help to hold onto your shin or the back of your left thigh.   

  • Exhale: Draw your left thigh closer towards your ribcage. Keep your right leg engaged, active, pressing into the floor with your right foot flexed.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling. Keep the abdomen open and relaxed as you breathe and feel the compression in the left side of the colon/ abdomen.


 

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

This is a slightly deeper version of the above pose. It may be harder to access if you have tighter hip flexors - if so, you can work on one side at a time, or skip this pose and continue working on the previous pose, Ardha Pawamuktasana (half-gas release pose).

  • Lay on your back.

  • Exhale: Bend knees into the belly.

  • Inhale: Reach round to grab the outsides of your feet with both hands. Bring the knees wider than your torso. Ensure each ankle is stacked above the knee.

  • Exhale: As you exhale, pull down on the soles of the feet, bringing the knees closer to the ribcage. Ensure the tailbone stays rooted to the mat, and there’s no rounded curve in the spine.

  • Feel the compression in the lower abdomen, relax the belly.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils. Start the breath from low in the abdomen, feel the belly rising and falling. Keep the abdomen open and relaxed as you breathe and feel the compression through it.

 

Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Twist)

  • Lay on your back with both legs stretched out.

  • Inhale: Bend the right knee, pull it into the rib cage.

  • Exhale: Drop the right knee over to the left side. Reach and extend the right arm out to the right. For a deeper twist, use your left hand to push the right knee onto the floor on the left while you look over the right shoulder/ to the right.

  • Your breath may feel constricted here, but remember to relax the abdomen, “let it all hang out”, be free in the belly, and allow the deep breaths to start from the lower abdomen.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils

 

Repeat the same on the left side.

  • Lay on your back with both legs stretched out.

  • Inhale: Bend the left knee, pull it into the rib cage.

  • Exhale: Drop the left knee over to the right side. Reach and extend the left arm out to the left. For a deeper twist, use your right hand to push the left knee onto the floor on the right while you look over the left shoulder/ to the left.

  • Your breath may feel constricted here, but remember to relax the abdomen, “let it all hang out”, be free in the belly, and allow the deep breaths to start from the lower abdomen.

  • Stay here for 5 - 10 breaths, only from the nostrils


 

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

This is the final resting pose - deep relaxation.

  • Lay on your back with legs stretched out, slightly wider than hip-width apart, allow the feet to drop outwards. Leave some space between your torso and your arms. Palms face up to the sky.

  • Notice how your belly and abdomen feel now. Scan the body and notice where you may be holding onto tension. If there’s any tension anywhere in the body, inhale into it, then release it on the exhale.

  • Lay here for 5 - 10 minutes and allow your breath, heart rate and energy to come back to a regular resting rate. Allow yourself the time and space for deep relaxation.


If you found this article helpful, you might be interested in joining my Facebook group, where we hold different monthly 7-day challenges to help you develop healthy habits. Our upcoming challenge starts May 21: 7 days of daily meditation.

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