December already?! For many of us, it’s a big month of friends and family. And feasting! Instead of stretching out on the couch after those big meals, how about stretching out on your yoga mat? Sound radical? It doesn’t have to be. There are some simple postures, accessible to all of us, that may bring some relief from the indelicate results of overindulgence: bloating, gas, constipation, overall yuckiness (not that I have any personal experience with any of these
In very general terms, yogic wisdom says that we can support and stimulate our digestive system by alternately restricting and invigorating the flow of blood to the abdomen. We achieve this with abdominal compression (as in forward folds), spinal extension (think back-bends), and twisting right and left.
With these principles in mind, here are a few short sequences to support your digestive organs. Hold each pose for 5 – 10 full, even breaths. You may practice each series on its own, or in true bootcamp style, group the sequences together as a ladder: begin with the reclined series, move to the kneeling series, then to standing, back to your knees, back to the floor. 1-2-3-2-1. Always finish with Savasana.
1. Reclined Series
Begin by lying on your back.
For abdominal compression, simply hug both knees comfortably into your belly. The Sanskrit name for this pose is Apanasana, which translates as “wind-relieving pose”. Uh-huh. You may want to encourage your partner to practice this one, too.
For extension, follow Apanasana with Little Bridge pose. Still lying on your back, release your knees and take your feet flat to the floor, hip distance apart and quite close to your seat. Press your triceps into the floor and bend your elbows to 90 so that your fingers point straight up to the ceiling. With your knees extending straight out from your hips, inhale to press the soles of your feet into the ground and lift your hips towards the ceiling. To come out, exhale and slowly lower back to the floor from the top to the bottom of your spine.
For your reclined twist, bend your knees to 90, shins parallel to the floor. Shoot your arms straight out from your shoulders like a capital T. Then simply drop your knees to the left, turn your head and look towards the right. To go a little further, cross your bottom (left) leg over the top (right) leg, and let the weight of that leg bring you deeper into your twist. On an inhale return the knees to centre and repeat on the other side.
2. Kneeling Series
Kneel to sit on your heels. If your ankles are tight, place a rolled up towel on the floor under the fronts of your ankles. Find a neutral pelvis (tipped neither forward nor back), and extend your spine long. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and lift through the crown of your head.
For abdominal compression, come into a variation of Child’s Pose. Simply hinge forward and drape your torso over your thighs. Rest your forehead on the floor. Your arms can extend out in front of you, palms down, or hang back by your hips, palms up.
For extension, draw forward to Sphinx pose – a gentle backbend. To get there, walk your hands further forward and bring your belly to the floor, activate your legs straight out behind you. Place your elbows under your shoulders, forearms and palms pressing in to the floor. Focus on moving your sternum forward and up, bringing your shoulder blades together on your back, and engaging your core muscles to support the extension in your lower back.
Kneeling Series – sphinx
For your kneeling twist, press back to your knees and sit on your heels as you began this series. Recreate the length in your spine and exhale to gently twist to the left, bringing the right hand to the outer left thigh for gentle leverage. Unwind, extend the spine long again, and twist to the other side in the same manner.
3. Standing Series
Lunge with a twist to help with digestion
If you want to get a bit more active with your digestive practice, take a few rounds of Sun Salutations “A”. This traditional sequence is full of repeated compression and extension (forward fold – half-way lift; down dog – up dog). Make the sequence even more potent for your digestive system by adding some closed twists to your lunges. From your lunge, lengthen through the spine and then revolve towards the bent leg.
For a great demonstration of the entire Sun Salutation “A”, check out this podcast by my Yoga for Athletes mentor, Sage Rountree.
Don’t forget to follow any yoga practice with a few minutes of conscious relaxation in the final resting pose, Savasana.
This is December – make merry, for sure! But around and about all of your merriment, remember to set aside some time especially for resting and digesting.
If you have any questions about these or other yoga poses, come to one of my classes at Pura Vida, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org