Optimizing Digestion with Yoga and Diet
by Fabienne C. Grossman, RD/LD, 200-RYT

Our bodies are made to move and it is as simple as this: if we do not move our bodies regularly, then we will not be regular.

There are many reasons a person may develop constipation or have poor digestion. Some factors that can contribute are diet, fluid intake, fiber intake, exercise (too much or too little), stress and medications. To aid our digestion and absorption of nutrients, one needs to assess these factors and identify which need to be improved. This article will focus on how using yoga and making some simple dietary changes can help alleviate constipation and promote good digestion.

Our autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Our sympathetic nervous system, or fight, flight or freeze, is part of our biological makeup that helps us in time of danger. It stimulates different nerves, neurotransmitters and hormones in the endocrine system. Our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘rest and digest,’ and when activated our breathing is less shallow, our heart rate is decreased, and the muscles in our body are more relaxed, especially in the abdominal region. When the sympathetic nervous system is engaged, the heart beats faster and respiratory rate is increased. In current society, many people have their sympathetic nervous system in overdrive and symptoms include muscle tension, gastrointestinal distress, elevated pulse, sleep issues and disturbed breathing. Yoga helps to ‘reboot’ the autonomic nervous system by combining conscious breathing and asanas (postures) which help activate the parasympathetic nervous system and bring the sympathetic system more into balance. One of the reasons individuals feel a sense of ‘bliss’ after a yoga session is because their autonomic nervous system is more in equilibrium.

Following are a few yoga postures that can aid in optimizing digestion and alleviating constipation and are suggested to do first thing in the morning before getting out of bed:

1) Knees to Chest – Lying on your back, bring the right knee to your chest, inhaling and exhaling smoothly for 5 breaths. Repeat with left leg. The right knee into chest aids motility of the ascending colon and the left knee aids in the motility of the descending colon. Bring both knees to the chest, wrapping fingers together or holding opposite elbows and breathe smoothly for 5 breaths. This posture aids in the motility of the transverse colon.

2) Reclined Cobbler’s Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) With your back on the floor or bed, bring the soles of the feet together and let the knees come out to the side. Practice 5 smooth abdominal breathing inhalations and exhalations. This allows the abdominal muscles to relax and is considered very soothing.

Following is a list of ways that may improve digestion and minimize constipation: Drink 8 oz. of water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (have it by your bedside table). Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water daily. Eat at least 3 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Improving digestive health can be as simple as breathing more deeply, hydrating adequately, getting enough fiber and moving more regularly.

Fabienne C. Grossman is a Registered/Licensed Dietitian, 200RYT and owner of Weston Yoga, 2600 Glades Circle, Suite 400, Weston. She is available for private yoga and nutrition consultations and will be facilitating a Nutrition & Wellness Workshop on Friday, May 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. and a Gentle Yoga/ Restorative with Live Music on Sunday, May 20, 4 to 6 p.m. An Open House – Free Yoga Day with donations will be held May 5th. For more information, call 954.349.6868 or visit WestonYoga.com.

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