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self care sunday

10 Ways a Yoga Practice Will Benefit Your Gut Health

HealthAlana Holloway

Ahead of my first Self Care Sunday: Yoga & Gut Health; the gut healthy yoga brunch I’m hosting with the LOVELY yoga extraordinaire Lucy Victoria Jackson (pictured below), I wanted to share a bit about why we’ve created this event.  Yoga and gut health might seem like a bit of an odd pairing at first, but they help each other out in more ways than meets the eye.  The more I delve into the world of gut health and fermentation, the more I realise that EVERYTHING they are involved with is based upon beautiful symbiotic foundations. There really is no end to the magic of microbes! The Yoga and gut health duo is no exception but I have (rather stupidly, I now realise) only covered one side of the story in this blog.  Gut Health for Your Yoga Practice will have to wait for another post! 

yoga and gut health


-      The twist poses in yoga aid digestion as they apply pressure to your digestive organs, helping them to release toxins and waste matter.  You may have noticed that in twist poses, you’ll twist first to the right and then to the left.  This helps the natural flow of the digestive system (which flows from right to left), encouraging waste and gas to move along the transverse colon to the descending colon.  Don’t tell me you’ve never left a twist-heavy Yoga class feeling a little windy!  

-      You’ll know that the gentle poses in a yoga practice help to relax your whole body, but did you stop to think that that includes the muscles surrounding your gut?  So many of us hold tension in our abdomen (I am terrible for doing it), whether that’s by holding our tummies in or because we become tense during stressful periods.  Tension restricts movement, wherever it’s held.  Dedicating some time to a relaxing Yoga practice - therefore allowing your tummy to soften - will ultimately allow your digestive system to function as it should.

-      Many of the poses which involve your thighs pressing close to your stomach - such as Child’s and Pigeon Pose – will gently massage your digestive organs as you breathe, helping to alleviate constipation and trapped wind, therefore aiding the natural detoxification of your gut… 

-      … Deep/belly breathing, which is mindfully practiced during a yoga flow, meditation and/or breathwork, is another way to give your gut a little massage.  Great for all the reasons mentioned in the previous point.

-      During Savasana (the lovely relaxing bit at the end) your body enters rest and digest mode. Oxygenated blood flows to your digestive organs, enabling them to work on digestion, cleansing and healing.

-      A yoga practice is a fantastic way to manage and reduce anxiety and depression.  Have you ever heard the gut being referred to as the second brain?  That’s in part because the gut and brain communicate via a two-way nerve called the Vagus Nerve, meaning the brain feels what the gut does and vice versa.  It’s more scientifically known as the gut-brain axis.   A stressed brain = a stressed gut, so the more you can do to relax your mind will also help to relax your gut.

-      What’s even cooler is that between 80-90% of the hormone Serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut.  Committing to a regular Yoga practice - that improves your gut health - means you’ll be doubling down on the anxiety and depression reducing factor.

-      As well as reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, Yoga is well renowned for reducing stress.  It’s not just a diet full of processed foods that reduces the strength and diversity of gut bacteria... chronic stress does as well.  Yoga = less stress = stronger, more diverse gut bacteria = a healthier gut.

-      Backbend poses, such as Camel, Bow and Wheel Pose, stretch the stomach and intestines and can alleviate constipation.  These are my favourite to practice after a day of building tension in my abdomen.

-      I’m glad we’re at a point in time where we (again!) realise and acknowledge that our whole body is connected.  Tight hip flexors are a sign of the times.  We spend approx. 90% of our day inside, probably sat on the sofa, at your desk or in bed, which does our hip flexors no favours at all.  The hip flexors (the psoas muscle), run from deep within the hip joint all the way to the sacrum (bottom of the spine) and act as part of the shelf (together with the pelvis and pelvic floor) which supports the digestive system.  Tight psoas can constrict the digestive organs, affecting flow and how well we digest food.

SO, THAT’S 10!

I’ve absolutely loved researching this post.  Most of it I was familiar with, but I discovered some real gems along the way (the last one in particular).  Have you found improvements in your gut health since committing to a regular yoga practice?

Lucy and I are really looking forward to meeting those of you that are coming to our first Self Care Sunday.  If you were unable to come to this one, we hope to make them a regular thing, so keep your ears to the ground.

With microbial love,

Alana x

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