How can yoga help with digestion?
Skipping breakfast, eating quickly at noon, and hearty meals in the evening before going to bed...sometimes we put our digestive system to the test. What if yoga could make digestion easier?
Connecting emotions, stress, and digestion
When you feel stressed, digestion is automatically disturbed. Our body automatically slows down digestion because it considers that “digestion is no longer an emergency, stress is the priority.”
This is the reason for decreased overall appetite during times of stress. Storage of energy reserves is limited which leads to weight loss in most cases.
The brain is constantly communicating with our body and especially with our stomach, which is very rich in neurons. The digestive system is home to nearly 200 million!
The work of these neurons is closely related to the function of the bacterium, that is, all the bacteria in our digestive system.
To find out more, here's our dedicated article:
What are germs?
Parasympathetic nervous system stimulation
The ANS (autonomic nervous system) manages all the "automatic functions" of our body.
It is characterized by two antagonistic systems:
The metronome or sympathetic nervous system (which is not always sympathetic!).
Effect: Accelerate the heartbeat, increase alertness, open blood channels and bronchi, reduce digestion.
Brakes or parasympathetic nervous system.
Effect: decreases heart rate, decreases alertness, closes blood channels and bronchi, stimulates digestion.
In cases of chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated to the detriment of the parasympathetic nervous system. We are not designed to deal with chronically stressful situations but only occasionally.
Some individuals manage these stressful contexts more easily, and others are more sensitive to them. We are not all equal in this.
In short, to digest properly, we must leave the necessary time for it after a meal and generally promote calm and rest: the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Attention to open yoga positions
Yoga includes many open poses. These poses, either repetitive or continuous, enhance the muscle activity of the diaphragm. It also allows as much air as possible into your lungs.
The diaphragm acts on the digestive system as a pump that massages nearby organs (stomach, liver, intestines, etc.).
Our breathing can be thoracic and more superficial or, conversely, abdominal (actively stimulating the diaphragm) and deeper. Doing yoga forces you to focus on these details: Does your stomach rise when you inhale?
In case you feel mild abdominal pain or difficulty in digestion, yoga, thanks to its mechanical effect on the digestive system, can provide you effective relief.
Yoga facilitates digestion through mechanical as well as physiological influence thanks to the regulation of the autonomic nervous system.