One of the biggest eating days of the year is upon us, which means we’re in for a day full of delicious food and possibly an evening of tummy troubles. Eating heavy and rich foods can slow the digestion process down to a grinding halt, leaving you feeling bloated; however, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to leave you feeling glued to the couch. Aiding our digestion through practicing yoga poses can help move that food through your system a little bit faster.
Any pose that targets the abdominal organs — think intestines, colon, stomach, etc — will help improve your digestion giving you more energy to take on your town’s Turkey Trot 5k. Asanas (poses) that include twists and pressure on the organs are the perfect addition to your pre and post-turkey day festivities. Not only do these asanas relieve digestive discomfort including gas, bloating and constipation, but they also wring out all those toxins, releasing what doesn’t serve you (like that extra helping of Grandma’s sweet potato casserole.)
Cat/Cow Poses (Marjaisana/Bitilasana)
This pose compresses and releases the colon, helping to stimulate any toxins that may be trapped in the body. Cat/cow also massages all of your internal organs, lengthening the intestines and bringing fresh blood to the digestive organs. Begin on all fours, knees underneath hips and hands underneath shoulders. Engage the core and lengthen through the crown of the head and tailbone. On an inhale, drop the belly and lift the head and chest through the hands, tilting the tailbone up. On the exhale, push through the hands, curling the spine and bringing chin to chest. Practice with your own breath, trying to lengthen each inhale and exhale.
Extended Puppy Dog Pose (Uttanasana Shishosana)
This active stretch exercises the abdomen, helping to relieve any cramps from too much food. It’s also a great tension reliever for the shoulder blades, perfect for dealing with those unruly guests. Begin on all fours, then walk your hands out in front of your shoulders and chest until your forehead touches the ground, but still keeping your tailbone lifted and above your hips. Activate through your hands and arms to get the full benefits of the pose. If the forehead doesn’t touch, you can put a block or blanket underneath to stimulate the pineal gland to induce relaxation.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendra)
Twists are the ultimate detoxifier. Think of your body as a rag that’s full of water. What do you do to get that water out? Wring it! The same idea applies to twisting your body. It helps wring out the excess, leaving you a little lighter, just like that washcloth! Begin in a sitting position on the floor with legs out in front. Rock back and forth to find your sit bones. If your legs are tight, you can sit on the edge of a folded up blanket. With a tall spine, bring your right foot over your left leg and bring the foot as close to your hip as possible. You can leave your left leg extended out in front or bend so that your foot is near your other hip. On an inhale lengthen, reaching your left arm up and on the exhale twist to your right, bringing your right hand behind your buttocks and your left arm in front of your right thigh. Hold for three breaths. On an exhale return to center and repeat on the opposite side.
Garland Pose (Malasana)
This full squat encourages digestion by stimulating apana vayu, the downward flow of energy. Not only does it help to eliminate bodily waste, but it’s also believed to help mental waste as well. Begin standing, bringing feet hip width apart with toes slightly out at a 45-degree angle. On an exhale, slowly begin to squat, pushing palms into each other in front of the chest. Focus on lengthening through the spine instead of slumping over. If you find this difficult, you can sit on a block or blanket or even put a blanket underneath your heels. Breathe here for five breaths. To come out of the pose, stand up on an inhale or sit down.
Half Gas Relief Pose (Ardha Pawamuktasana)
Just as the name promises, this pose is perfect to relieve gas while also aiding in elimination. Always begin on the right side as you will put pressure on the ascending colon and then end on the left side, which puts pressure on the descending colon. To begin lay on your back with legs extended. On an inhale hug your right knee into your chest, squeezing to compress the organs. Hold for three breaths. On an exhale, bring your right knee over to the left side of your body while your gaze goes to the right. Stack your hips and use your left hand to accentuate the twist with pressure on the right knee. On an inhale come back to center, hug both knees into the chest, squeezing, and repeat on the other side.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
With all this twisting, your body needs some restoration, which is why Child’s Pose is the ultimate pose for helping your body to restore. Begin on all fours and, on an exhale, slowly bring your hips to your heels and extend your hands in front of you. Try keeping your knees together to help stimulate the digestive system. If the pressure is too much, bring your knees wide. Be sure to have your forehead touch something, whether it’s a block, blanket or the floor. Take as many breaths here as you can so you can enjoy your holiday to the fullest!
Looking for more tips on how to stay healthy through exercise? Let Yoga at Work: The Series be your guide!