Whatever the cause–hormones, overeating, or poor digestion–feeling bloated is a sure sign that your system is imbalanced and could benefit from some yoga. My current read is a fantastic book, Energy Medicine, by world-renowned healer Donna Eden, who states that, “Matter follows energy.”
One of the many benefits of yoga is that it is a form of movement that not only benefits our physical body (matter), but our energetic body as well. Read on for five poses that can help you banish bloat and return to your balance point.
As you’re moving through these postures, begin to count the length of your inhalations and exhalations. T.K. Desikachar was one of our most well-known and influential modern yogis. In his book, The Heart of Yoga, he writes about the importance of breath for removing waste matter (both material and energetic) from our bodies. He states that the exhale breath is critical to breaking these blockages.
Aim to inhale for a count of four and exhale to a count of eight while practicing these postures to receive the full benefit.
1. Legs Up the Wall
One of my favorite ways to shift blocked energy in my body is to get upside down. There’s no need to enter an advanced inversion; simply scoot your bottom next to a wall, lift your legs in the air, allowing the wall to support them, and release your torso onto the ground or your mat. Stay here for several minutes, noticing the shifts in the energy flow in your body. Remember to breathe deeply.
This posture starts off our anti-bloat sequence by letting your body know that you’re open to accepting shifts, both physical and energetic. It will also activate your rest and digest response (parasympathetic nervous system) which activates the digestive and immune systems.
2. Knees to Chest Pose
For any digestive issues, knees-to-chest pose is a great place to start. By drawing the knees toward your chest (don’t worry if they don’t get there, just do your best), you will place a gentle pressure on your internal organs, giving yourself an internal massage. If there’s any trapped gas contributing to your bloating, this will help to gently move it along.
You can draw your nose toward your knees or keep your head on the ground. Stay here, breathing fully with a four count inhale and an eight count exhale, for five breath cycles.
3. Reclined Bound Angle
Image credit: Sanàa Jaman
Bloating can often come with an energy of constriction. The antidote? Reclined Bound Angle pose, which creates an amazing sense of opening throughout the body. While this can be practiced without props, I love to prop this pose up by placing bolsters or blocks beneath my open knees.
Open the arms wide and breathe deeply into the abdomen. Let the energy you’ve released in the previous poses flow through your body here. On the inhale breath, feel your belly rise. On the exhale breath, allow the belly to draw to spine.
4. Child’s Pose
One way to envision Child’s pose is that we are flipping Knees-to-Chest pose onto our bellies. Remember how great it felt to draw your belly to your knees? Child’s pose can accomplish a similar energy. While we sometimes practice this pose with our knees wide apart to banish bloat, keep your knees together. Feel your belly come toward your thighs. Arms extend out. Elbows can stay lifted or rest on the ground.
A great modification here is to bring a blanket beneath your bottom. Again, the goal here is to create a gentle pressure against the abdomen to help move energy, release blockages, and bring the body back into a state of balance.
5. Prone Pose
This pose is so simple, but it’s also really powerful for digestive concerns. The simplest expression of prone pose is to come onto your belly on your mat. Arms can come to goal post arms or rest at your side. Forehead can rest on a blanket or turn your head to the side. Draw your attention to your belly, breathing deeply in and out. You’ll notice that the position of your body against the mat creates a natural pressure, gently massaging your internal organs.
If you’d like to deepen the work, place a folded blanket under your belly, right about where your navel is. The blanket will place even more pressure on your belly. If this feels too much, or causes any discomfort, flatten the blanket a bit or remove it. You can also place a bolster under your feet.
While most cases of bloating are temporary and can be helped by simple nutritional or yogic practices, if bloating persists, contact your healthcare professional. For women in particular, persistent bloating is something worth getting checked out to rule out a more serious condition. As one of my teachers says, the philosophies of the East and the science of the West are meant to complement one another. Most importantly, make time to notice how your body feels, pay attention to its needs, and take the appropriate steps to be well.
Image credit: Alissa