There’s nothing worse than feeling, ahem, backed up—especially this time of year as we start to break out our swimsuits and fitted dresses. Drinking lots of water, eating lighter foods, and practicing yoga can all help get things moving again.
Squats, twists, and lunges are great yoga moves to stimulate your digestive tract. Squatting gets everything moving downward, twists massage the internal organs, and lunges help stretch the psoas (a muscle that connects your trunk to your legs) and abdominal region, which aids in processing and eliminating our food. Give these 5 poses a try.
Awkward chair pose
Stand with feet together and squat back in to an imaginary chair as you lift your arms above you. Pull in your lower abdominals and stretch up through the front body. Sit back as deeply as you can and hold the pose for 5 to 8 breaths. Awkward chair works your larger muscle groups (buttocks, quads, etc) and gets your metabolism going. It also moves energy downward in the lower body as you lift up and breath deeper in the upper body.
Lunge back with your right leg and take a twist to your left. Place your right hand outside your left foot and stretch your left arm upwards. If you can’t get your right hand and shoulder outside of your front knee, place the hand on the inside of the foot. Twist from your waist and move with your breath, using the strength of your legs to support you. This works the larger muscles groups again and also massages the abdominal muscles and twists the internal organs to help stimulate digestion. Hold for 5 breaths.
Low lunge twist with quad stretch
Lower your right knee to the floor and reach back with your left hand to catch the right foot as you lift your right heel up toward your buttocks. This stretch is awesome for digestion: It’s a twist but also a stretch in the front thigh, psoas, and groin. Often times when our hip flexors and psoas are tight, they interfere with our internal organ function, including digestion. Stretching the front of the body helps get things moving. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths.
From the lunging quad stretch, release your right foot and bring your left knee back to meet your right. Lower down on to your belly. Place your hands near your shoulders or slightly forward and start to lift your upper body off the mat. Keep your pubic bone on the mat and make sure your shoulders are down and away from your ears. Stay here for 5 breaths and feel your tummy stretching as well as getting a little gentle pressure on it. It’s a great stretch for the front body.
Stress is often to blame for digestion issues, and child’s pose offers us a place to unwind and calm down. From cobra, press into your hands and lift your hips up and back until your buttocks are resting on your heels and you can lay your chest on the floor. Stretch your arms forward or back alongside your waist. This move stretches your hips, back, shoulders, and waist and also puts a gentle pressure on the belly. Let your mind relax let your shoulders release and stay here a good 8 to 10 breaths.
NOW: Repeat on the other side
From child’s pose you can round up or stretch back to downward dog then make your way up to the front of the mat and gently come up to standing. Repeat the entire sequence, stepping back with the left foot this time and twisting to the right. Go through until you hit child’s pose again; then, from child’s pose round up and lay down on your back for corpse pose or final relaxation. In final relaxation you can even place your hands on your belly and envision your stomach relaxing and letting go.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.