Yoga can help with many Aspects of our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. And that includes our digestion. Practicing yoga can reduce stress, which helps regulate the gut-brain axis. Recent studies have even shown that yoga can be a curative treatment for IBS.
And around the holiday season, when health-minded people indulge in various celebrations and then seek a yogic antidote, it’s common to see rash-relieving poses make their way into circulation. But posture is only one of the eight limbs of yoga. To truly embrace the practice, honor its roots, and experience its effects, we must approach yoga holistically, for example, bringing proper concentration and breath to any flow.
Yoga instructor Sara Sass, RYT, L.Ac., adds acupressure to it as well. Also a licensed acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, she recently shared with Well+Good that when she’s dealing with digestive issues, she does some yoga poses with acupressure (ie, no needles!). It gives him an extra boost of relief and digestive support. Here, she shares three of her works.
1. Air-Free Pose (Pavanmuktasana)
- Lie on your back, inhale and stretch both your legs straight. On an exhale, use both arms to hug your knees to your chest, connecting the tops of your thighs to your abdomen/chest.
- Take a few deep breaths in this position, allowing your body to relax and release.
- Find your acupressure points (detailed below) and massage them for one minute while holding this pose, breathing deeply and mindfully.
Acupressure Points: Abdomen 36
Find it: Place your hand just below your opposite knee, with your index finger next to the base of your knee. At the tip of your pinky, on the outside of your tibia, you’ll find this digestion-supporting acupressure point.
Why it works:
“On its own, Pawanmuktasana is a pose for gas and lung relief, as it helps expel trapped air in the digestive tract,” Sass says. “Combining this with acupressure on the command point of the stomach, according to traditional Chinese medicine, helps nourish digestion, regulate the bowels, and benefit the stomach and spleen by expelling gas. It’s a win-win.”
2. Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
- With your feet wider than hip-width distance apart, turn your toes outward. (Think: sumo squat or second position grand plié)
- Sink into a squat, tucking your tailbone slightly, maintaining an external rotation with your thighs. Lock your abdominal muscles and maintain an upright spine with relaxed shoulder blades.
- Lift your heels up, placing weight on the balls of your feet.
- Lower heel, shifting weight to back of foot to lift toes.
- Hinge at the waist to catch under your toes and stimulate pressure points (see locating below). You can do it at once.
- Repeat raising and lowering your heels, focusing your attention on the acupressure points.
- Finish with feet flat on the ground.
Acupressure point: Kidney 1
Find it: “This point is essentially the sole center of the foot,” Sass says. (Think further down your metatarsals than under your arches.)
Why it works:
“Devi pose helps create warmth throughout your body, and increased circulation can help with your digestion,” Sass says. Adding kidney 1 acupressure massage can help center you. “Breathe deeply, sending energy into your legs to feel grounding, support, and strength,” Sass says. “When we are grounded and centered, our digestion is supported.” The opposite is also true: When we’re stressed, our digestion takes a toll.
3. Easy Seated Twist (Parivarta Sukhasana)
- Sitting in a cross-legged position with your spine straight and the crown of your head touching the sky, bring your left hand to your right knee.
- Keeping your spine straight, twist to the right, placing your right hand on the floor behind you, near your hip. Make sure you don’t go too far and lose your posture.
- Look over your right shoulder and inhale deeply between twists.
- In this position, locate and massage the acupuncture point with your left hand (position detailed below).
- Change your cross-legged position (if the right leg is up, bring the left up) and repeat this exercise on the opposite side, making sure you continue to breathe deeply.
Acupressure Point: Spleen 21
Find it: “This point is called ‘The Great Embrace,’ and it’s located next to your ribs,” Sass says. “It can be easily stimulated during a seated spinal twist when you hug yourself.”
Why it works:
The twisting pose is a popular choice for digestive health, and for good reason: twisting the torso helps stimulate the digestive organs.
Easy with seated twists, especially when you start with one Turn right, you’ll massage the ascending colon, and then the descending colon as you twist to the left, helping to “move things along,” as they say. Adding some acupressure strengthens this effect. “Spleen 21 moves Qi [energy] And blood,” Sass explains. “It transforms the stagnation of the body, especially around the diaphragm, which [according to TCM] Helps in better digestion.”