The holiday season is upon us and while I’m trying to stay conscious of my eating, I will be indulging myself and even over-indulging several times before the season is through. While I may feel more inclined for a siesta on the sofa, if I want to avoid some digestive discomfort during my snooze, I plan to do a gentle yoga practice first.
Digestive discomfort may not be solely from eating too many rich foods. Sometimes they can be caused by the stress and aggravation of traveling, organizing the festivities, or even from confronting less than calm interactions around the table. Yoga practice will help me meet with the seasonal stressors with more calm and centeredness. Taking a little time to dedicate to my practice, even 20 minutes, can remind me to focus on the moments of joy and let go of the irritations.
The goal with the Yoga practice either before or after a holiday event is to take a sense of ease off the mat and into the world. I can take the feeling of calm with me as I encounter the stressors with greater equanimity. And practicing after an event will help me heal any dis-ease so that I can truly relax when I get that snooze.
Bearing in mind that it is best to practice yoga with a relatively empty stomach, if there is gas or acid, these poses can still be performed as long as you move slowly and gently. Remember that moving into and out of the poses carefully can be more important than actually being in the pose. These are the times when I am most likely distracted and not as careful with my body as I need to be, especially if I’m thinking about my stomach ache.
Even if there are just a few moments stolen between activities, simply sitting in a comfortable position, closing the eyes and slowing the breath can help. Keep the mind on the inhale and the exhale through the nose. Be curious about whether the inhale or the exhale is longer. Try to slow down the breath, keeping it comfortable and easy. Don’t allow your mind to wander, but keep it focused on the cleansing breath. Allow your breath to move any trapped gas out of the body. If the stomach is churning, keep thinking of the natural rhythm of the breath in and out, as it bring in nutrients and releases waste.
Table to Cat Cow Pose
Coming to hands and knees with elbows straight but not locked, form a table with your back, keeping the head in line with the spine. On an inhale, slowly move in a swayback cow position by arching the back while allowing the belly to hang down toward the floor. Raise the head and look up to the ceiling. Then on an exhale, slowly move into cat by bowing the back toward the ceiling, sucking the belly in (if it feels alright for your digestion) and letting the top of the head drop toward the floor. Repeat with the breath a few times. Pause in table top again then move the right side of the head, shoulder, and right hip toward each other on an inhale. Exhale while releasing and move the left side of your head, shoulder and left hip toward one another. Repeat a few times, following the breath. Finally return to table top position for one breath cycle.
Down Dog Pose
From table top, on the next exhale, push up into downward facing dog. Straighten the legs and keep the elbows straight but not locked. Move up and out of the shoulders without collapsing the chest. Look toward the heels and imagine them lowering to the floor on each exhale. Allow the belly to become soft and think of lifting your sitting bones toward the ceiling. Feel the strength of the legs while slightly shifting the weight into them and off your shoulders. Breathe with a soft belly.
From down dog, slowly step the right leg forward between the hands. In this lunge position, turn the left foot flat so that it the toes are pointing at a 90 degree angle. Checking to make sure the arch of the left foot is in line with the heel of the right foot, move the left toes in slightly. On an inhale, using the strength of the back leg, straighten the front knee (but don’t lock it) and turn the torso to face the side wall as you lift the left arm toward the ceiling. Place the right hand on the shin or a block. Those are a lot of directions, so once the feeling of having the pose happens, bring your attention back to the breath and the belly. Calm and level out the breathing if it has quickened and allow the belly to go soft. After a few breaths, slowly turn and place the hands back on either side of the front foot and find that lunge position. Bring the right leg back. Find down dog, table top or child’s pose and rest for a few breaths before repeating triangle on the other side.
Seated or Supported Twist Pose
Skip the more active version of the pose if diarrhea is an issue. Supported twist or better yet supported child’s pose with the torso resting on a bolster, rolled blankets, or firm cushions is a better choice. From Table top or down dog, moving slowly, come into a cross-legged position. It is fine to sit on a cushion or even a chair if hip flexibility might cause limitations for the twist. Inhale and lift the arms overhead and straighten the spine. On an exhale, lower the arms as the torso turns to the right. Place the right hand on the floor behind the hip and the left hand to the outside of the right knee. Turn the head and look over the right shoulder. Breathe. Notice if the spin has collapsed and straighten if needed. Ensure that the belly is soft. Back off from the twist a bit if too much tension is being held in the belly or hip flexors. After a few breaths, us an inhale to turn the torso and head back to center, raising the arms overhead. Repeat on the left side.
The supported version of the twist begins with placing the bolster, rolled blankets, or firm cushion extending away behind the right hip. Instead of sitting cross-legged, bend the right knee and place the right side of the leg toward the floor so the arch of the right foot meets the left knee. Either keep the left leg straight on the floor or bend it so that the inside of the left leg is on the floor and the arch of the left foot rest comfortably on the floor. Inhale, arms overhead. Exhale, and turn the torso so to the right, then lay it down along the support. Relax the belly and breathe. Repeat on the left side after a few moments.
Sit down facing to the left against the wall. Place the right hip at the base of the wall, then lean back away from the wall, raising the legs up along the wall as you roll onto your back. If this is not comfortable due to tight hamstrings, place a firm pillow, bolster or yoga block underneath the hips. Place arms out to the sides and breathe. Stay in this position for up to 15 minutes. To come out, roll out slowly in the same manner as going in, taking plenty of time to readjust after the inversion. Move slowly.
To create a Flow practice for digestion ease, move between the first four poses, inserting child’s pose or simple breathing between poses as needed. This can be done as energetically or as slowly as desired, so long as breathing is never compromised and awareness of keeping the belly soft is maintained.
I have a Mini-Restorative Sequence for Moon Time that is also wonderful for easing digestion, lowering stress, and bringing a sense of groundedness during these busy holiday times. There is a full explanation of the supported child’s pose there, as well.
- Mini Restorative Yoga For Moon Time (touchstonez.com)
- Yoga for Excessive Gas Relief (everydayhealth.com)
- 3 Must-Do Yoga Poses For Tight Hips (fitsugar.com)
- Yoga for Hip Pain (everydayhealth.com)
- Yoga For Beginners (Plus 4 Moves To Feel Long & Lean Now!) (self.com)
- Yoga for Back Pain Research (fitnesstipsforlife.com)