A number of digestive disorders affect the second and third chakras, or energy centers, in the body. These include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis and gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Digestive disorders are generally caused by poor dietary and lifestyle habits.
From a yogic perspective, digestive problems are related to issues with the second and third chakra. Holistic treatment for these disorders includes exercises designed to target and stimulate those areas of the body.
Studies even show that yoga is beneficial for digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, found that daily yoga practice helps in relieving gastrointestinal symptoms as well as anxiety in participants. They concluded yoga holds promise as a treatment method for patients with IBS.
Remember that holistic therapies such as yoga for digestion are meant to be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, conventional care. Check with your health care provider before trying these exercises.
Kapalabhati – Crown Brightener Breath
Kapalabhati is designed to cleanse the respiratory tract. It is also an excellent exercise for the third chakra as it engages the diaphragm and intercostal muscles.
Begin sitting upright in a comfortable cross-legged position. Relax your shoulders and rest your hands on your lap. Close your eyes and exhale all your air. Inhale deeply, then quickly expel all the air from the lungs, squeezing the diaphragm tightly. Next, inhale quickly, filling the abdomen with air and once again quickly expel all the air. Repeat these short, quick breaths while pumping the stomach muscles like billows. Perform 20 to 30 expulsions. Rest, then repeat the whole process two or three more times.
Janu Sirsasana – Head-To-Knee Forward Bend
Forward bends help to massage the internal organs of the abdomen. They also stimulate the energy of the second chakra, which is primarily the intestines. This variation of a seated forward bend helps you achieve an even deeper stretch.
Begin sitting upright on the mat with your legs out in front of you. Walk your hipbones back and make sure your spine is erect. Bend your left knee and bring the foot into the groin. If you have the flexibility, place the left foot on top of the right thigh. Inhale and reach up overhead. Exhale and reach for the foot, ankle or calf. Drop your head and allow the neck and shoulders to be relaxed. Breathe deeply and hold for up to one minute. Gently walk back up the leg and repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
Bharadvajasana – Gentle Twist
Twisting postures help to relieve constipation and massage the internal organs. They also have the added benefit of relieving tension in the low back.
Begin sitting upright on the mat. Bend your knees and bring your feet around to the left side of the body. Inhale and raise the right arm up in the air. Exhale, and rest it on the mat behind you, twisting around to the right. Rest your left hand on your right knee and look over the right shoulder. You can use your hands as leverage to help you achieve a deeper twist. Breathe deeply and hold for up to one minute. Gently unwind, the repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
This pose can also be performed sitting in a chair. Sit upright and cross the right leg over the left. Inhale and reach up overhead with the right hand. Exhale and rest the hand on the chair back behind you. Press your left hand on the outside of the right knee to achieve a deeper twist. Gently unwind, then repeat on the opposite side, crossing the left knee over the right.
Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
Bow pose is a gentle back bend which also massages the internal organs. It stimulates the energy of the second, third and fourth chakras.
Begin lying face down on the mat. Bend both knees and reach back behind you with your arms, grabbing the feet or ankles. Inhale and lift your hands and feet upward, lifting your upper body off the mat. Keep breathing deeply and hold for as long as possible, or up to one minute. As you inhale, you will rock back slightly, and as you exhale you will come forward. Rest, then repeat two or three more times.
Salabhasana – Locust Pose
Locust pose is another gentle back bend which also massages the internal organs. It has the added benefit of strengthening the arms and legs as well.
Begin lying face down on the mat. Extend your legs back behind you and place your hands at your sides. Inhale and lift the legs off the mat, squeezing the legs together. If you have the flexibility, lift the upper body off the mat as well. Breathe deeply and hold for several deep breaths. Relax back down on the mat, then repeat two or three more times.
Balasana – Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is used as a resting position. Because it is a forward bend, it also massages the internal organs.
Begin kneeling on the mat. Inhale and reach up overhead. Exhale and reach forward, resting the hands onto the mat. Fold forward and rest your head down on the mat. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Rest in child’s pose for as long as you like, or up to one minute.
At the end of yoga for digestion, remember to spend a few minutes in final relaxation. Lie flat on your back. Open your legs about hip-width apart. Rest your hands down at your sides. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Stay in relaxation pose for one to two minutes.
1. “Pain Research and Management“; A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome; L Kuttner, et al.; 2006