Constipation: Let’s talk. It happens to all of us. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, constipation is the most common digestive complaint in the United States. It’s also probably one of the most commonly-Googled issues in the United States, as most people feel the personal plumbing issue too taboo to talk openly about.
How does constipation happen?
It’s no surprise that constipation is so prevalent in today’s society, as we live in a culture that runs on the qualities that exacerbate digestive issues. Our fast-paced modern culture culture is characterized by packaged, processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, lack of sleep, high-stress, and overstimulation, all of which fit into the category of what Ayurveda identifies as an imbalanced vata, or air, element. Vata is dry, cold, light, rough, quick, and changeable, and the main function of the vata element in the body is movement, which is why vata is directly related to constipation. When vata is out of balance, there is too much exposure to the vata element externally, and a person may have an easily changeable mood predominated by fear, anxiety, instability, and exhaustion. They may also experience headaches, achy joints, and ding ding ding - constipation!
If all of this vata talk seems too abstract, think of it this way: if you eat very dry, hard-to-digest foods, are exposed to the wind and cold temperatures, or don’t drink enough water (causing your system to be dry) the vata element becomes aggravated, which can easily lead to a backed-up digestive tract. Constipation is also linked to mental stress, as fatigue, pressure, and overstimulation from sights, sounds, and speed also increase vata. Also, a diet low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and fiber can also lead to constipation.
Excessive work hours, sleep deprivation and processed food deplete the body in a way that can easily go unnoticed until it is to late (or we’re too constipated).
- Passing fewer than three stools a week
- Having lumpy or hard stools
- Straining to have bowel movements
- Feeling as though you can't completely empty the your bowels
Yoga to the rescue
But not to worry! One of the best ways to manage constipative events (“events” makes it sound more fun, right?) is through the practice of yoga. Not only does yoga stimulate the bowel, but it helps reduce stress, which is associated with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. Yoga massages the internal organs, and certain poses such as twists help to bring movement to the intestines.
Yoga revitalizes the body by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen in the system. Since most yoga postures involve pelvic movement, it is one of the best aids in relieving constipation woes.
Just a few minutes of daily yoga practice can help regulate infrequent bowel movements, reduce gas and bloating, and keep you and your tummy happy.
If constipation is holding you back, try the below yoga for constipation. Add these asanas to your routine and set your bowels free!
1. Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)
This posture helps improve digestion and destroys the effects of unwholesome food. It also increases intra-abdominal pressure, which reduces spleen and liver enlargements. The pose is also beneficial in toning the bowels and removing constipation problems.
2. Ardha-Matsyendrasana (Sitting Half Spinal Twist Pose)
The important physiological aspects of this asana (posture) are that it stimulates the pancreas, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, and ascending and descending colons; hence improving bowel movements and providing relief from constipation.
3. Halasana (Plough Pose)
This posture provides comfort to the liver and intestine. It is an inversion posture which increases blood circulation in the pelvic area and boosts digestion.
4. Pavanmuktasana (Wind-Relieving Pose)
As the name suggests, this posture helps release gas from the body, a common trouble for most of us suffering from regular constipation. The posture can help cure several digestive disorders, including dyspepsia. It also helps in relieving acid reflux which is caused by indigestion.
5. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
This forward-bend posture helps improve our digestive system and also relieves gas, cramping and bloating of stomach. The posture also helps in reducing stress which is necessary for good digestion.
So save yourself money on laxatives and practice yoga today! By taking just a few minutes to practice the above postures you can experience what it’s like to not worry about your midsection all day. Don't forget to improve your eating habits, as well! Fibre-rich food, fruits and vegetables, and sufficient intake of water all help maintain digestive regularity.
While yoga is an excellent remedy for stress in the mind and body, it is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga under the supervision of a trained yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor.
*Symptom information courtesy of Mayo Clinic.
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