The benefits of yoga seem to be endless—and wide-ranging. Research cited by the National Institutes of Health has shown that yoga can help improve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, aid in heart rate and blood pressure reduction, and improve sleeping habits—all while making you super-flexible. Not too shabby, right?
So, given all of its glorious perks, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that yoga can help address another common, aggravating wellness concern: gas.
Whether you’re suffering from constipation, bloating, or food intolerance, chronic, painful gas is not fun to deal with, and can be a symptom of a bigger ongoing issue. Thankfully, regardless of the root cause, yoga has been research-proven to help move gas through and out of the body.
One study published in the journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback looked at people who struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and did a yoga routine that included 12 yogic poses twice a day for two months. According to the research, the group experienced a “significant decrease of bowel symptoms and state anxiety,” thanks to their yoga practice.
The fact that yoga is so effective at aiding in the reduction of stress and anxiety may be one reason it’s so beneficial for gastrointestinal issues.
“Yoga is an amazing stress reliever,” says Sasha Brown-Worsham, a yoga instructor in northern New Jersey who teaches Vinyasa flow and prenatal yoga. “By focusing on the breath and making that louder than any thought or feeling in the body, people can work through a lot of pain. Obviously there is a big difference between practicing with mild GI issues and a full-blown stomach virus, but assuming there is nothing requiring medical attention, all of the twists and folds and bends you take during a practice really do get things moving, so to speak.”
So, how does it work? “Gentle twisting poses and forward bends compress the abdomen, stimulating the digestive system and detoxifying the body,” explains Calli De La Haye, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, a yoga instructor in St. Helier, New Jersey.
Even if bloating and gas only happen to catch you off-guard once in a while—maybe when you’ve gone a little overboard with your favorite comfort food!—yoga can come in handy.
One go-to, expert-approved move is the Wind-Releasing Pose. “Yes, that’s an actual pose that can be practiced very easily,” De La Haye shares. To do: “Lay flat on your back, and hug both knees into your chest,” she explains. “You may like to rock gently side to side, slowly. Keep the shoulders and head resting on the floor.”
An example of a twisting pose that De La Haye likes is Half Lord of the Fishes pose, which stimulates the digestive fire in the belly, according to Yoga Journal. A Standing Forward Bend is also tied to improving digestion.
Brown-Worsham notes that poses like (a squat) is so beneficial for digestion that you may end up passing gas in the middle of your practice. But it’s nothing to be self-conscious about.
“It is part of the practice,” she explains. “People cry. They get angry. And they pass gas. The process is all about releasing toxins from the body and moving blocked ‘prana’ or energy, so sometimes gas is a part of that. We are all adults. We can take it.”