Coming next month: Our yoga series with Eliana Stein, personal trainer and yoga instructor at the Vidya Institute, continues as she demonstrates the poses that can improve sleep.
When to do these exercises: Practice this routine first thing in the morning or before you eat. This sequence of yoga poses is designed to support digestion by activating the breath and muscles within the abdomen.
What you will need:
1-2 blankets or towels
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with knees pulled into chest, arms at shoulder level. On an exhale, bring knees to the right. Inhale knees back to center and switch sides. Repeat 10 times per side.
Why it works: This premeditative motion of the torso stretches the muscles of the spine and conditions the abdominal muscles. This was traditionally considered to activate the “digestive fire” which is responsible for the digestion of food, but also of emotions and experiences.
How to do it: Start by lying on your back, knees pulled into chest . With hands behind the head, inhale lifting the upper back and shoulders off the floor. Exhale twisting the right shoulder towards the left knee, right leg hovering over the floor. Switch sides, twisting through the torso. Repeat 10 times.
Why it works: This common exercise is not only an excellent way to condition the abdominal and the oblique muscles (“love handles”), but also stimulates the “digestive fire” as in the previous exercise, promoting blood flow to the digestive organs.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Press feet into the ground, lengthening the head and spine. Inhale arms up, exhale arms down. Repeat 10 times at a moderate pace. Keep the abs and lower back steady throughout.
Why it works: This little combo gets the energy and blood flowing throughout the body, stimulating the digestive system and energizing the whole body.
How to do it: Stand with feet about four-feet apart. Turn right leg out 90 degrees, left leg in 30 degrees. Extend the arms out at shoulder level. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees. Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides.
Why it works: This is a combination pose — stimulating, heating and energizing the body. While strengthening the abdominal muscles, this pose also gets the energy and blood flowing throughout the entire body, including the digestive system.
How to do it: Sit on 1-2 folded blankets. Right leg is straight and left knee bent with foot on the floor. Place the right hand on the floor behind you. Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale and twist the chest towards the right, tucking the left elbow in to the inside of the left knee. Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides.
Why it works: This seated twist massages the digestive organs by directing the breath and movement to the entire abdomen. Twists can also wring out toxins from the organs by facilitating blood flow in this region.
How to do it: Sit in a kneeling position with your spine erect, hands resting on thighs. For sensitive knees, place a folded blanket between the calves and back thighs. Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes, breathing deep into the abdomen.
Why it works: This pose activates the nervous systems responsible for relaxation and digestion. Blood flow is directed from the limbs to the organs to allow digestion to take place.