Yoga For Constipation: Poses For Instant Relief
“Oh God, Didi! This guy has such a constipated voice!” exclaimed my sister while watching a TV show. Though I did laugh at the little joke, it made me think about how casually we have started using the word “constipation” these days. ‘Look, how constipated he/she looks!’, 'Stop being so constipated, yaar!', etc I'm sure you've heard them all. I have too, and so much, that the seriousness of the term constipation as a ‘disease’ has been diminished!
Can yoga help in curing constipation?
Yes! If you do these yoga poses correctly, you will definetely reliese constipation.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation (in medical jargon) has been defined as the presence of two or more of the following symptoms for at least three months -
- Infrequent passage of stools (3 bowel movements per week).
- Hardened stools.
- Straining at stools.
- Incomplete evacuation.
Constipation is not just a physical disease (that which doesn’t let you be at ease is a ‘disease’), it also takes up a lot - mentally and emotionally - from the person suffering from it. Imagine not evacuating your bowel for days, the irritability, the constant nagging feeling of not passing stools, leading to stomach cramps, nausea, bloating, lack of appetite and foul breath. All this has an impact on the social and personal life as well.
What Causes Constipation?
- The most common cause that we know of is lack of fiber in the diet - also known as roughage. It is the insoluble part of plants and is rich in fiber. The fiber provides bulk and thus eases elimination of stools. An important property of fiber is that it absorbs water in the intestines as it moves. And this takes us to the next big reason for constipation.
- Consumption of no or less water - It is advisable to drink at least 2 liters of water (8-10 glasses) daily. Imagine the plight of your intestine when it doesn’t get enough water to maintain its ‘moistness’ and on top of it, the insoluble fiber absorbs most of the water. This makes the stool dry and hard, in turn leading to difficulty in passage of stools. When this becomes chronic, i.e. when the individual has been passing hard, dry stools for a long time, it may cause fissure (cracks/tears at the opening of the anus) which leads to bleeding and pain. So much that the patient actually fears to go to the toilet!
- Did you know that constipation is a common complaint in patients with depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia? The point is that constipation may have invisible causes too. Neurological, endocrine, metabolic and psychological disorders are major roots of this disease. Physical obstruction of the intestines, cancer, tumors and irritable bowel syndrome may all lead to constipation as well.
- Certain medications like antidepressants, calcium, iron supplements are also known causes. Apart from the above, it is commonly visible during pregnancy and old age. You can try Yoga for constipation during pregnancy, as a healthy way to get relief.
- Constipation has been suggested to be a psychosomatic disorder, i.e. stress plays a major role in it. More on stress later.
- Physical inactivity is another major contributor. At least 30 minutes of physical activity is suggested daily. Improper sleep patterns also lead to constipation - being awake at night and sleeping during the day should be avoided.
- Too many causes, isn’t it? The bottom line is that constipation may be one of the symptoms when your body becomes uncomfortable with something. And that something can be, well, anything!
How does Yoga help with constipation?
When we hear the term Yoga, all we think about is relaxing music, meditating in Padmasana or just gymnastic postures. However, folks, believe me when I say that this ancient science is much, much more than that. It is a lifestyle, it is a means of finding the purpose of life. Well, that’s in the advanced levels, but yes, it does help in alleviating and preventing diseases in the human body and keeping your body healthy and fit.
Yoga helps with constipation in two ways. One way is by beating stress, improving the quality of sleep and relieving anxiety. The second is by the various Asanas (postures) and Karmas (procedures). These massage and move the abdominal muscles and increase the blood flow to the organs.
Meditation forms an important part of yoga. Meditation and deep breathing help in streamlining of thoughts and clearing the mind. Initially, it does get difficult to concentrate on one particular thing, and it is best to get help from a certified yoga teacher. This is known as guided meditation.
Let’s see some of the yoga poses and techniques that help you relieving constipation:
#1. SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA/ ARDHA MATSYENDRASNA (FULL/HALF SPINAL TWIST)
This asana tones the spinal muscles and ligaments improves digestion and health of liver and pancreas and opens up the chest, increasing the oxygen supply to the lungs. Supervision by a certified practitioner is necessary.
#2. PRANAYAMA: BREATHING YOGA FOR CONSTIPATION
‘Prana’ means life force and ‘Ayama’ is ‘to work’ on it or ‘lengthen’ it. Different breathing techniques not only calm the mind but also help in proper functioning of the body in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ways. Pranayama, along with Asanas, aims at cleansing, balancing, strengthening the body, mind, and soul.
#3. PADMASANA: LOTUS POSE FOR CONSTIPATION
Padmasana is a sitting pose. This is a preferred asana for meditation as it helps in emotional and nervous disorders, functioning of the stomach, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, and liver.
#4. VAJRASANA: THUNDERBOLT POSE
Vajrasana is a sitting asana. It is advised to sit in Vajrasana post meals, as it helps in proper digestion of food.
#5. PAWANMUKTASANA: VAYU RELEASING POSE
As the name suggests, this yoga pose helps in alleviating bloating, flatulence, indigestion and constipation by aiding the peristaltic movement of intestines.
#6. DHANURASANA: BOW POSE
The practitioner lies on the stomach, lifts the chest and stomach, and holds the feet, forming a bow. This ensures proper functioning of the digestive tract, strengthens the back, opens the chest and relieves headaches. This yoga pose is best to Improve digestion and releasing constipation issue.
#7. PASCHIMOTTANASANA: BACK STRETCHING POSE
This is a seated forward bend which brings about the intense stretch of the back, shoulders, spine, and hamstrings. This should be done by a certified yoga teacher. This asana calms the mind, relieves one of stress, anxiety and helps cure insomnia. It ensures proper functioning of female reproductive organs, kidneys, liver and of course helps in digestion.
#8. KURMASANA: TURTLE POSE FOR CONSTIPATION
In this asana, the practitioner resembles a tortoise that withdraws into its shell when agitated. It helps one connect with the self within. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles, improves digestions, respiration, alleviates bloating and flatulence.
#9. BASTI YOGA: ENEMA FOR CONSTIPATION
This is a procedure or ‘Karma’ described in both Yoga and Ayurveda as one of the best yoga for constipation, gastrointestinal disorders, and prevention of diseases caused by excessive Vayu in the body. In Basti, water, medicated oils or ‘kashayam’ (decoctions) are introduced into the rectum. Made you squirm? Well, though proven to be extremely effective, Basti should be performed by trained professionals to avoid any complications.
#10. NAULI: ABDOMINAL MASSAGING
Popularly known as Yoga Pose for Bowel Movement, ‘Nauli’ is one of the ‘Shatkarmas’ (six yogic procedures) described in Yoga. This involves moving or churning of the abdominal muscles which help in massaging and stimulating the entire digestive system. It relieves constipation, indigestion, acidity, flatulence, emotional disturbances and hormonal imbalances.
Yoga advises proper Aahar for the proper functioning of digestive system. This brings about proper functioning of the other systems in the body. Certain foods help in relieving constipation like raisins, ripe bananas, milk, ghee, black currants, papaya, figs etc.
Including fresh fruits (not juices - juices strip the fruit of the fibre that we need), salads, wheat bran, barley, oats etc helps in keeping the bowel movements regular.
All the asanas and karmas that have been described above must be done with precaution, under the guidance of a certified yoga professional and only after consulting with your doctor. Laxatives must be taken as a last resort and under prescription.
For more such guidance with Yoga and Mediation, you can visit the Yoga Community on SHEROES.
May you be blessed with a happy and healthy tummy!