When you’re feeling bloated or dealing with a stomach ache, it might seem counterintuitive to unroll your mat and start striking a pose. But it turns out that doing light movement, such as a yoga flow, can help relieve some of the tension you’re feeling in your gut.
"Physically, yoga helps by moving energy, aka prana or chi, through the body,” says Kate Kuss, a yoga instructor at THE WELL New York and founder of Soul and Steady Yoga Parlour. “Energy wants to move. If it doesn't, it can cause discomfort.”
Plus, your gut and brain are closely connected — so much so that the gut is “coined as your second brain,” says Kuss. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones and neurotransmitters that can wreak havoc on your digestion, according to the University of Chicago Medicine. More specifically, they can negatively impact both gut motility (i.e. the movement of food through your digestive system) and the balance of bacteria in your gut, thereby leading to gastrointestinal discomfort (think: gas, bloating, cramps).
Through yoga, however, you can connect your body and breath, helping to alleviate anxiety and, in turn, any of the tummy troubles it might bring on, explains Kuss. In fact, slow and deep breathing techniques (such as those implemented during a flow) have been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages your body to relax and recover as well as stimulates your digestive organs to process food. The result? A calmer brain, less tense body and ability to (finally) fart.
RELATED: 6 Yoga Poses to Lower Anxiety
The physical manipulation of your body during a yoga flow can also promote flatulence and banish bloating. Twisting postures, for example, are especially good for easing your gut, as they “stimulate movement in the ascending and descending colon,” explains Kendra Thomas, a yoga instructor at THE WELL New York and trainer at Mind Body Project. “When you twist to the right, you can stimulate the ascending colon and get things moving in the right direction before twisting to the left and encouraging the descending colon to get things moving down and out.
And then there’s the aptly-named wind-relieving pose, which involves lying on your back and hugging your knees into your chest. (It’s also a sure-fire way to banish bloat, as WELLINFORMED previously reported.)
But these are just two of the many gut-friendly positions to try. Ahead, Kuss shares her top five yoga poses to relieve gas and bloating and how to do each.
5 Yoga Poses for Gas and Bloating
1. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
- Lying on your back in front of a wall, raise your legs straight up and place them on the wall. Avoid hyperextending your knees by pushing them knees against the wall, but feel free to bend them slightly if it’s more comfortable.
- Place both palms on your belly where you feel the most discomfort.
- Inhale through your nose, lifting your belly into your palms to feel it stretch.
- Exhale through your nose, feel your belly release and allow your spine to connect to the ground.
- Stay in this position and continuethis diaphragmatic breathing for anywhere from 2-15 minutes.
Why It Works:
This pose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, releasing tension throughout your body — but especially in your legs — while soothing your mind, explains Kuss. Relaxing mentally and physically can promote flatulence and relieve GI symptoms, such as cramps and bloating. As a gentle inversion, it can also improve circulation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This allows for better blood flow throughout your body, such as to your gut, where it can potentially stimulate digestion.
2. Spine Flow
- Lie on your back and draw your knees into your chest above your hips.
- With your knees bent, open your arms wide to the sides to form a “T.”
- Keeping your shoulders and head on the ground, drop both knees to the right side as you exhale.
- When you’re ready, inhale and lift your knees to the center.
- Exhale and drop your knees to the left side.
- Continue rocking your knees from side to side with each breath for 10 breaths.
Why It Works:
As a Yin yoga pose, this posture addresses stretching the connective tissue and fascia, which can keep energy flowing through your torso, says Kuss. It also releases gas by drawing your knees toward your chest and moving legs from side to side.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Start on all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
- Keep your knees about hip-width apart and bring your big toes to touch.
- Extend your arms forward and bring your glutes toward your heels.
- Lower your chest and forehead toward the ground, keeping your neck and spine long. (If you experience any discomfort when stretching your arms forward, wrap them around your thighs.)
- Make sure your thighs are wide enough that your belly falls and torso fits between your legs. You can make small movements from side to side and massage the belly.
- Stay in this position for five full breaths or anywhere from 1-3 minutes.
Why It Works:
When in child's pose, your belly essentially rests on either side of your knees as if it's in "a little cocoon," notes Kuss. This creates a feeling of safety so that you're better able to relax your gut, which is key for getting rid of any gas or bloating.
4. Chair Pose Twist (Utkatasana)
- Stand with your legs together and lift both arms overhead, keeping your arms straight.
- Bend your knees and sit back into your hips, lowering as if you’re taking a seat in a chair. Look down at your feet and make sure you can see your toes.
- Lean your torso slightly forward so that it forms a 45-degree angle. Take five breaths then bring your palms together by your chest.
- Twist to your right, hooking your left elbow against your right knee. Feel the twist in the middle of your back and belly. Take five more breaths then forward fold, bringing your hands toward the ground.
- Return to chair pose, then twist to your left. After five breaths, forward fold and repeat. Your breath might feel a little short so try not to force anything.
Why It Works:
In addition to twisting (which, as mentioned above, can be particularly effective at easing GI woes), this pose also involves squatting, which "gets blood flowing to the pelvis, and is a great position for birthing and pooping,” says Thomas. “Modern-day inventions, like toilets, have gotten us out of the habit of resting in this position, but the practice of yoga can help make this position more comfortable and get things moving more fluidly.”
5. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Stand with your legs together and your big toes touching. Lift your arms overhead, reaching from your belly and stretching your legs and arms away from each other. Inhale.
- As you exhale, fold forward from your hips, releasing your arms toward the ground.
- Bend your knees slightly and press your hands on your shins. (You can also place your hands on the ground or on a yoga block in front of you.) Feel your belly press toward your legs, even if they don’t touch, and your torso folding into your legs.
- Take 10 breaths, then slowly dangle your arms, bring your chin toward your chest and roll up to stand, inch by inch.
Why It Works:
By putting light pressure on your abdomen, this pose moves trapped air in the GI tract that can often be responsible for cramps and bloating. But doing a forward fold can help push it out, thereby relieving gas.