As mentioned in a previous post, I made the daring leap this month and bought a ticket to Thailand with the intention of doing a yoga intensive for one month followed by some travels to Cambodia and northern Thailand. With the goal of reconnecting to my yoga practice and refreshing the foundation of my training as a yoga instructor, I am finding this trip to be a great success.
You may have heard it before, but yoga can be a very effective healing art, among many other things. It has long been touted for it’s ability to help heal the body physically, mentally and spiritually. Of course, being a dietitian and nutritionist, I am always interested in learning how yoga asanas (poses) can help improve symptoms related to digestion and overall health for both myself and my clients.
There are quite a few poses that help with digestion, but I would like to tell you about one in particular that can be practiced anytime as a means to improve digestion. This means, if you suffer from bloat, regular stomach aches, dysbiosis, or any other general symptoms of IBS, this pose may be helpful.
Although it can be practiced any time, it is best performed 10 minutes after meals as it helps increase the blood flow to your organs in the center part of your body (e.g. gastrointestinal tract, stomach, liver, kidneys, etc.). This increase in blow flows brings the nutrients and other necessary components for digestion to the place they are needed most after a meal, your gut.
So what is this pose?
The name of this pose is Vajrasana. Below I will describe the technique, the point of concentration and additional benefits. To strengthen digestion, I recommend doing this pose after meals. You don’t need to warm up before doing this pose, which is one of it’s great benefit of using this pose.
Kneel with your knees slightly apart. Ensure that the big toes are separated about 2-5 centimeters apart. It’s important that they do not touch. Spread the heels apart so they create the shape of a trough and gently sit between them.
If you have knee issues, place as many pillows or t as you need between your heels and your buttocks so you are comfortable. This pose should not be painful, so please make the necessary accommodations (see picture below).
It is also important to to sit directly on the heels, nor to spread the feet too far apart.
Hands are placed on the thighs in such a manner that the thumbs and index finger of each hand encircle the tops of the thighs. The spine should be straight.
There may be some initial pain in the feet and tingling in the legs at the beginning, but with continued practice, these painful areas should diminish.
As a beginner, start practicing the pose for 2-5 minute at a time. If you are comfortable, practice it up to 30 minutes after meals for maximum benefit.
Point of Concentration
Attention during this pose should be focused to perceive the energies at the area of the middle of the forehead (ajna chakra) and the area of the heart (anahata chakra). If it’s too difficult to focus on both points simultaneously, just focus on the heart.
Afterwards, you may notice emotional balance and increased mental power. There may also be some feelings of harmony between the heart and the mind. With regular practice, the pose will also offer the following benefits.
Effects and additional benefits
Because you are sitting on your knees, vajrasana strengthens the nerves and muscles of the thighs and the calves. It can also expel pain in the heels and if practiced regularly can help those with flat feet.
As mentioned above, this pose supports digestion due to the enhanced blood flow to the digestive organs when sitting in this position and is recommended by many yogis to be done within 10 minutes after meals on a regular basis.
Some other benefits include the alleviation of hormonal problems for women and men, relieving the lumbar area of the spine and offering emotional and mental balance.
With the help of these pictures and the description, the next step is to try it for yourself! Nothing in yoga means anything unless the practitioner experiments with these poses on their own body to feel the effects. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak! Start by sitting in the pose after one meal a day for a week. If benefits are noted, and you have time after other meals throughout the day, gradually build the practice up as needed.
Special thanks to my friend Brianne from FemFusion fitness for modeling this pose for me on the beautiful beaches of Koh Pangnan in Thailand!