**Disclaimer: This information is not meant to treat or diagnose symptoms of bloating or IBS. Please see a doctor to discuss a fitness routine that is right for you if you are experiencing any severe or debilitating symptoms of bloating or IBS.**
Bloating is a common problem that plagues us all at one time or another. Symptoms of bloating can run anywhere from a swollen abdomen to cramping/pain and can be attributed to inflammation and gas build up in the digestive tract. Stress, hormones, and food sensitivities are all common causes of bloating, but luckily most of these factors can be addressed through movement and exercise! While bloating can be a major irritation and is often unpredictable, yoga is an effective and simple way to relieve your gut irritation and get you back to a pain-free daily routine.
7 Yoga Poses to Reduce Bloating
A well-rounded physical yoga practice is comprised of several poses, or asanas, some of which involve gentle spinal twists. This twisting movement can stimulate your digestive system and encourage the gas that has built up there to move through your body at a normal pace. In a 2020 study from the European Journal of Biomedical Sciences, it was found that Yoga was an effective treatment of gastritis and significantly reduced the participants’ symptoms of pain and bloating.(1) Additionally, if you suspect that the bloating you experience is a consequence of high stress levels, yoga can be a great method to help calm your mind and reduce or eliminate some of these physical stress-related symptoms. Yoga’s emphasis on breath and mind-body connection activates your parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging your body to shift into “rest and digest” mode.(2) Try these 7 yoga poses to fight off bloating and move on and off your mat with comfort!
Single Knee to Chest/Knees to Chest
These two asanas gently massage the abdominal organs and in doing so improves the digestive process. It is also thought to enhance the processes in which the body rids itself of waste and toxins. In Sanskrit this pose is called Apanasana, and in English it is cheekily referred to as “wind relieving pose.” Not only is great for getting things moving (if you know what I mean) but is also an excellent low back stretch.
Lay flat on your back with your legs out long. Inhale in, then exhale and slowly bring one knee into the chest, placing your hand around your shin to gently pull your leg in and feel a stretch through your glute muscles and hip flexors on your opposite leg. Breath through the stretch, then repeat on opposite leg. For double knees to chest, hug both legs in at the same time.
The gentle twisting motion of this asana offers the same internal benefits as Apanasana; this pose provides a gentle massage of the abdominal organs that stimulates the digestion and facilitates movement through your digestive tract. As an added benefit, this pose promotes spinal health and mobility.
Lay flat on your back with your feet flat on the mat and knees bent. Send your arms out long to either side, inhale to lift your legs so your shins are parallel with the mat, and exhale as you slowly drop the knees to one side. Keep your back and shoulders glued to the mat. Send your gaze to the opposite direction of the hips. Breath through the stretch and repeat on the opposite side.
Sticking with the ongoing theme, this pose massages/stimulates your abdominal organs and promotes healthy digestion and movement through the digestive tract. The nature of this pose puts your spine into extension, and in doing so increases blood flow to your gut. This increase in circulation provides many benefits, include relieving constipation, easing digestion, and fighting bloat. Bow pose is also an excellent way to work towards improving overall core strength.
Start on the belly with the chest slightly lifted. Engage the back and glute muscles. Reach the arms back to grasp the ankles or shins. Inhale as you begin to push into the hands as you lift your thighs off the mat, engaging your legs, glutes, and back. Keep your gaze forward as you lift through the crown of your head. Take several long deep breaths and then gently relax and lower back down to the mat.
This pose is known for being a deep hip opener, and it certainly is. However, an added benefit of Happy Baby is the cultivation of abdominal compression. Just like the previously discussed poses, this is helpful for massaging and increasing blood flow to the abdominal organs. It is also an excellent pose for massaging and soothing the low back.
Start laying on your back and inhale to bring your knees into your chest. Grab your shins, ankles, or arches of your feet with your hands. Lift your feet so the soles of your feet are facing the ceiling and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Press your knees toward the mat and keep your tailbone glued to the mat as you breathe into the pose. Option to rock gently back and forth.
This soothing pose is an excellent option for its stress-relieving benefits. Child’s pose is great for calming the mind and activating the parasympathetic nervous system and is yet another pose that stimulates digestion by massaging the abdominal organs.
Begin in tabletop position and bring your big toes to touch with your knees as wide as your yoga mat. Inhale in, the exhale to lower your hips toward your heels and stretch your arms forward or allow them to rest down by your sides. Relax your forehead down to the mat and breathe.
Bridge pose in another asana that stimulates the abdominal organs and improves circulation to the gut region. It is also a great stretch for the abdominals, chest/shoulders, and hip flexors. Not to mention it simultaneously builds strength in your back muscles, glutes, thighs, and ankles.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Walk your heels in as close as possible to your glutes and relax your shoulders down from your ears. Inhale in, exhale and press through your heels, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips toward the sky. You can also make this a more restorative pose by placing a block underneath the sacrum and relaxing down onto the block.
Downward Facing Dog
This asana is an energizing inversion that increases blood flow throughout the body and stimulates various organ systems, including those involved in digestion. Additionally, as a full-body weight bearing exercise you will experience the advantage of increased bone strength and health.
Begin in an extended plank position. Inhale in, then exhale to slowly lift your hips up toward the sky. Melt your heels down towards your mat and press evenly through the fingertips as you engage your core muscles and quads. Take several long, deep breaths before relaxing back down to your mat.
Use Your Breath
In western culture, yoga is usually associated with the physical practice of asana, but there are many other facets that make up a traditional, well-rounded yoga practice. Pranayama, or breathwork, is one of these facets and is an important part of any yoga practice. Among the extensive benefits of pranayama, it has been found to reduce inappropriate activation of the autonomic nervous system.(2) In other words, it decreases your body’s stress response, specifically in instances when it is unnecessary. This has a significant impact on symptoms of IBS, such as bloating and cramping. It seems strange that something as simple as breathing can be treatment for bloating. But taking just a few minutes out of your day to focus on your breath can make noticeable improvements in healing your gut.
Putting it All Together
Having a daily practice of asana and pranayama can make a considerable difference in your bloating symptoms, no matter what the cause. Breathing and movement paired together can decrease your stress levels, improve abdominal blood flow, and stimulates movement in the digestive system. Creating space in your routine for a daily yoga practice can make all the difference in both your daily physical and mental health!
1. Efficacy of Yoga and Naturopathy in the Management of Gastritis, European Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2020. Efficacy-of-Yoga-and-Naturopathy-in-the-management-of-Gastritis.pdf (researchgate.net) Accessed 15 December 2022
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yoga as Remedial Therapy, Journal of Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yoga as Remedial Therapy (hindawi.com) Accessed 15 December 2022.