Yoga has been used for thousands of years as a health enhancing practice. It is only now that science is proving the effectiveness of various yoga poses for different bodily conditions. One health issue that yoga is known to improve upon is the efficiency of the digestive tract. Twisting postures and forward bends are especially good for improving digestion because they relieve tension in the abdominal area and compress the lower abdomen to release gas. Twisting postures help to massage the inner organs while wringing out toxins and helping the organs to perform more efficiently. Try the following poses to improve sluggish digestion and other related maladies.
Revolved head to knee pose
Sit on the floor with your torso straight and your legs straddled wide. Bend your left knee and place the heel into your right groin. Lean to the right, and press the back of your right shoulder against the inside of your right knee. Lay your right forearm on the floor inside your right leg, palm facing up. Lengthen the right side of your torso along the inside of the right thigh. Turn your right palm toward the inside edge of the foot and take hold of it, thumb on the top of the foot, fingers on the sole. Press the left femur firmly to the floor and twist your torso toward the ceiling. Inhale your left arm straight up toward the ceiling and then behind your left ear, taking hold of the outside edge of the right foot. Turn your head to look at the ceiling. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Shift over onto your right buttock, bend your knees, and swing your legs to the left. Lay your feet on the floor outside your left hip, with the left ankle resting in the right arch. Twist your torso to the right, keeping the left buttock on or close to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to keep the lower back long. Tuck your left hand under your right knee and bring your right hand to the floor just beside your right buttock. Pull your left shoulder back slightly, pressing your shoulder blades firmly against your back even as you continue to twist the chest to the right. Breathe. Repeat on the opposite side.
Big toe pose
Stand upright with your feet parallel. While keeping the legs straight, bend forward from your hip joints. Slide the index and middle fingers of each hand between the big and second toes. Curl those fingers under and grip the big toes firmly. Lift your torso as if you were going to stand up again, straightening your elbows. Lengthen your front torso, and on the next exhale, lift your sitting bones. For the next few inhalations, lift your torso strongly as you continue to actively contract your front thighs; on each successive exhalation, strongly lift your sitting bones as you consciously relax your hamstrings. Finally exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides, pull up on your toes, lengthen the front and sides of your torso, and gently lower into the forward bend. Breathe into the pose.
Begin by lying on our back. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Pressing your feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward while lifting the buttocks off the floor. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders. Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck up into the torso. Breathe deeply.
Kneel on the floor with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and touch your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips, with the tops of the feet flat on the ground. Sit back halfway, with your torso leaning slightly forward. Wedge your thumbs into the backs of your knees and draw the skin and flesh of the calf muscles toward the heels. Then sit down between your feet. If your buttocks don't comfortably rest on the floor, raise them on a block or blanket. Allow a thumb's-width space between the inner heels and the outer hips. Turn your thighs inward and press the heads of the thigh bones into the floor with the bases of your palms. Breathe.
When you are finished practicing these poses, it is always a good idea to lie on your back in relaxation pose for five to ten minutes. Namaste!