According to Ayurveda teachings (yoga’s sister science), if we honor our digestion, we will be in overall good health, says Kim Rossi, certified Kripalu Ayurvedic consultant and Kundalini yoga instructor. Here, Rossi has put together a yoga flow that’s meant to optimize your digestive health. She recommends practicing the following nine postures while taking deep breaths in and out of your nose, “Relax into the pose, and really feel it. The longer, slower, and deeper the breath and the longer the holding, the better for digestion.”
Rossi notes this flow is also best to do on an empty stomach, and while she recommends holding most postures for two to three minutes, you should do whatever you feel comfortable with. “The goal here is to make an effort, but without strain.” So the next time you’re about to indulge in a festive meal, or you’re just feeling a bit off, try this soothing flow to get things on track.
How to: Begin in a cross-legged position, with your hands resting on the knees. Gently, lean your torso back as you inhale, then rotate to the right as you exhale. Then bring your body forward and down. Inhale and reverse this motion to the left side, then return back to center. Repeat several times and switch rotations to the left.
How to: Get on your hands and knees. Inhale as you lift your tailbone and forehead up to the ceiling. Exhale as you pull your navel to the spine and forehead and pelvis toward navel. Let the movement generate from your tailbone, and allow the rest of the spine follow, neck and head last. Repeat several times.
How to: In a seated position, bend your knees and reach arms to the sides of the knees. Lift your feet off the floor and keep your chest lifted. Be sure to engage your core as you do so, to stabilize your body. If your chest is lifted and this feels effortless, try extending your legs and raising your feet as high as your eyes. Take long, slow deep breaths. Hold for two to three minutes.
Related: 7 Yoga Poses to Help You Poop
How to: In seated position extend your legs, and inhale as you lift your arms up overhead. Then as you exhale, reach toward toes and hold the big toes. If the knees bend while you do this, then keep the knees straight and rest the hands on the shins. Keep chest lifted and avoid rounding your back. For an added challenge, lift your heels off the floor. Try to focus on long, slow deep breathing as you stretch. Hold for two to three minutes.
How to: In a seated position with both legs extended, bend your right knee and cross that foot to the outside of your left knee. Bring your right hand behind, but close to, your body. Use that arm like a kickstand, so the arm is close to the back and the spine is straight. Inhale as you lengthen your spine, and exhale while you gently twist your lower back, middle back, then upper back to the left. Inhale as you lengthen your spine and gently twist your neck, head to the left, looking out the right eye. Take long, slow deep breaths, hold for two to three minutes, then repeat on the other side.
How to: Get onto your belly, chin on the mat. Inhale as you bend your left knee and hold left ankle, then exhale. Inhale as you bend the right knee and hold the right ankle, then exhale. Bring your knees together and exhale as you kick your feet away from your head. This should also cause your thighs to lift off the floor, feet toward ceiling. Find a position that you can hold comfortably and easily, while taking long, slow, deep breathes. Hold for two to three minutes.
How to: Get onto your hands and knees, then reach your buttocks back to your heels. Then bring your palms up by your ankles, and focus on taking long, slow deep breathes. Hold for two to three minutes.