The everyday stressors of life can affect us in many ways: tension headaches, insomnia, and irritability, to name a few.
But have you ever thought about the way stress can affect your gut health?
A strong gut is a key component of a healthy body and mind, so it’s important to know how to improve your gut health — and one of the best ways you can do this is through yoga.
• The connection between stress, yoga, and gut health
• Specific yoga exercises to get your gut moving; and
• Why managing gut health is so important
Plus, we’ll fill you in on our special area of yoga practice called Belly Button Healing. Curious to find out more? Keep reading.
• 3 Ways Yoga Can Help Improve Gut Health
• 4 Ways to Use Yoga to Get Your Gut Moving
• What Is Belly Button Healing by Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi?
• Why It’s Important to Manage Your Gut Health Through Yoga and Other Methods
• Try a Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi Class for Gut Health Today
Besides all the other positive benefits of yoga we’ve discussed previously, did you know practicing yoga can be an optimal way to enhance your gut health?
Exercise, in general, is vital to achieving a healthy gut microbiome, but yoga, in particular, can offer great therapy for a variety of digestive issues. Let’s explore some specific ways this can work.
Since your gut is connected to your brain, the biggest factor of good gut health is stress management. And since yoga is an optimal way to manage stress, it’s easy to see how yoga and gut health go hand in hand.
Stress can cause you to hold tension in your gut. Just trying to tell your mind to release this tension proves difficult — but if your brain has a way to release stress through yoga, your health can be improved.
How does this work, exactly?
• Production of the neurotransmitter dopamine
• Production of the neurotransmitter GABA; and
• Control of other hormones
Since your gut microbiome is quite sensitive, the production of hormone signals that the body is under stress can throw off its balance.
Research has shown that the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which clears the body’s stress and brings order back to the gut microbiome.
When you experience stress, your body goes into fight or flight mode. The majority of the body’s blood supply is directed to your arms, legs, and heart, allowing you to run away quickly or physically fight off whatever is coming for you.
When this happens, blood is diverted away from the gut — meaning it no longer works efficiently.
Your breathing also gets shallow and rapid during the fight or flight response.
This is fine if a bear is chasing you, but if your body’s distress becomes your “normal” state, your gut health will suffer
• Flatulence; or even
• A combination of all three
Fortunately, mindful and deep breathing can bring a sense of calm to your mind while restoring order to your nervous system. When we pay attention to our breathing through practicing yoga, we can use it to bring life and energy into our bodies by signaling that all is right with the world.
• Encourage detoxification in the liver and kidneys
• Decrease bloating
• Increase the amount of oxygen in the area
In other words, getting things moving can get things moving! Lack of exercise can make the gut sluggish, but studies indicate that exercise improves gastrointestinal motility.
This works in several ways. First, yoga strengthens the muscles needed for regular digestion while stimulating lymph flow and promoting blood circulation. This promotes flexibility in the network holding everything together, which allows your gut to move as it should.
Other areas of the body are also involved. You may not think of your jaw as part of your body that contributes to your gut health but as the strongest muscle in the human body, the masseter (jaw muscle) can hold an incredible amount of tension. Relaxing your face through yoga can release the stress in this area and help your whole body, including your gut.
The movements of yoga also benefit the psoas major muscle, which connects the upper and lower body and works to stabilize your gut organs. The muscle tenses during stress and can atrophy and shorten when not used enough — yoga gets this important muscle moving to the benefit of digestion.
You may have heard your gut referred to as your “second brain.” That’s because it uses the same kind of neurons and neurotransmitters found in our central nervous system.
• Digestive system
• Nervous system; and
• Physical brain
… it’s vital to keep things moving and healthy.
Yoga exercises may benefit your gut health by providing warmth and circulation. These exercises can be great to get things moving first thing in the morning or to take care of your gut before bed. But whenever you choose to do them, your gut will thank you.
1. Stand and place your hands on your belly with your thumbs on your belly button and your fingers below.
2. Practice moving the abdominal muscles in and out at a steady rate. Make sure you are moving the lower abdominals, the muscles below the belly button.
3. Try to do this for about a minute, or six sets of ten.
4. When finished with your groups of contractions, gently massage your gut and take a deep breath.
If you haven’t done intestine exercises before, you may find a full minute difficult at first. But as you keep working at them, you should be able to do these exercises for five to ten minutes at a time — up to 1,000 contractions per day. A reasonable goal to help with optimum gut health.
1. Kneel on one leg and put the other at 90 degrees with your foot on the floor and the inside of your foot facing forward.
2. Pull your belly muscles in and out for five counts of ten while breathing naturally.
3. Switch leg positions and repeat for five counts of ten on the other side.
4. Breathe deeply and gently massage your belly.
Then do these same exercises in different poses, such as on all fours or on two hands and one knee with one foot pointed toward the ceiling.
1. Sit up on your bottom with one leg bent slightly under you and the other extended diagonally.
2. Lean toward your stretched leg and hold your foot with the hand on that side, then put your other hand on your abdomen.
3. Do five sets of ten abdominal contractions.
4. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
For more stretch, you can bring the hand that is resting on your abdomen up and over. Be careful not to overstretch, though — keep this movement nice and easy.
1. While in a seated position, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor in front of you.
2. Keep your spine long, lean back, and support yourself with your core strength. (Feel free to put one hand on the floor behind you for support if needed.)
3. challenge, lift your feet slightly off the ground while performing the strengthening movements.
4. Then sit in a more relaxed position with your legs folded.
5. Put one hand on your belly and do ten more sets of ten contractions.
6. When finished, massage your gut gently and feel the warmth you’ve created. You’re on your way to better gut health through yoga!
If you’re having trouble picturing how to do these exercises correctly or feel that you need a little more guidance, contact any of our Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi locations. We have in-studio and online classes designed to fit your busy schedule and help with your gut health.
Since your gut is made of muscles, it gets tense through use over time. The founder of the Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi practice, Ilchi Lee, created Belly Button Healing to help loosen up stagnant energy and release tension in the gut.
You know how when your body is sore and holding a lot of tension, a massage makes you feel like a million bucks? Well, the same thing happens with your gut.
With Belly Button Healing you gently massage the intestinal muscles of your gut. Using a T-shaped tool, you pump the area and rub the tension out.
The exercises for Belly Button Healing are quick, easy, and simple to do. They are done lying down, relaxing, and pressing the belly button in specific ways to stimulate and activate blood circulation and energy.
We feel that you should approach Belly Button Healing with the right techniques and the right mindset. To maximize your experience, and the benefits of Belly Button Healing, it’s important to come to a session with a positive attitude as well as feelings of love, gratitude, and a desire to heal.
If you’re interested in taking a yoga class that incorporates Belly Button Healing, contact a Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi location today.
Poor gut health can lead to a plethora of problems beyond everyday woes like constipation or diarrhea. That’s why it’s critical to manage your gut health in any way you can.
And the great thing about yoga is that it offers many benefits, improved gut health being just one of them.
If you don’t take good care of your gut, you could be susceptible to any of the following conditions.
• Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• Peptic ulcer disease
• Mood disorders
• Autoimmune conditions
• Hormonal imbalances
• And more
Because the gut is essential to many functions throughout the body, it can cause countless health problems when out of balance.
Ready to take control of your gut health through yoga? Sign up for a Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi class.
We offer the best in holistic fitness through online and in-studio classes and are here to help you try to find happiness and health.