The yoga pose classically associated with encouraging digestion and gastrointestinal health is matsyendrasana, or spinal twist. Like most yoga postures, it exists on a spectrum of difficulty: from a restorative supine spinal twist lying on your back, to a seated spinal twist with legs in simple cross-legged position, to the most advanced seated half lotus with arms bound and the entire spine in a perfect vertical twist.
To benefit from the gut healing aspects of this posture, try supine matsyendrasana, or reclining spinal twist, a restorative posture that aids in digestion, vitamin and mineral absorption and elimination by passive internal organ self-massage and release. It’s an easy posture to do first thing in the morning or last thing at night, even while lying in bed. Give it a try!
- Lying on your back, reach your arms up above your head, and extend your legs straight along your mat or mattress, fingers and toes stretching away from one another. Feel the opening through your torso, abdomen, and along the length of your spine.
- Then, slowly and mindfully, draw both knees into your chest and hug your knees in, feeling the curve of your back against the floor or bed and bringing your abdomen and torso into a compact ball.
- Now, lengthen your right leg out along the mat to be straight again, keeping your left knee hugged into your chest, and let the back of your head rest against the floor, or mattress. Remember to breathe deeply into your belly. You may already feel a bit of a squeeze in your lower abdomen.
- Next, gently allow your left knee to cross your body and come to rest on a bolster or the floor or bed on your right side, feeling your lower spine and belly twisting to the right. Keep your right hand resting on your left knee to encourage moving further into the twist, as your left arm reaches out to the left side.
- To complete the twist in the upper body, allow your gaze to rest on your left hand, by turning your head to the left.
Restorative asanas, or yoga postures, should be soft, easy, and meditative. Use props, pillows or blankets to make yourself really comfortable in your posture. Ideally, stay in the pose anywhere from 5-10 minutes per side, completely relaxing into the twist and reaping the benefits of “wringing out” your internal organs.
Twisting to the right first and then left encourages elimination, while twisting to the left first helps to slow a too-fast digestion.
Twisting in either direction gives your intestines a nice massage and, just as massages do, brings increased blood flow and nutrients to the area. In this way, your entire gut is nourished by the spinal twist.