Author: Molly Dovey
A healthy balanced lifestyle will always benefit our gut health and a happy gut has the potential power prevent many illnesses by nurturing our immune system. Yoga is a great way to begin healing your microbiome through stress reduction, gentle exercise and in aiding digestion.
The health of your digestive system is vital for a balanced life. The gut is a essential in many functions of the body and when it’s undernourished and out of balance, the gut can contribute to a number of health conditions.
Some of these health issues include:
- Mood disorders (anxiety and depression)
- Autoimmune conditions
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Skin conditions
- Headaches and migraines
- Weight gain
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
The gut is linked to mental health, as it’s connected to the brain by the gut-brain axis, but there are also millions of gut bacteria living there too. The microbiome (gut bacteria) are thought to be essential, not only for a healthy gut but even for life itself!
Friendly bacteria help to break down food, aid the immune system and prevent allergies. In fact, the huge increase in childhood allergies has been linked to the overuse of antibiotics as well as anti-bacterial cleaning products, which mean we live in increasingly bacteria-sparse conditions.
The Gut & Yoga
So, how can yoga help our gut? There are actually a number of ways the gut can benefit…
The gut is so important in regulating stress responses in the body, where it is involved in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, and GABA, as well as the regulation of other hormones. The microbiome is highly sensitive, where it can be thrown off of balance when hormones are produced to signal that the body is in stress, be it mental or physical.
Yogic breathing and meditation have been proven to switch the body from our stressed-out sympathetic nervous system to the restful parasympathetic nervous system. This allows the body’s own healing processes to work, restoring the balance within our gut.
Increases microbiome diversity
Consistent exercise is linked with higher levels of microbiome diversity as well as the amount of healthy strains of bacteria within our gut. As a gentle exercise practice, yoga has the potential to support a flourishing and diverse microbiome.
Aids with Digestion
Ayurveda, an ancient alternative medicine system with historical roots in India, believes that a healthy digestive system is vital for optimal health. Yoga poses which balance on the abdomen (such as bow pose) can provide an internal massage to the organs of the gut, flooding the area with more blood cells, and thus more oxygen, helping to heal any areas that need healing and keeping the gut in better health.
Certain poses can even reshape the intestines if there are any kinks or blockages, through stretching and opening the area. Supta Virasana is a brilliant pose that you can do at any time, even after eating a massive meal, as it stretches out the gut and allows maximum space for the digestive process to take place.
One of the great benefits of learning yoga is that we get to know our bodies in a very different way. Instead of being something we just look at in the mirror, we start to get intimate with parts of the body we barely knew existed. Our awareness becomes more fine-tuned and moves inwards until we are even aware of our organs.
So, now we know the power of the gut and the benefits of yoga, go give the gut some loving attention, first of all by bringing our awareness there, and then by thinking about how we can aid the work of the gut, rather than hinder it.