Regardless of the cause of bloating – over-eating, food intolerances, hormonal imbalances or constipation – it can be unpredictable, uncomfortable, and really inconvenient.
It can be hard to fight the urge to stay led down on the couch or in bed when you are struggling with bloating, but yoga may be a great natural remedy, as it is for many things.
Plus, as you will see, not all of the asanas are necessarily active and a few you can do lying down. So, why lie on your couch when you can lie on your yoga mat and reduce bloating at the same time?
In this article, we are going to cover:
- How Yoga Helps With Bloating
- 9 Yoga Poses For Bloating
How yoga helps with bloating
Yoga can be done in a way that moves the body in a slightly more rigorous way to support digestion, or in a restorative way to help the body relax.
1. Moving The Body
Research has shown that gentle exercise (e.g. walking, jogging, or yoga) helps move food through the stomach quicker. This means less gas is retained in the gut which leads to a reduction in the symptoms of bloating.
Getting a bit of a sweat on can be a good way to reduce the inflammation in our body, meaning it’s less likely to retain water weight which adds to the feeling of bloating.
2. Relaxing the Body
Although, relaxing the body is important too! A significant factor in the cause of bloating is stress, this is because it slows down the digestive system. If it’s not the primary cause of it, then stress or anxiety can definitely be a component that makes bloating worse.
Yoga is well known for it’s stress reduction benefits; a study evidenced a ‘significant’ reduction in the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety after 12 weeks of Hatha Yoga.
More specifically to bloating and digestion, another study found regular yoga practice reduced the symptoms and pain associated with IBS.
3. Hot Yoga
If you wanted to go into a studio to practice, you could try a hot yoga class. The heat helps to warm up the muscles more so than a regular class, leading to elevated blood flow.
This increased blood circulation supports your digestive system to eliminate unwanted waste.
We can also use yoga poses for bloating in a preventative way. This is because strengthening our abdominal muscles supports the movement of gas through the intestines.
If the abdominals are relaxing instead of contracting throughout the day, the body holds onto more gas in the intestine.
9 Yoga Poses For Bloating
Alongside these poses, make sure you’re breathing deeply into the belly to help calm the nervous system. All of these asanas have the potential to do so much more for you than reducing bloating, too.
A word to the wise: it might be best to practice these asanas away from other people (unless you’re with someone who you don’t mind breaking wind in front of)!
1. Apanasana/Wind Relieving Pose
We’ll start with the most obvious one – this one should do what is says on the tin!
Apana is one of the 5 Prana Vayus, which details the functions or movements of the pranas (winds) in the body. Apana-Vayu is the downward movement of prana, or the ‘air that moves away’. This means that it assists with the elimination of waste within the body.
Therefore, Apanasana literally translate to a pose that moves wind downwards (and out of) the body.
1. Lie on your back and hug your knees towards your chest
2. Take a moment to soften the body into the ground or mat, making sure that your shoulders and upper body aren’t tense or lifting off the mat
3. Stay here for as many breathes as you need, preferably at least 10. If you want to move, you can try drawing the knees closer towards you on an exhale, and allowing them to move further away from you on an inhale.
4. (Optional) Slowly lift the shoulders off the mat and squeeze nose towards the knees. (Pawanmuktasana) or practice this with one leg (Ardha Apanasana)
2. Supta Matsyendrasana/Supine Spinal Twist
Any form of a spinal twist will help to soothe the abdomen and give a good massage to the internal organs. The bonus with this asana is that you get to lie down too!
1. Lie on your back and bring your arms out into a T shape (hands in line with the shoulders)
2. Allow your knees to fall over to one side or bring your legs into a tabletop position and then move them to one side, with the knees stacked on top of one another
3. Turn your gaze in the opposite direction of the knees
4. Let gravity to bring your knees closer down to the mat over time
3. Ananda Balasana/Happy Baby
This asana applies gentle pressure on the belly, which can help move things along by releasing trapped gasses. As well as this, you’ll get a stretch through the groin, hamstrings, and inner thighs.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor
2. Bring your knees towards your armpits and grab your feet so the soles are facing the ceiling (you can hold the outside edges of the feet or hook your two ‘peace fingers’ around the big toe)
3. Using your hands on your feet, gently guide your knees further towards your armpits
4. If it feels good to bring in some more movement, you can rock gently from side to side
4. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana/Bridge
As well as working the legs, this pose also helps to activate and therefore strengthen the core (which is important to prevent bloating).
This will open up the stomach and encourage blood flow in the area, supporting the digestive process.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the ground
2. Keep your arms by your side with the palms pressed into the mat
3. Press into your feet and push your hips upwards
4. Keep your thighs and feet parallel to one another. Hold this asana for as long as you need to
5. Paschimottanasana/Seated Forward Fold
The pressure that this asana puts on your abdomen can help to massage the belly which is a good thing when you’re bloated. Depending on how far forward you bend, it can also help to squeeze any access air out of the belly.
You might want to use blocks to support the forward fold to help you relax into the pose and alleviate any excess stress that might be adding to the bloating.
1. Sit down with the legs stretched out in front of you
2. Keeping the spine long, hinge from the hips, and lower the torso towards the legs. Use blocks to rest your hands on if you need to
3. Stay here for at least 5-10 deep belly breaths
6. Uttanasana/Standing Forward Fold
This works in the same way that the seated forward fold does, by applying pressure to the abdomen, promoting circulation and relieving gas.
This also counts as a slight inversion which has been proven to be beneficial for aiding digestion.
1. Begin in mountain. Inhale and bring the hands overhead
2. Exhale, fold forward. Bend your knees if you haven’t warmed up or the hamstrings are feeling particularly tight.
3. Allow the crown of the head to be gently pulled towards the mat and the back of the neck to be long. Use blocks if you need something to put your hands on
The simultaneous contraction and stretching of the abdominal muscles in this asana helps to fight bloating and relieve trapped gas.
Cat-Cow also relieves pressure in the neck and back area, encouraging the body and nervous system to calm.
1. Start in table top with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips
2. On an inhale, drop your belly towards the mat and raise the head
3. On an exhale, round your spine, scoop the belly in, look towards your navel and push the floor away with your hands
8. Halasana/Plow Pose
This is another inversion pose which helps to ease gas and promote general digestion.
This is often used to prepare for savasana at the end of some classes, so its another good one for helping the mind and body to relax.
1. Lie on your back with your legs out long and arms down by your side
2. Bring your legs towards the ceiling as if you were coming into a shoulder stand, you can use the support of your hands if you need to
3. Keeping your legs long, slowly lower the legs towards the floor behind your head until your toes touch the floor or a block. Your toes can be tucked or untucked. Your hips should be aligned over your shoulders
4. Make sure that you are not compressing the neck and it stays elongated. Leave some space between your chin and chest
9. Malasana/Garland Pose
Malasana is great for constipation as it encourages any blockages or food to move downwards and out!
1. Stand with the feet a little wider than hip width and turn the toes out slightly
2. Bend the knees and slowly lower down into a squat
3. Keep the spine long and chest lifted. You can sit on a block or cushion if you need to as this can be a difficult asana to get into if you’re feeling a little restricted in the lower body
4. (Optional) Add a twist by putting one hand in between the legs on the mat and reaching the other towards the ceiling whilst twisting through the spine
Most importantly, listen to your body. You may want to move in other ways or do other asanas that haven’t been mentioned, and you should honor that.
Ultimately, you have the most knowledge about your body as you’ve been living in it the longest!
If you want to know more about yoga and the digestive system, you can learn about in more depth in this book or read our other article about poses for constipation.