Lots of things can cause constipation: poor diet (especially not getting enough fiber and fluids), stress, and travel are big culprits. Certain medications and digestive conditions like diabetes can also prevent your colon from absorbing enough water from the food you eat so it can be easily eliminated (our deep dive on the gut talks more about how the colon is a “thirsty” organ).
Drinking more water and adding fiber-rich foods to your diet can ease constipation, but so can movement. Physical activity stimulates the muscles in your intestine, so they can move your waste along more easily. Yoga has an added benefit when it comes to relieving constipation: Certain yoga poses—particularly twists and poses that put pressure on the abdomen—gently massage your digestive tract, encouraging it to move stool along. In fact, a 2015 study found that yoga can ease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which often includes bouts of constipation.
Yoga for Constipation Relief
Bhujangasana is an integral part of Sun Salutations and vinyasa flows, but it’s also an excellent pose for putting pressure on the abdomen.
- Lie on the floor with your legs stretched out behind you. Place your hands on the mat under your shoulders and hug your elbows into your body.
- Press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into your mat.
- As you inhale, straighten your arms to lift your chest slightly off the floor. Firm, but don’t harden, your glutes as you lift your pubis towards your navel.
- Firm your shoulder blades and lift through the sternum.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds, then lower back to the floor.
Ardha Matsyendrasana gently helps stimulate proper digestion, making it an effective yoga pose for constipation.
- From Dandasana (Staff Pose), bend your left knee and bring the sole of the foot to the mat on the outside of your right thigh. Bend your right knee and tuck the foot in by your left glute.
- Exhale and twist toward the inside of your right thigh. Press your right hand on the floor behind you and bring your left elbow to the outside of the right knee.
- Take your gaze over your right shoulder as you twist from the belly.
- Each time you inhale, left through the sternum. Twist a bit more with each exhalation.
Like Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Bharadvajasana is a seated twist that puts pressure on the digestive tract to help with constipation and other digestive concerns.
- Start in Staff Pose (Dandasana). Shift onto your right glute, bend your knees, and bring them to the mat on the outside of your left hip.
- Inhale and lift through the sternum. As you exhale, twist your torso to the right.
- Tuck your left hand under your right knee. Place your right hand on the floor behind you and continue to twist to the right as you gaze over the right shoulder.
- With each inhale, lift your sternum. With each exhale, twist a little more. Release on an exhale.
This gentle twist can leave you feeling refreshed at the end of a sequence. It can also help if you’re suffering from constipation.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet comfortably on the floor.
- Grab the right thigh and draw the right knee toward your ribs. Slowly straighten the left leg toward the end of your mat.
- Roll onto your left side, bringing your right knee with you as you turn. Your right knee may drop to the floor; if it doesn’t, you can place a blanket or bolster beneath it for support.
Like Cobra Pose, Dhanurasana puts pressure on the abdomen, which can help get things moving and keep you regular.
- Lie on your belly and bend your knees to bring your heels close to your glutes. Reach back to take hold of your ankles.
- Inhale and lift your heels away from your glutes while lifting your thighs to pull your head and upper torso off the floor. Press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to open your heart. Remember to keep breathing.
Halasana is known for easing backache, but this inversion also gently compresses the abdominal organs to promote digestion and bring relief for constipation.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees to bring them toward your chest.
- Using your abdominal muscles, lift your legs and hips toward the ceiling, then slowly lower your toes to the floor with your legs extended.
- Press your upper arms firmly into the floor.
- To come out of the pose, slowly roll down until your back is on the mat.
Ardha Pawanmuktasana (Half Gas Release Pose)
Ardha Pawanmuktasana is a yoga pose that helps with constipation because it compresses the ascending colon on the right side and descending colon on the left, stimulating the nerves to aid elimination.
- Hug your right knee in toward the right side of your ribcage.
- Press your straight left leg into the mat. Clasp your hands around your right shin and pull it toward your chest.
- Hold for up to 2 minutes then repeat with the left leg.
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From Yoga Journal