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Happy Gut’s 7 Best Yoga Poses for Gut Health

How do yoga, movement, and exercise help keep your gut happy?

“Nothing fills the spirit and lowers stress hormones like taking a walk in nature and connecting to the natural world or taking a run by the seashore, breathing deeply and listening to the waves, ” says Dr. Pedre, author of Happy Gut. “Everyone knows a session at the gym or a morning yoga class sets the tone for less stress during the day.”

YOGA-HAPPY-GUT-DR.PEDRE

Research has shown that movement and exercise is good for your heart, for building lean muscle, for improving metabolism and for balancing your mood and stress.  New science is showing that exercise may also benefit your gut microbiome – that diverse ecosystem, like an internal garden, living inside of you comprised of symbiotic bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive system.

In chapter 8 of Happy Gut, we turn to yoga, for all its long history of healing benefits.   Yoga directs us to remember the body’s intelligence and through consistent practice has been shown to calm the nervous system.   Through yoga we also learn to regulate our breathing, which in turn helps to promote the body’s natural relaxation system and quiet our holding patterns of stress (known as our “fight-or-flight” response).

Thanks to Happy Gut Team members and yoga gurus, Paula Tursi and Janet Dailey Butler, we put together these 7 yoga poses in 7 days for maintaining a happy gut.

Here are the top 7 poses to support gut health:

Pose 1:   Cow-Cat

Cow (top). Cat (bottom). Pose.

 

Benefits:

  • Links breath and movement
  • Attention to moving from the center
  • Stimulates the intestine and gut circulation
  • Relieves gas and bloating

Practice:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, shoulders above hands and knees directly under hips. Point fingertips forward, relax your head in a neutral position and relax your gaze downward.
  2. Inhale the breath up, as if from your seat, up the spine as you drop your belly towards the ground, bring breath up through the heart, neck and lift your head. This is Cow Pose.
  3. Exhale, move from your seat, tuck the tailbone in, navel draws in to spine which arches up as the exhale softens the neck and head which move towards the ground. This is Cat Pose.
  4. Find a rhythm to your breath and coordinate the body movement to the breath, moving smoothly between cow pose and cat pose.
  5. Repeat 5 times.

Pose 2:   Supine Twist

Supine-Twist

Benefits:

  • Massages intestines
  • Tones abdominal muscles
  • Promotes bowel movements
  • Relieves constipation
  • Chest stretch, spine rotation and rib-opening

Practice:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Inhale, spread your arms wide like a “T” shape.
  3. Exhale and bring both knees to your chest.
  4. Inhale, allow knees to fall to the left, prop with a blanket if they don’t reach the floor. While keeping your right shoulder on the ground and try to point your belly to the right while breathing deeply.
  5. Turn your head to the right, soften gaze to right fingertips while alternating pressing shoulders into the ground and knees to the floor. Take at least 5 deep breaths here.
  6. Exhale, return to center.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side, try this several times on each side, timed to the breath.
  8. Finish by hugging knees to the chest and then slowly exhale and lower the legs to the floor.
  9. Be sure to experience the wringing action here. This pose helps to squeeze the organs in a way that can drain them of old, congested fluid and upon release create a rush of healthier fluid back into the system.

Pose 3:   Bridge

Bridge Pose

Benefits:

  • Opens chest, releases shoulder and neck tension
  • Moves heart and lungs
  • Lengthens digestion organs from mouth to colon
  • Can relieve bloating

Practice:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent 45 degrees, feet flat on the floor, arms at side parallel to the body
  2. Press your feet and arms into the ground.
  3. Inhale and arch your back, extend the tailbone away from the chest while lifting the hips up to the sky
  4. Don’t squeeze the glutes, instead allow them to soften while the navel goes to the heart.
  5. Roll shoulders back and underneath the chest, squeeze the shoulder blades together and press the forearms into the floor.
  6. Keep your thighs and feet parallel.
  7. Press all four corners of your feet to the floor, do not roll to the outer edges of your feet.
  8. Lengthen the tailbone towards the back of your knees.
  9. Take 3 deep breaths here, feeling the expansion.
  10. Exhale, and lower to starting position, with your back on the mat to finish.
  11. Repeat, inhale to lift and exhale to lower down again, coordinating deep breathing to movement.  You may repeat this sequence three times.

Pose 4:   Forward Bend

Yoga-Forward-Bend-Happy-Gut-Dr. Pedre

Benefits:

  • Tones inner organs
  • Stimulates bowel function
  • Relieves bloating, constipation and reflux
  • Tones spinal nerves, relieves back and leg tension

Practice:

  1. Sit with legs stretched out, with kneecaps towards the sky. Beginners can bend knees, straightening the legs with practice and improved flexibility
  2. Reach actively through the heels
  3. Inhale, reach arms up at side, lengthen the spine and torso and arc the arms up to above the head.
  4. Exhale, bend forward from the hips, not the chest, from hips, extend the lower belly and chest out over the legs followed by neck and head.
  5. Hold the legs at the lowest point possible, shins, ankles or feet
  6. Hold for 5 breaths. With each inhale extend forward, with each exhale, lower the abdomen to the legs.
  7. To release the pose, roll the spine up one vertebrae at a time while supporting the lower belly
  8. Take time to notice the specious feeling you have created in the center of your body.

Pose 5:   Downward Facing Dog

Downward-Dog

Benefits:

  • Energizes and rejuvenates the entire body
  • As an inversion, calms the nervous system, relieves stress
  • Gives grounded feel of connection between body, mind and gut

Practice:

  1. Begin on hands and knees. Align wrists under shoulders, knees under hip joints. The fold of your wrists should be parallel with the top edge of your mat. Point the middle finger directly to the top of the mat.
  2. Distribute your weight equally with all touch points to the ground.
  3. Inhale, as in cow pose, curl your toes, press down and lift the knees off the ground.
  4. Exhale, straighten the legs without locking the knees and bringing the feet to lay flat.
  5. Stay here, with each inhale press away from the hands and with each exhale, lower the heels to the ground, lengthening the body, giving space to the organs of you abdomen.
  6. Allow the head to dangle like a ripe fruit, keep extending the spine with deep breaths.
  7. Exhale, reverse out of the pose when ready by gently bending the knees and come back to hands and knees on the mat.

Pose 6:  Triangle

Triangle Yoga Pose - Pedre - Square

Benefits:

  • Stimulates internal organs
  • Improved metabolism
  • Improved circulation
  • Balance and calm within the intestines, helpful for constipation, IBS diarrhea

Practice:

  1. Stand at the top of the mat, feet together, arms at your sides. Feel your breath filling the body from the fingers to the toes. Draw your attention and awareness inward. You might imagine yourself as a starfish and send your breath from your center to all extensions of the body.
  2. Inhale deeply and place your feet in a wide stance, a leg’s length apart.
  3. Exhale, align your heels and turn your front foot so toes point to the front of the mat and turn the back foot 45 degrees to the side.
  4. Inhale and lift your arms shoulder height, parallel to the floor, directly over the legs.
  5. Exhale, reach the front hand forward pulling your torso forward and aligned over the front leg, chest remains to the side. Don’t lock the knees.
  6. Inhale deeply, then exhale, lower the front hand to contact the front leg, shin, ankle or yoga block increasing flexibility to reach for the floor.
  7. Inhale reach the back hand up and expand, exhale lengthen your tailbone to the back heel.
  8. Five breaths or hold up to one minute. Allow the breath to expand your center open to the side, extending equally from both sides of the waist.
  9. Inhale to lift up, turn the feet to prepare to do Triangle on the other side.

Pose 7:  Sun Salutation, a series of 12 linked poses

YOGA-HAPPY-GUT-DR.PEDRE

Benefits:

  • Builds heat in the inner body
  • Stimulates a sluggish gut
  • Increases heart rate
  • Moves lymphatic fluid in the body

Practice:

  1. Stand at the front of the mat, feet hip width apart, weight evenly distributed, spine erect, arms at your sides. Inhale, open the heart and the chest area and exhale into the ground. Attune to the whole body through the breath. (Mountain Pose)
  2. Inhale, raise arms up overhead, palms facing each other. (Upward Salute Pose)
  3. Exhale, bend forward at the hips , bring chest to legs and hands towards the ground. Bend the knees if its more comfortable. (Standing Forward Bend Pose)
  4. Inhale, lift head, open chest and lunge the right leg back straight behind while placing hands alongside the feet. (Lunge Pose)
  5. Exhale, step the left leg back, feet side by side. Gaze at the floor, keep arms extended and body straight like a plank. (Plank Pose)
  6. Drop knees, chest, chin to the floor. Alternatives are to come to all fours. (Eight-Point Pose)
  7. Inhale, push down on hands, lift forward and up with the chest like a cobra, keeping the hips on the floor. (Cobra Pose)
  8. Exhale, tuck the toes, bend knees and push back on your hands into the Downward Facing Dog pose as described previously. Stay here for 5 breaths. (Downward Facing Dog)
  9. Inhale, look up bend knees, extend the right leg forward into the Lunge Pose.
  10. Exhale, stepping the left foot forward to meet the right, into Standing Forward Bend Pose.
  11. Inhale, arms up by the side of the head into the Upward Salute Pose again.
  12. Exhale, arms to sides, rest in Mountain Pose.

***

You can spend 5 minutes in the morning doing one of these poses.  Remember to do both sides for triangle pose.  Or dedicate 15 minutes to go through the sequence of poses.  A great starting point to open up the body, loosen up the digestive organs, and get the blood circulating is Pose 7: Sun Salutation.  This is the way I like to start my day, but if I have less time, I will simply do a Cow-Cat Sequence or Downward-Facing Dog.

Let me know if you too have found yoga to be helpful for maintaining your happy gut and improving your sense of wellness!  And for more information on how to keep your gut healthy, read my book, Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program To Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Eliminate Pain.  It’s a 28-day commitment you will not regret!!!

Here’s to your happy gut!

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The Happy Gut Holiday Stress Tool Kit to Your Rescue

Paula-Tursi

Dear friends of Happy Gut,

As we approach the final crunch before the holidays and the end of the year, I asked my friend, colleague, and yoga teacher, Paula Tursi, how she keeps her calm during this stressful time of year. Here is her tool kit, which I know as a practitioner of mind-body medicine, will help you get through these last few days of the year with a smile on your face.

In health,

Dr. Pedre

***

How Breathing (and a few other tools) get me through the Holidays!

The holiday season is a stressful time, without question! Even if you love your job, your spouse, your children, and all your family members beyond words, you will still feel stress building at some point during the holidays–whether it’s unmet expectations, preparing to host a party, or having to spend it with the in-laws.

Don’t we all feel increased pressure to get all the shopping done and still have “fun,” while putting on a bright smile through it all?  In anticipation of all the year-end, to-do’s, last year I felt the stress coming on as early as October!  That was when I decided to try and do things a little differently.  I used time-honored stress “fix-it” tools I have acquired throughout the years.

Here they are for you to try:

1   The Embrace It Tool

What if you accept things as they are, perfect or not?  The holidays can be very commercial, and they can be full of obligation, but they also offer an opportunity to delve deep into the meaning of the season.  The holiday season is a time for reflection. It’s a time to meet with old friends and get out of your day to day. You get to break out of your life’s patterns.  However stressful stepping out of your routine may feel, you can change that by re-framing it in your mind. Be present. Embrace each moment as a special one to be cherished with family and friends. Take in this celebratory time of year.  Get excited about being social and doing things a little differently.

2  The Meditate Tool

One of the routines I make sure not to break during the holidays is my meditation routine. I ground myself  every morning with at least 5 minutes of meditation.  That gives me focus and clarity and a guaranteed few moments of stillness before the chaos of the day begins.

This is a simple way to do it: 1) sit on the edge of your bed or on the ground in lotus pose with your pelvic bones supported by a small bolster pillow, 2) clear your mind, and 3) quietly focus on your breath, before you do anything else.  This morning meditation routine makes for a kinder transition from sleep to wake, and the slow breathing will stimulate the calming part of your nervous system.

3  The Breathe Tool

Even when using these tools, there are still moments when life gets ahead of me. In these times, I turn to my breath.  When you get angry or anxious your breathing pattern changes, and you get into a cycle of negative thoughts and/or feelings. For instance, everyone can relate to holiday stresses, for example, when the person in front you in line has a cart full of items and a different coupon for each one!

Instead of losing your cool, take advantage of the “extra time” and practice conscious breathing.  By this I mean, without trying to control your breath, take notice of how long your inhale is, then your exhale. After a couple of rounds of this, try to extend your inhale beyond your exhale. For example, inhale for 6 seconds, then exhale over 4 seconds. It’s likely that by the time you are done with this breathing exercise, the irritating coupon shopper will also be done!

4  The Gratitude Tool

The last and most useful tool is gratitude.  During the holidays, when I get upset that I have too much shopping to do, or I just can’t take another social gathering, or my sister is really driving me nuts about this gift thing– I sit myself down again and think about how lucky I am to have the health and friends to celebrate this time of year with.  I remember less fortunate times and feel my heart expand just a bit.

Take a moment, and find something you are grateful for. Breathe in that gratitude, and all the feelings associated with what you are appreciating in your life. Maybe it’s the smell of your favorite dish cooked up by your grandmother, the smile someone gave you while walking down the street, or simply admiring the beauty of a sunny day. Let that moment take over all of your being.  Become one with your gratitude.  Take it into your heart, then feel it expand into every cell in your body.

I  hope these 4 tips help you find peace and joy during this holiday season.

Wishing you love and light and a moment to breathe,
Paula

***

 Read more tips from the Happy Gut Life team here!

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How to Make Space to “Keep Calm + Carry On!” During the Holidays

 8-dr-pedre-yoga-class
Hi All,
The holidays can be a time of high stress, overeating, and late nights for many of us. By the time January rolls around, you’re picking up the pieces and asking how you can get started again on a path to wellness.  But, why wait?  So, I asked my yoga teacher, Janet Dailey Butler, to come up with strategies on how to make it through the holidays with zen-like balance.
CARRY ON,
Dr. Pedre
***
Janet:  Even as a yoga teacher dealing in “calm”…I don’t like to be told to “Keep Calm and Carry On” especially during the holiday season!  This particular phrase feels like a command to me, telling me to not acknowledge my feelings.  So how do we make space for feelings, healing and the “carrying on” of the holidays?
As we move into the holiday season, maybe we can find tenderness towards ourselves and our feelings first, before extending that to our loved ones and friends.  That might mean that we do less, and “in-joy” more. Maybe, we give ourselves a break this year, and instead of coming up with the perfect gift, we spend quality time with our loved ones.  My most cherished moments with friends and family have never been about gift giving.  I believe we all want to feel loved, seen and heard.
Here are my gifts to you, two simple breathing practices to help you bring back the calm, instead of forcing it, and a video on the “three-point breath” at the end.
***
As a wellness practitioner, what I have found to be of great benefit to my health when I am feeling anxious and wound up about what might happen or what just happened is to stop and bring my awareness to my body and to my breath, and to notice my emotional state.
Try this simple breathing practice:
Placing your hands on your heart and your belly, acknowledge the present moment. Tune into your breath, but don’t judge or try to control it — just observe. Acknowledge where you are at with some tender loving kindness.  Witness where stress lives within you and breath into it.  Then, as you take your next exhale, release a little bit, let go of it, and on your next inhale feel your chest expand.
It seems so simple, but I have found that breath work is the key to make a palpable shift emotionally within minutes.  It is not a magic wand that wipes your stress away in one swoop, but more like a “dear friend” that simply listens and is there for you without judgement.  The mind follows the breath.
 
Here’s another favorite:  The “Three-Point Breath” is one of the most simple and effective ways to ground yourself in stressful times.  It has been a powerful component of my stress management toolkit for years.  Click here for a link to a video that will show you how to do the three-point breath.
Quality time seems to be one of the best gifts I can think of this year to give to my family and friends. So, when the rush of the holidays overtakes you, remember to slow down, breathe, and connect with your community.
May Love, Light and Peace surround you all this holiday season.
Janet
Learn more about Janet and the Happy Gut Team here.

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