In Yoga

Balancing the Holidays and Digestive Health

Posted by: on Dec 5, 2014 | One Comment

BalasanabrightAfter hosting Thanksgiving dinner and battling a 24-hour stomach bug from the safety of the couch, I find myself in between our largest and richest food holidays thinking about gut health. It’s not a very romantic topic but then neither is a stomach bug, even if you use it as an excuse to watch The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. What I’m really pondering is how can I support a healthy digestive system in the coming month while still enjoying the occasional slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast and whipped cream in my coffee? It is the holiday season (and cold and grey) after all. As it turns out, there are several ways I can and already am (perhaps with some room for improvement), including a regular yoga practice.

Moderation on the pie, coffee and whipped cream (Sorry!)

I did eat a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee this morning. It was delicious. However, I ate a small slice (honestly). I also ate the pie and whipped cream after I finished my morning fruit and green smoothie. If you drink a smoothie or juice first thing in the morning, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes before eating anything else. Don’t overload your digestive system with too many things at once. I did not ruin my breakfast but treated myself to a mid-morning snack!

Wholesome whole foods, green tea, and lots of water

Balance your pie with lots of greens, vegetables, whole grains, and water. Eat light meals. I read an article recently discussing the benefits of fasting. The article said intermittent fasting, which means skipping a meal a couple of times a week, may “boost the immune system, sharpen the mind and fight off disease.” All things we can use around the holidays and year round! Hopefully, you aren’t forced to take a stomach bug fast. Additionally, make sure you are regularly flushing your system with enough water. The majority of what we drink should be water. If you need caffeine first thing in the morning, try green tea instead of coffee a few times a week. I slowly switched to drinking green tea most mornings instead of coffee. Now coffee is a treat, something I drink occasionally or on vacation.

Yoga

Yoga is a small word for a far-reaching and broad practice. In the West, yoga is most commonly understood as a very physical practice composed of a series of postures or asanas. However, yoga also includes breath work, mindfulness, and meditation. When speaking of our digestive system, the asanas paired with the breath can be very beneficial. Yoga asanas, such as Sun Salutations, build internal heat. As we heat up, we sweat, cleansing and detoxifying our bodies. Twisting asanas, such as Revolved Chair Pose, Revolved Crescent Lunge, and even smaller twists like Triangle and Warrior 1, massage the digestive organs and create an action much like wringing out a wet towel. Both heat and twists detoxify and cleanse our internal organs.

Left knee lines up over the ankle. Place the back right knee and top of the foot down on the mat (bind shown here). Place the right palm beside the inside of the left foot. Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exale and twist open, engaging the core to revolve and stacking the shoulders. Reach left the fingertips to the ceiling and turn the gaze toward them. Or deepen the stretch in the right quad by reaching back for the top of the right foot or ankle (shown here).

Revolved Low Lunge: Left knee lines up over the ankle. Place the back right knee and top of the foot down on the mat. Place the right palm beside the inside of the left foot. Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale and twist open, engaging the core to revolve and stacking the shoulders. Reach the left fingertips to the ceiling and turn the gaze toward them. Or deepen the stretch in the right quad by reaching back for the top of the right foot or ankle (shown here).

For me, the best time to practice yoga is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. If you need to eat something before your practice, try a piece of fruit or juice. Always leave enough time at the end of practice to sit or lay quietly for a few moments. Close and open your practice with deep belly breaths, getting in touch with how your body and digestive system feel.

By following these guidelines and practicing this month, I hope to have a happy gut and feel less of the post holiday food guilt come January!

1 Comment

  1. Beth
    December 7, 2014

    Some very good ideas here, especially incorporating yoga in digestive health. Good for you! Have a great holiday.

    Reply

Leave a Reply