This is a guest post by fulltime RVer and certified yoga teacher, Lynn Bonelli.
There’s an old saying that belching after a good meal is a way to compliment the chef. If the same holds true for passing gas in yoga class I’d have to say I’ve been to quite a few good ones. For many people there’s a stigma attached to passing gas in public and, while I might not recommend letting one rip in your Monday morning managers meeting, your yoga class just might be the perfect place to attend to such functions.
Before you say “no way” I’ll let you in on a little secret. Everybody farts, even our beloved yoga heroes like Kino MacGregor and Rachel Brethan, and many do so in class. It’s true. Yoga is more than fancy poses and comfortable pants. It’s a moving meditation combined with a deeply detoxifying and stimulating series of movements. Yoga asana invites us to breathe deeply (something many of us don’t do in daily life), awaken our internal organs, strengthen our bodies and relax our minds. The combination of pranayama (breath exercises) and organ massaging twists taught in most yoga classes is a great recipe for stirring up gasses we often fight to hold back for a more appropriate, aka secluded, setting.
But here’s the thing, yoga offers some of the best poses for alleviating gas and bloating. So, rather than fighting the urge, I say get on your mat. These wind-releasing poses will not only help awaken and stimulate your internal organs but they are easy enough to do at home should you find yourself suffering from painful gas after a particularly delicious meal of brussel sprouts and lentils (or if you got into the ice cream, lactose be damned).
Downward Facing Dog
This pose is a staple in almost all styles of yoga and it places you in an excellent position to release gas. From table top (on hands and knees) push through the hands as you slowly lift your knees and straighten your legs allowing your hips to rise to the sky. This position is also called Inverted “V”. Try to keep your weight evenly distributed between your feet and hands (focusing on pushing through your thumbs and pointer fingers to take the pressure off of your wrists). Let the head hang easily between the elbows and breathe slightly deeper so your belly rises and falls. This wind removing pose can be intensified by imagining your seat bones pointing to the sky while relaxing the lower belly.
Extended Puppy Pose
There are a variety of positions to release gas in yoga but puppy pose gets my vote. It puts virtually no stress on the wrists and can therefore be held longer than Down Dog, thus giving us more time to benefit from these stretches to relieve gas. From table top begin to reach the arms forward as you lower the forehead toward the mat. Keep the hips where they are, stacked right above the knees (knees should be hip width apart). Keep stretching the arms forward, elbows off the mat and allow for the natural curve in the low back. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. If you would like to stay here longer consider a bolster or a rolled up blanket placed underneath your torso to help support your back.
Of all the yoga wind relieving poses out there, twists are invaluable. Marichi’s Pose is known to not only alleviate constipation but it helps with a multitude of intestinal issues, including gas. Done properly, this twist helps massage the internal organs while gently wringing out the digestive tract. Sit upright with both legs extended in front of you. Bend the right leg and place the foot flat on the mat as close to the right seat bone as possible. Keeping the extended leg active, inhale and reach the left arm overhead while lengthening the spine. Exhale and twist to the right placing the left elbow on the outside of the right. If this is too much try grabbing the right knee with the left hand, offering resistance with the right knee to deepen the twist. You can use the right hand for balance by pressing it into the mat behind the right buttocks but try to keep as upright as possible. Breathe here for 30 seconds and release the twist on an exhale. Repeat on the other side.
No list of yoga for gas trouble would be complete without mentioning Pawanmuktasana. Yep, there’s an actual pose whose Sanskit name breaks down as follows: Pavana = wind, Mukta = relieve, Asana = pose, further proof that your mat is the place to be, and not one to avoid, when suffering from gas. Lie on your back, legs extended and arms at sides. On an exhale draw your right knee toward your chest and clasp your hands around your knee (or behind the right thigh if you have knee issues). Gently draw the thigh closer to the chest, compressing the abdomen and chest. If comfortable, lift your head from the mat as if attempting to touch your forehead to your knee. On another exhale lower the right leg back down to meet the left. Repeat with the left leg and then both legs together.
With both knees pulled into the chest and forehead lifted to meet the knees feel free to roll forward and backward or even a little side to side to massage the back. This motion may help relax the spine while simultaneously massage the internal organs allowing for built up gas to be released.
Essentially, all yoga asanas offer benefits to the body and mind. Stretches to relieve gas are fundamental in most classes, even though this may not be obvious. Core work, such as boat pose, compresses the abdominal muscles and stimulates nerves to help gas move from the body. Back bends and heart openers can provide a much needed stretch in the abdomen helping to make room for movement in the gut. And these are only a few of the yoga poses to relieve gas. So, the next time you’re feeling a little gassy or bloated hit the mat and really embrace the whole concept of “letting go.”