Did you know that a Sun Salutation, a series of yoga poses linked together, has digestive health benefits? The diaphragm, which is where the rib cage meets the abdomen, is a muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen and regulates breathing depth and patterns. Ideally, your stomach should hang underneath the diaphragm, however, stress, shallow mouth breathing, lack of exercise, and indigestion can begin to tighten the stomach and pull it upwards. In Ayurveda, this is also known as a Vata imbalance. The elements of Vata are air and ether with the qualities of dry, light, cold, mobile, rough, and clear. Therefore, whenever an individual has upward movement of energy or upward moving pressure, it would be considered part of a Vata imbalance. Symptoms of upward moving energy would be constant belching, heartburn, acid reflux.
There is also a sphincter called the lower esophageal sphincter. The esophagus travels through the diaphragm, however, it is at this juncture where the lower esophageal sphincter opens and closes to allow food through and keeps digestive acids from refluxing up into the esophagus. If the stomach begins to adhere to the underside of the diaphragm, it can begin to compromise the total function of the stomach. This creates the upward movement of acid and causes the diaphragm to tighten. When this happens, the stomach is unable to contract and produce acid it needs to digest hard to digest foods such as wheat, dairy, and fried foods.
So how does the yoga sequence called Sun Salutation help with digestion? A sun salutation provides flexion and extension during a series of postures that are coordinated with each nasal inhalation and exhalation. The extension, or back bending, postures move the rib cage up and back while the diaphragm pulls the lower chest and abdomen down and in giving a deep stretch to the diaphragm, heart and lungs. The abdomen, stomach and liver are pulled down creating more space under the diaphragm for optimal digestion and freedom for deep breathing. The flexion, or forward bending postures all for brings the rib cage and abdomen together. At this point the diaphragm is relaxing and the rib cage squeezes the lungs in an effort to exhale, it’s like an accordion bringing the rib cage and abdomen together. The tissues and organ around the diaphragm soften allowing for increased blood flow.
Click here to view a short video on two variations of Sun Salutations.
Hope you enjoy adding a few Sun Salutations into your daily routine.