Beat the festive bloat! Give your digestive system a kick-start with these yoga postures

It's easy to overdo it at Christmas, but with these yoga postures you won't need to pay the price quite so hard

Paschimottanasana yoga pose
(Image credit: Elly Fairytale/Pexels)

We all do it. Christmas comes and we eat too much and sit around a lot, and then in the New Year decide to lose some weight. It's a recurring theme, right? But what if you could improve your digestion this festive season with two simple yoga postures? We're giving you the lowdown so all you have to do is give them a go. And while it's not necessary, by all means equip yourself with the best yoga mat.

These postures are commonly practised in yoga classes, but their benefits are often overlooked as they appear simple and may be considered boring. Whether this is your first time trying yoga or you're a seasoned practitioner, these postures can help light your digestive fire, especially when you're consuming more food than normal.

The postures and their benefits

The Sanskrit names for these postures are Janu Sirsasana and Paschimottanasana, but don't get caught up in the long names. Essentially, they are seated forward bends. Janu Sirsasana translates as "head-to-knee" while Paschimottanasana's literal translation is "intense stretch of the West", West being the back. The folding forward action of these postures massages the abdominal organs and improves the contraction and relaxation action of the bowels, helping to relieve constipation.

When we practise these postures, it allows our stomach, liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas and their nerves to be supplied with rich blood, which keeps them working efficiently. The passing of stools is essential in maintaining digestive health. 

In folding forward, we are placing pressure onto the abdominal organs, aiding their ability to function in the digestive process. Trapped wind may also be released. We advise you to only practise these postures 3-4 hours after eating, or once a day before eating.

How to do Janu Sirsasana

Janu Sirsasana yoga posture

(Image credit: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels)
  • Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched in front of you.
  • Bring the sole of your right foot to your left inner thigh. If you feel like you're dropping backwards, sit on a cushion.
  • Start with your spine straight. Inhale, lift your arms up and exhale, fold forward. Reaching towards your left foot, keep length in the front of your torso as well as the back.
  • If you reach your left foot you can take hold of it with both hands. If not, place your hands onto your knee or shin.
  • Try not to round your back, and stay here for a couple of minutes, taking deep abdominal breaths.
  • Exit the posture the same way you came in and swap your legs so your right leg is straight.

You can take the variation where you bring the top of your right foot to your left thigh, as shown in the picture. This will further aid digestion but is only advised if you are familiar with yoga.

How to do Paschimottanasana

Paschimottanasana yoga posture

(Image credit: Elly Fairytale/Pexels)
  • Sit with both legs outstretched in front of you. Remain on your cushion if you were using it for Janu Sirsasana.
  • Inhale, lift your arms up and exhale, fold forward.
  • Keep the length through the front of your torso, aiming to keep as straight as spine as possible.
  • If you reach your feet, take hold of the outside edges. If not, allow your hands to rest on your legs.
  • Stay here for a couple of minutes, taking deep abdominal breaths.

Sit with both legs outstretched in front of you. Remain on your cushion if you were using it for Janu Sirsasana. Inhale, lift your arms up and exhale, fold forward. Keep the length through the front of your torso, aiming to keep as straight as spine as possible. If you reach your feet, take hold of the outside edges. If not, allow your hands to rest on your legs. Stay here for a couple of minutes taking deep abdominal breaths.

Kat Bayly

Kat has five years teaching experience with further training in supporting injured students. She is qualified to teach Hormone Yoga Therapy and currently studying to become a Yoga Therapy Practitioner.