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The Ins, Outs, and In Betweens of Your Digestive Tract: Relax and Digest

Last week, I discussed the digestive organs and the anatomy of the abdomen. This week, I’ll outline some techniques to help your organs do their job more efficiently.

The success of our digestive system depends on food being able to pass through the tubes unrestricted. Chronic abdominal tension reduces our ability to digest, assimilate, and metabolize our food. Even though the digestive processes of our stomach and intestines are out of our conscious control, we can deliberately relax the abdomen to help free up the flow.

Try the following moves to help your food move!

1. Induce the relaxation response before and after eating.

Before eating, sit and breathe deeply to prime your body for digestion. Deep breathing will down regulate the nervous system before, during, and after eating. And it’s easier to feel satisfaction before getting too full. Many of us eat on the run, but for one meal day, chill for at least 20 minutes after to rest and digest.

2. Eat without distractions.

Stimulus from our environment can trigger fight or flight reactions. Like checking email. There may be that one message lurking in our inbox that prompts a load of to-dos. Focus on your food. Chew thoroughly to tire your jaw muscles. Realign your head from forward head position for ease of swallowing. Taste the subtle flavors of your meal.

3. Teach the muscles to relax with Yoga Tune Up® techniques.

Constant stress reinforces abdominal muscle contraction. Therefore, it might feel unfamiliar to relax the abdomen. The muscles need to relearn the sensation.

  1. Use the Courgeous® Ball for Global Shear on the Abdomen. (But not with a full stomach – unless you want to learn how your abs help with puking.)
  2. Practice Bridge Lifts with Uddiyana.

Feel how that goes down and tune in for the next installment on proper elimination posture.

Liked this article? Read The Ins, Outs, and In Betweens of Your Digestive Tract: How Muscle Imbalances in Your Jaw and Neck Affect Digestion – Part One: Chewing

About This Author

Yoga and mindful-eating helps Jessie reconnect to and appreciate her body and what it can do. Her goal is to bring her students the very best of what she is living and learning and to keep her classes real and honest. Jessie is known for her hands on approach and as an articulate teacher, so students can listen and go inward if they choose. Her personal style of teacher blends alignment and magical movements – techniques to unwind habitual body tension and pose add-ons to make shapes strong and comfortable. Together, with Jessie’s mindful-eating classes, students learn why, when, what, how, and how much to eat and where they invest their energy back into their lives. Jessie is a Yoga Alliance 200 HR E-RYT. She has completed both the Forrest Yoga Foundational and Advanced teacher training programs and is a Certified Yoga Tune Up® teacher. Jessie holds undergraduate degrees in nutrition and exercise physiology and a graduate degree in nutrition. She is also a licensed Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating facilitator. Jessie created Wild Wisdom Yoga to blend yoga and mindful-eating so students can fully realize their instinctive wisdom when moving and eating. She leads teacher-training programs featuring her signature program From Um to Om®: Public Speaking for Yoga Teachers.

The Ins, Outs, and In Betweens of Your Digestive Tract: Relax and Digest

  1. Ella says:

    Relaxing and concentrating on enjoying your meal, rather than multitasking or eating on the run is way more enjoyable.
    I have also had the experience of not digesting well when eating at a restaurant with really load music playing. I wasn’t able to fully relax and it definitely effectected my digestive experience!

  2. Kim says:

    Excellent tips. I never thought about relaxing the abs prior to eating. I tend to eat on the fly, or in front of the tv (ugh). I need to work on that!

  3. I’m going to create a template for our clients with links to each of your digestion articles. Becoming more conscious of something we take completely for granted could be the answer to many people’s issues. Thank you!

  4. URL says:

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  5. KAREN says:

    Thank you, I work on so many strengthening abdominals that this is a good reminder to me personally and professionally.

  6. Jamie Walsh says:

    Eating without distractions is something I need to work on. Will also need to try uddiyana bridge lifts

  7. Jeanette says:

    Tension and contraction in the abdominal muscles from stress (or other tings) can really impact our digestion negatively. Thanks for sharing this.
    There is a big need and wish for better digestion and assimilation in the world.

  8. Isabelle Côté says:

    I am so happy to read this article ! Give me some exercises to experiment in link with a digestive journey ! The choice of what I eat and how I eat it make my long time digestive trouble away ! And it is not easy for all to change so long love habits of eating so it give me some tools to help others in a new way. Merci !

  9. Robert Ouellet says:

    This article make me to remember of Hrani Yoga. To many people eat to feel full or they eat as hypochondriac maniac. The modern man lost his contact with Mother Nature and all industrial food is make to make some cash. The Hrani Yoga, like this article tell me to have to respect me and to be grateful to the food that God give me. If you eat 3 times a day, yo can make a day in awareness.

  10. Anik B says:

    I definitly need to take a break while I am eating, every times I try, I find my way to my Ipad 🙂

  11. Tiffany says:

    Seeing as though some days I eat all three meals on the run in my car, I need this on the days I can actually eat at home.

  12. Nick Shrewsbury says:

    This is a useful tip to help with digestion. I appreciate the tools for mixing prana with the food you eat for better digestion. Thanks!

  13. Laura says:

    Great tips in this article! Working at a busy restaurant makes calm, slow eating very tricky for me, but I’m totally guilty of sometimes multitasking on my phone while I eat and I hadn’t considered the effects that could have on digestion! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Kirsty says:

    I find that when I am very stressed I have a really difficult time eating and digesting my food in general. I can imagine that smaller everyday stressors also have a huge impact on the quality of digestion. These are great techniques.

  15. Marina Flaks says:

    Great article. I am a fast eater myself, always in rush, and suffering with the stomach all life. It helps to read about the reasons even if they are pretty obvious and point finger at a problem. Great excercises to relax and relieve angry stomach.
    Thanks

  16. Marina Flaks says:

    Thanks for the article. I am a fast eater , always in rush. However, it helps to read about it and point finger at a problem. Great excercises to relax and relieve angry stomach.

  17. Alex Salomons says:

    As a natural bodybuilder I also am always eating on the run. I eat about 6x a day and am a busy guy so this really resonates with me as i am always trying to choke my food down about 100 miles an hour. Down regulating my nervous system would be a great benefit for me also. I will definitely be trying to add this practice to my life at least once a day.

  18. Lindsay says:

    Thank you for the great article! Always love seeing teachers connecting yoga and mindfulness in practices both on and off the mat. Mindful eating is on the rise today, so I’m thrilled to see more content being created around the holistic approach and techniques and tools that we can use to better our digestion.

  19. Mike D says:

    I remember in undergrad Biology my professor said to sit, not lay, after eating and to give your stomach 20 minutes to properly digest, which matches your recommendations for time. And in my latest meditation lessons, the focus is placed on tasting the food to bring awareness to the taste and proper chewing of the food. Later, it was suggested to count the “in” breath and “out” breath with odd and even numbers like the Belly Breathing techniques video’s suggestions of “rise” and “fall” to deregulate the nervous system. All such simple techniques but so important for healthy digestion unlike what I have heard from on-the-go colleagues who have upset stomachs.

  20. Janelle Schiavi says:

    Thank you for this article. Often times when my stomach is upset my mind immediately goes to what I ate that day. Not taking into account what may be going on with stress. Its so incredible how the nervous system plays such an important role is digestion and our stomachs reactions. I will definitely put belly breathing at the top of the list whenever my stomach starts to act up.

  21. Pam Katz says:

    I was initially interested in this article because my daughter has irritable bowel syndrome. I think this will be helpful for her but additionally I like how it has a video reinforcing belly breathing. I can see how this practice will be great for everyone in the family.

  22. christina uleano says:

    I definitely believe in the connection of mind body and eating. I am a huge stress eater and at times eat way more when stressed, and at other times i can not eat at all when really stressed. although not specifically discussed here , i think there is a huge connection to hormonal impact on stress eating and weight gain.

  23. Torie says:

    Being someone who eats a lot on the go, I find that taking the time to breathe and relax before/after eating helps me not only to relax my digestive system, but also my mind. I feel like I experience less indigestion and absorb more nutrients.

  24. Bree says:

    Thank you for this post. I love working with the corgeous ball in my abdomen. Primarily for scar tissue I have there from an old surgery, but I really enjoy the added benefit of encouraging healthy digestion and observing how perhaps some of my scar tissue has been affecting my digestion. Intriguing indeed!

  25. Mari says:

    Thank you for a great article…very informative. I didn’t realize how much chronic abdominal tension can affect our digestion, assimilate, and metabolize our food. I will definitely bring more mindfulness when I’m having a meal or about to have a meal. I also like the idea of doing some belly breathing prior to a meal, will definitely add that to my personal self-care. Looking forward to your next article.

  26. Mari says:

    Thank you for your informative article. I never thought to much about how chronic abdominal tension could have so much of an effect on our ability to digest, assimilate, and metabolize our food. I will definitely start practicing mindfulness more often and being more aware to what’s going on with me. I plan on doing some belly breathing techniques prior to eating to bring more awareness. Thank you

  27. Janice McFarland says:

    Thanks for your continued discussion on our digestive tract as it’s very educational. I am attempting to be mindful of my eating habits. Even though I haven’t practiced your techniques yet, I am looking forward to giving them a try and hopefully making them a part of my daily routine. Your background as a Mindful Eating facilitator is intriguing.

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