Yet another day marked by stomach pain and difficulty in passing motion? Well, you might not be the only one facing the discomfort which accompanies constipation. In medical terminology, constipation refers to a disorder that is characterised by difficult or incomplete defecation for more than three times a week, and more than three months at a stretch. The symptoms vary from person to person depending on their age, food habits, bowel movement and the like.
The bowel problem might be a hush hush topic in public, but the statistics are rather glaring. As per the Abbot Gut-Health Survey (2015), the rate of chronic constipation is over 10% globally. Amongst urban Indians, 14% of the population suffers from it. Further, the incidence accelerates with age. However, in spite of the loaded evidence, people are too hesitant to seek medical help.
Here's some good news for those people. The optimal health promoting effects of yoga is no secret. And in the recent years, it has only gained increased attention, even at the global scale.
Yoga Asanas to Ease Constipation
To understand the importance of yoga and its role in combating constipation, we are sharing some excerpts from a conversation with Delhi-based yoga instructor Seema Sondhi, The Yoga Studio - "The multitude of yoga poses inclusive of forward bends, back-bends and twist help a great deal in relieving constipation. This ensues primarily from the stimulation and massage of the body organs involved," she says and goes on to propose some very basic DIY postures to help you get started.
"These asanas can be practiced by anyone and everyone alike - from a three-year old toddler to an aged person, without much difficulty."
Popularly known as the Cobra Pose, this particular asana is distinguished by the body taking the position of a cobra preparing to strike. It is said to be an effective home remedy for improving the functioning of the digestive tract and stimulating appetite. This is because it strengthens the abdominal muscles, due to the stretching of front torso and the spine. Even post meal flatulence is removed from the body. Further, the secretion of digestive juices gets activated which in turn aids the smooth passage of stools. It is however not suggested for pregnant women, and patients suffering from ulcers and heart problems. People with abdominal injuries should also avoid it.
Steps to be followed are: 1. Lie down on your stomach and relax yourself. 2. Stretch and join the legs together in a manner that the knees touch each other. Keep a 1-2 feet gap between the legs if you suffer from back ache. 3. Place the palm near the chest facing the ground, while keeping the elbows straight. Head should rest on the ground. 4. Take a deep breath and lift your upper body upwards; all of its weight should fall on the hands and thighs. 5. Move and stretch the neck backwards, as much as you can, avoiding any strain. 6. Hold your breath for 10-60 seconds and then bring the upper body to original position. 7. Repeat the process 3-5 times.
2. Ardha Matsyendra Asana
The name has its origin in the Sanskrit words - 'ardha' (half), 'matsya' (fish) and 'indra' (king), and not surprisingly, the asana involves stretching and strengthening of the entire spinal cord. It's also called the Half Twist Pose. Apart from massaging the abdominal organs and regulating the secretion of digestive juices, this asana specifically stimulates the navel chakra. It should not be practiced during pregnancy and menstruation and by people with heart and spinal diseases.
Steps to be followed are: 1. Sit straight with the legs stretched in front. 2. Bring and bend the right foot by the side of the left buttock. 3. Bring your right leg outside of the left knee. Touch feet to the ground, while keeping the spine and elbows erect. 4. Exhale and turn the upper body in the right direction. Hold your right feet with left hand and place your right hand behind you. 5. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds, coupled with normal breathing. The duration can be increased to up to 3-5 minutes with regular practice. 6. Release the posture and repeat the same by twisting from the laterally inverted side.
This Seated Forward Bend pose literally translates to back stretching, but amazingly involves the entire body - from head to toe. It strengthens the abdominal pelvic organs and minimises the proportion of fatty deposits. While it is a strict no-no in case of pregnancy, slip disc and asthma, the asana is suggested to women who have delivered recently.
Steps to be followed are: 1. Sit straight with the spine erect. 2. Stretch out the legs, while keeping the feet straight and toes pointing upwards. 3. Inhale and slowly stretch the arms above your head. 4. Pull your back up, straitening the spine further. 5. Exhale and slowly reach for the toes. Do the forward bending to your best capability, without forcing yourself. 6. Place your head atop your legs, particularly towards the feet keeping the knees straight. 7. Return to former position after 30 seconds, if you are a beginner.
The Locust Pose, unlike other asanas, requires certain specific movement to assume the apt posture. It helps in making the abdominal muscles stronger by stretching the spine. While the cobra focuses on the upper body, Salabhasana is targeted at the lower regions. Beginners might face some flexibility issues but it does get better with time. It should not be practiced by slip disc and asthma patients.
Steps to be followed are: 1. Inhale while lying on your front. 2. Place your chin on the floor and fists facing downwards. 3. Inhale deeply while lifting the legs upwards. 4. Exhale while bringing your legs down after 20 seconds. 5. Repeat the cycle twice.
Also referred to as the Head to Knee Pose, Janushirasana is performed by making the head rest on one's knee joints. In turn, the small and large intestines are worked upon which help to fight constipation. Those suffering from hernia, colitis and slipped disc should give this asana a miss.
Steps to be followed are: 1. Get seated and place your left leg straightly in the front, feet and toes facing the roof. Don't bend your spine or knee. 2. Fold the right leg inwards so that the heel touches the other thigh, giving an impression of the alphabet 'L' 3. Exhale and hold your breath while holding the left feet by your hands. Further, lift your head and touch the left knee with it. 4. Lift the head while inhaling gradually, while the hands hold your feet. Bow down the head and exhale again. 5. Repeat the process for 10 min, changing leg by leg.
"Apart from these, constipation patients should take special care of their stress levels and sleeping patterns," she concludes.
Comments"Yoga certainly is a boon for people suffering from constipation and related issues due to improved regulation of the bowel movement. But there is a need to monitor the diet as well. Usually, food with high fiber content is recommended like wholegrain cereals, milk, citrus fruits and leafy vegetables. But point to be noted is, if consumed all by themselves, these can rather lead to severe constipation. Drinking plenty of water is the key. Since fiber absorbs a lot of water, the latter's increased quantity proves vital for improved defecation," says Anju Sood, a Bangalore-based nutritionist. Eating right along with a few lifestyle changes can go a long way in overcoming this nagging issue.