Our digestive system is responsible for much more than just processing food and absorbing nutrients. It hosts about 100 trillion bacteria that regulate our immune system and hormones. A poor elimination system and unhealthy gut flora can lead to disease, fatigue, skin problems, allergies, and even cancer. Along with taking a probiotic supplement and eating a diet low in sugar and processed foods, exercise is also an important part in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Many Pilates and Yoga exercises are great for moving things along in the digestive tract as they massage the internal organs, create length in the abdomen and help eliminate toxins with deep breathing.
4 Exercises for Better Digestive Health
Windshield Wipers– This spinal twist exercise will eliminate toxins while strengthening your abdominals. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Your arms are out to the side like a “T.” Pull your navel into your spine by engaging your abdominals. Using your abs, bring your knees up towards your chest, stopping you’re your shins are parallel to the ceiling. Breathe deeply in and out in this position. After you exhale, keep your abs engaged as you slowly lower your knees to one side of the ground. Take another deep breath in and exhale in this position. Make sure to engage the abs again before bringing the knees back up to center. Repeat the breathing patter to the other side. Joseph Pilates used to use the phrase, “Wring your torso out like a towel.” Imagine you are doing just that as you twist and keep the opposite shoulder down to the ground. Thus wringing of the torso along with a deep cleansing breath lengthens the spine, massages the intestines and eliminates toxins. Do at least three to each side.
Rolling Like a Ball– Joseph Pilates created this exercise to help massage the bowels to relieve constipation while strengthening the abs and creating symmetry in the back. Curl up into a ball by bringing your chin to your chest, hugging your knees and rounding your back. Make sure the rounding of your back comes from scooping your abdominals into your spine and not by collapsing your back. Hands should be around your ankles or for a modified version, behind your thighs. Balance on your tailbone as you lift your feet off the ground. Using your abdominals, inhale to roll back and exhale to roll forward onto your tailbone again without letting your feet touch the ground. This requires a lot of scooping of the lower abs, which, along with the pressure from the floor, helps to massage deep into the internal organs. Try to roll evenly on both sides of your back so that you return to the same position each time you roll back up. Inhale as you roll back and exhale as you roll up. Repeat 5 times.
Swan Dive-Massage your entire abdomen to get your digestion going. This exercise also strengthens the posterior side of your body. Lie face down with your arms stretched overhead. Inhale as you lift your arms and legs off the mat, stretching the front of your abdomen. Pull your navel in to protect your lower back and start rocking back and forth. Squeezing your glutes and back muscles create the momentum you need for the rocking motion. Do this several times and finish with a child’s pose to release the back.
Shoulder Bridge– Lengthen compacted intestines, relieve compression on internal organs and deliver blood to the heart with this move. Lie on your back and bend your legs with your feet on the ground close to your hips. Lengthen your arms by your side reaching your fingertips towards your heels. Inhale as you lift your hips into the air, balancing on your shoulder blades. Exhale as you lower down articulating through your spine. Repeat several times and then try to hold your bridge up for a few deep breaths to decompress the intestines and organs even more. You may intensify this exercise by placing your feet on blocks to lift the hips even higher.
Do you have occasional bloating or constipation? Try these exercises when you do!
More videos by Crystal: 5 Balance Training Pilates Exercises
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Video: Crystal Ann Chin