Dr Rabia, a Gastroenterology registrar in London and Yoga Teacher shares her 5 favorite poses to support gut health with the Yogamatters Small Rectangular Bolster. Ensure these poses are not practiced on a full stomach (at least 30 minutes after eating) and remember to listen to your body if something doesn’t feel right.
Legs up with bolster support (Viparita Karani)
A gentle inversion which encourages your gut-brain connection to take center stage. Raising your legs above your belly encourages blood flow back to the heart – using gravity to recirculate and rejuvenate your digestive organs. This pose allows your body to enter ‘rest and digest’ mode – the parasympathetic side of your nervous system. It is particularly useful to practice if you suffer from stress as a trigger for gut issues.
How to: Start by laying on your back. Bend knees and place your feet on the floor and knees up towards the sky. Press through your feet to lift pelvis off of the mat. Place the small rectangular bolster horizontal underneath your hips. Find a comfortable place that feels right for you but ensure your whole pelvis is supported. From there lift your feet of the ground, extend the legs and allow your legs to hover. Relax your feet and rest your arms by your sides with the palms facing up so you can open through your chest. Stay in the pose for a minimum of 3 minutes.
Props: A mini rectangular bolster is perfect for this pose as it provides a flat and soft yet stable base for your hips without giving too much height. Add a folded blanket underneath your head and neck for ultimate comfort.
Variations: Lay down and rest your calves on the seat of a chair or position hips as close to the wall as possible and place your legs vertical against the wall.
Childs Pose (Balasana)
With wide open hips and your belly resting on a bolster, this is the ultimate restorative pose for grounding and turning inward. Your front body is supported – so it has the opportunity to feel safe, protected and yet open all at the same time. You can wrap your arms around the bolster to heighten the sensation of safety which is a positive signal for your gut-brain connection. Turn your head halfway through to stretch the opposite side of your neck. This pose is particularly useful if you suffer from cramps, bloating or abdominal discomfort.
How to: Bring your knees as wide as the mat and allow your big toes of each foot to touch. Place the small rectangular bolster vertically in-between the legs and gently fold forward so that your belly and chest rest on the bolster. Let your arms rest in front and place your cheek onto the bolster – rotate the head and rest the opposite cheek after approximately 3 minutes in this pose.
Props: A smaller rectangular bolster is a great prop to rest your belly on, the flat surface provides complete support for the abdomen.
Variations: Childs Pose without a bolster
Garland Pose (Malasana)
Raising our knees above our hips in a low squat is the key to effortless elimination! This is because it enables relaxation of our pelvic floor muscles, specifically the puborectalis muscle, which opens the anorectal angle. As you arrive in this pose, feel free to modify by adding extra support under your heels. Sustain the pose with an easeful breath as your belly expands gently in between your hips. This pose is particularly useful to practice if you suffer from constipation.
How to: From a standing forward fold with your hands placed either on the floor or bricks to support, shift your feet as wide as your mat and turn the toes outwards. Gently lower your hips into a squat position going to whatever depth feels comfortable for you. Either place the small rectangular bolster underneath your seat to rest or place blocks beneath each heel if needed. Place palms into Añjali Mudrā (Prayer Hands) and use the backs of the arms to gently guide the legs wider and feel an opening of the hips.
Props: Use a rectangular bolster to provide you with a flat surface to sit on if you are struggling to balance or find comfort in this pose. If your heels are raising off of the floor, place a soft block underneath each heel to raise the ground.
Supine variation: Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
Supported Sphinx (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Arching through the thoracic spine with your belly resting on a bolster, is a stronger sensation than supported children pose. It stimulates a gentle stretch through your abdominal wall muscles and tones the spine. Alongside slow deep breathing, this pose provides a subtle abdominal massage for your gut, which can be particularly useful if you suffer from bloating – but may be too much if you have abdominal pains, so listen to your body and adapt accordingly.
How to: Place the small rectangular bolster horizontally across the middle of your mat. Gently lay down and aim to rest your pelvis and lower belly onto the bolster. Prop your upper body up using your forearms and stay long through the spine. Stay here for as long as feels comfortable.
Props: The small rectangular bolsters flat surface helps to support your pelvis without the risk of the bolster moving. Use a folded blanket beneath the forearms for added comfort.
Variations: Cobra or Upward Facing Dog
Following on from sphinx, you can lie down and allow your belly to rest with gravity. Light compression on your belly provides a soothing sensation as you sustain the pose with an easeful breath and tune into the sensation of your belly expanding and condensing against the bolster. Turn your head halfway through to stretch the opposite side of your neck. This pose is particularly useful after a long day, when you want to shift into ‘rest and digest’ mode – the parasympathetic side of your nervous system.
How to: After some time in Supported Sphinx release your upper body onto the mat and rest your arms by your side. Place one cheek onto the mat and alternate half way through the duration of the pose. Stay here for as long as feels comfortable.
Variations: Without bolster
Props: The small rectangular bolster is filled with buckwheat, which allows it to mold to the counters of your body whilst also providing firm support. If you want less support simply remove some buckwheat from the bolster using the zip.
Connect with Dr Rabia on her website: www.doctor-rabia.com or Instagram: @doctor_rabia
For over 20 years, Yogamatters has been faithfully supporting yoga teachers, yoga studio owners and yoga practitioners around the world. We’re here to share stories and to support your yoga journey whether that means taking the time to help you choose your perfect yoga mat, bolster or practical props or offering you the comfiest clothing basics and essentials to help you flow and grow.