Despite maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle, I’ve spent the last three decades in a state of shitting chaos. I’ve upped my water intake, tried to stick to a more regular pooping routine and even gulped down psyllium husk powder — i.e., the jet fuel of fiber supplements. No matter what I do, though, I ultimately end up in a cold sweat, rocking back and forth on the toilet while growing paranoid that the toxic waste accumulating inside my body will land me in the hospital.
And so, I decided to look into the claims that yoga can help with constipation and overall gastrointestinal health. While I’m generally skeptical about holistic remedies, I thought back to all the times I struggled to hold in farts while doing sit-ups in gym class, and decided to at least give it a try.
Wait, How Does Yoga Help Relieve Constipation?
“The majority of my pediatric clients have bowel and bladder dysfunction and toileting challenges, and yoga is something I often employ to help them find relief,” says Quiara Smith, a pediatric pelvic health occupational therapist in North Dakota. Not only does yoga help relieve the psychological and emotional issues like stress that often lead to a paralyzed gastrointestinal tract, but certain poses go a long way in “stimulating the colon, relaxing the pelvic floor and nervous system and massaging the abdominal muscles to help move things along.”
Yoga Move for Constipation Relief #1: Wind Relieving
According to Devan Carlsen, a yoga instructor in Toronto, there are three go-to yoga moves she employs for her constipated clients (as well as for herself). The first and most popular is the appropriately named “wind relieving.” “This was named for pretty much what it does — it helps to move trapped gas in the intestines, and provide a gentle massage for your stomach.”
In order to perform the fart-releasing maneuver, Carlsen says to lie on your back, bring your right knee up and hold it against your chest. “Your left leg can be straight on the floor, or you can have your knee vent, depending on what’s better for your lower back,” she instructs. “But it’s very important that you always start with your right knee first, as this allows for the massage to go with your intestines instead of against, which would make the constipation worse.”
From there, “wrap your arms around your shin or behind your knee, and as you exhale, pull your knee toward your shoulder, or chest if you have the space.” Next, Carlsen explains, “take three to five breaths, squeezing your knee closer with every exhale. Then switch to the other leg and repeat.”
Don’t get up just yet, though, because the second most effective yoga move for relieving constipation continues from that position.
Yoga Move for Constipation Relief #2: Supine Twist
“The supine twist is a gentle twist that allows for more movement to happen in the digestive tract, as twists are generally great to help keep things moving,” Carlsen tells me. “Starting from your wind-relieving position, your right knee is pulled into your chest — let go of your right arm onto the floor with your arm straight and hand in line with your shoulder or bent at the elbow, like you’re a little goalpost.”
Slowly pull your knee across your body using your left hand, all while “visualizing the twist from your lower back up to your neck,” Carlsen continues. “Keep your right shoulder on the floor, so you only need to pull your knee across enough to feel a gentle twist.”
Similar to Wind Relieving, remain in that position for three to five breaths, twisting just a tiny bit more with every exhale. Then reset to goalpost mode, and repeat on the left side.
Now that you’ve properly torqued and twisted your butthole and bowels, it’s time for a final crunch.
Yoga Move for Constipation Relief #3: Knees to Chest
“Done after the other two poses, not only is this a great stretch for your hips and lower back, but it allows you to move through anything that feels stuck while massaging your internal organs,” Carlsen explains. “While laying on your back, hug both knees into your chest, wrapping your arms or hands around or behind your shins.”
The goal is to “pull your knees into your chest while keeping them tight to each other,” she advises, so do your best to keep your shoulders and head on the floor throughout the move. “Meanwhile, use your inhale to lengthen your spine, and your exhale to pull your knees into your chest.”
Do this, as well as everything else outlined above, and you — and more importantly, me — will be King of the Porcelein Throne in no time.