Whether you are feeling the effects of Thanksgiving indulgence (my personal favorite is pumpkin pie with whipped cream!) or perhaps experiencing digestive discomfort from recent travel, sometimes our digestive system just needs a little extra TLC and attention. This sequence is designed to encourage + support healthy digestive function by increasing circulation, releasing tension in the musculature surrounding your abdominal organs, and facilitating a gentle “massaging” of these organs. Here’s to happy insides!
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a few slow, deep breaths and as you exhale draw both knees in towards your chest and wrap your hands around your shins. Use your hands to gently hug your knees in towards your belly. Breath deeply and fully here allowing your belly to expand towards your legs as you inhale and gently draw back and down towards your spine as you exhale.
- If your head is not comfortably resting on the floor place a folded blanket or pillow underneath it. Stay here for 5- 8 breaths.
- Come onto all fours. Place your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees hip-distance apart. Bring your wrist creases parallel to the front edge of your mat and spread your fingers wide pressing evenly through all four corners of your palms.
- As you inhale, draw your sternum/chest forward between your arm bones, lift your tail bone and allow your belly to drop toward the floor for Cow Pose. As you exhale, press the floor away from you as your round your spine towards the ceiling and release your head for Cat Pose.
- Continue to move in and out of Cow and Cat coordinating each movement with your breath. Each time you inhale, allow your belly to naturally expand towards the floor. Each time you exhale, gently draw your belly up and in towards your spine and widen across the back of your torso.
- Move through 10 full rounds of breath then release your hips back towards your heels for Childs Pose.
Downward Facing Dog
- Once again, make your way down onto all fours. Place your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees hip-distance apart. Bring your wrist creases parallel to the front edge of your mat and spread your fingers wide pressing evenly through all four corners of your palms.
- Take a deep inhale and as you exhale gently draw your lower belly up and in towards your spine. Maintain this connection, step your right foot and your left foot back to a high plank pose with your feet hip-distance apart. Keeping your hands and feet where they are, inhale and ask you exhale lift your hips up and back into Downward Facing Dog.
- Press the top of your thighs back and your heels down. If you feel any strain in the lower back, take your feet wider and/or bend your knees. Allow your head to release so your ears come in line with your upper arms. Continue to press your hands into the mat and lift your hips up and back.
- Stay here for 10 slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose. To come out, lower your knees to the floor and rest in Child’s Pose.
Forward Fold / Half Forward Fold
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart and parallel to the edges of your mat. As you inhale, stretch your arms up overhead. Exhale, bend your knees generously, hinge at your hips and fold forward bringing your hands to the earth (or to blocks). Bend your knees enough that your belly can rest on your thighs and do your best to distribute your weight evenly between all four corners of your feet.
- On an inhale, move into a half forward fold by bringing your hands to your shins and lifting your torso parallel to the floor as you draw your sternum (chest) forward between your arms. Extend forward through the crown of your head as you maintain a gentle lift in your lower belly.
- As you exhale, gently fold forward again over your bent knees.
- Move in and out of these two shapes for 5 full rounds of breath. Lifting half way up on your inhales and folding down on your exhales.
- To come out of the shape, bring your hands to your hips with your knees slightly bent and on an inhale rise to stand.
Revolved Side Angle (Modified)
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Make sure your right knee is stacked over your ankle, then gently lower your back knee to the floor keeping your toes tucked under for stability. If necessary, place a blanket down – or double-fold your mat – to support your back knee.
- On an inhale, lift your torso up and bring your hands to rest on your right thigh. Allow your hips to shift forward in space and gently lift your lower belly in and up. Bring your palms together in front of your heart. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, twist your torso to the right and hook your elbow outside of your right thigh.
- Imagine a straight line running from the crown of your head down to the base of your spine. Each time you inhale, lengthen the front your spine. Each time you exhale, turn your torso (belly, ribs, chest) around this central axis.
- Stay here for 5 full breaths. To come out of the pose, release your hands to the floor on either side of your front foot and step back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the second side.
- Come to lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-distance apart and parallel. Allow your arms to rest down alongside your body. Bring awareness to your feet and gently press down through all four corners of your feet (big toe mound, pinky toe mound, inner and outer heel). Turn your palms to face the floor. Maintaining awareness on the four corners of the feet, begin to engage your lower belly and lengthen your tailbone away from your lower back and then slowly lift your hips up and away from the floor.
- Carefully begin to wrap your right shoulder then your left shoulder underneath your body. If it is available to you, interlace your hands behind your back or keep the palms flat down. Allow your inner thighs to soften towards the floor and continue to thread your tailbone away from your lower back (towards the back of your knees). Root down through your upper arms and lift your chest towards your chin. Keep your chin moving slightly away from your chest.
- Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Release the clasp of your hands, untuck your shoulders and gently roll down one vertebrae at a time. Rest your hands on your belly, close your eyes and take a few breaths observing the energetic effects of this pose.
Seated Twist (variation)
suggested prop: folded blanket
- Begin seated on the center of your mat with your legs extended out in front of you. If you find it difficult to maintain the torso in an upright position (i.e. if your pelvis is tipping backwards and your spine is rounded), place a folded blanket or two under your seat to help keep your spine lifted and long.
- Bend your right knee bringing the foot to the floor as close to your right sitting bone as possible. For a few breaths, clasp both hands around your right shin. Lift up through your spine as you flex your left foot and ground your left thigh bone down towards the floor.
- Now, place your right hand behind you either flat or on your fingertips. Root down through your sitting bones and on an inhale, lift your left arm up alongside your left ear. As you exhale, begin to turn your torso (belly, ribs, chest) to the right and hook your left elbow around your right knee. Keep your chin in line with your chest for the first few breaths and encourage the twist to move up into your thoracic spine (upper back). After a few breaths, if it feels ok on your neck, turn to look back over your right shoulder.
- Stay here for 5 deep breaths. On an inhale, gently unwind from your twist and come back to center with both legs extended out in front of you. Repeat on the second side.
Seated Forward Bend (with modification)
suggested prop: strap or belt and folded blanket
- From the previous pose, sit in the center of your mat with your legs extended out in front of you. As before, if you find it difficult to maintain the torso in an upright position (i.e. if your pelvis is tipping backwards and your spine is rounded), place a folded blanket or two under your seat to help keep your spine lifted and lengthening towards the ceiling.
- Inhale your arms up towards the sky and as you exhale, hinge forward at the hips (rather than folding at the waist). Then take one of the following two variations
To use the strap:
- Place your strap around your feet and, keeping your arms straight, give yourself as much slack as you need to find length in your spine keeping your front torso long and spaciousness across your collarbones and the front of your chest. Maintain length in the back of your neck by dropping your chin slightly toward your chest. Stay here for 10 full breaths.
Without the strap:
- If you are able to maintain an elongated spine and width across your collarbones, take hold of the outer edges of your feet. Take a few breaths with your arms straight and chest lifted. If you feel ready to deepen your pose, take an inhale as you lengthen the front of your spine and, as you exhale, hinge forward from the hips and encourage your heart to move towards your toes. Allow your elbows to bend out to the sides and continue to extend forward through the crown of your head so the back of your neck stays long.
- Stay here for 10 full breaths.
- To come out of the pose (either variation), inhale to look forward and exhale as you rise up to sit.
- Come to lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Exhale, and draw both knees in towards your chest. From here, extend your arms out to a T shape, palms facing up. Shift your hips a few inches to the right and, on an exhale, drop both knees to the left until they rest on the floor. Do your best to keep both shoulders connected to the mat. If your right shoulder is lifted significantly off the floor and it feels like your arm is “hanging” in space, place a folded blanket under the legs/knees.
- Stay here for 1 minute and gently come back to center. Repeat these actions on the second side taking hips to the left and the legs to the right.
- In this final resting pose, you will want to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Come to lie flat on your back. Separate your legs slightly wider than hip-distance apart and allow your feet to naturally fall open to the sides. Place your arms alongside your body with your palms facing up.
- If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, place a rolled blanket underneath your knees. If your head is not comfortably resting on the floor with your chin gently drawing down towards your chest, consider placing a folded blanket underneath your head.
- Release your lower jaw away from your upper jaw and allow your tongue to soften away from the roof of your mouth. Allow the skin on your forehead to soften and allow your awareness to settle gently on your breath.
- Stay here for 5 – 10 minutes.
- To come out of the pose, bend your knees brining your feet to the floor. Gently roll over onto one side and stay here for a few breaths. Use your hands to press yourself up to a sit. Take a few breaths here with your eyes closed noticing how you feel. When you feel ready, gently open your eyes.