With plenty of hip and abdominal work, this sequence by Larissa Hall Carlson, E-RYT, a yoga teacher and dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is meant to stoke the digestive fire. While practicing, keep the breath deep and rhythmic to stimulate circulation. If you want to lengthen your practice, Carlson recommends beginning with 3 to 6 rounds of your favorite variation of Sun Salutations.
Reclining Hero Pose, variation
Place a folded blanket at the top of a bolster. Sit between your heels with the bolster behind your tailbone. Lie back on the bolster, resting your head on the blanket. Hold for 1–3 minutes, doing a gentle 3-part breath to promote circulation: Inhale into the lower lungs, then rib cage, then upper chest. Exhale with ease.
See also Restorative Detox Practice
This mild inversion helps drain toxins and excess mucus from the lungs and sinuses. Come to all fours and then onto your forearms. Interlace your fingers, curl your toes under, lift your knees and hips, and straighten your legs. Hang your head, and lift your tailbone to lengthen the spine. Hold for 10–20 breaths, pausing at the end of each exhalation to mildly increase internal heat.
See also 4 Steps To Master Dolphin Pose
Child’s Pose, variation
This gentle forward bend with compression in the belly helps stimulate digestive fire and releases abdominal constriction. Come to hands and knees. Begin to press back into Balasana, pausing partway to place fists against your belly. Then fold over your thighs. Relax your belly, and fill your body with 10–20 breaths.
Working with a downward flow of energy (apana vayu), this pose allows the release of toxins and waste and helps relieve constipation. Stand up and then step your feet shoulder-width apart, with toes pointing out. Bend your knees and sink into a squat. Balance between the heels and balls of your feet. Press your palms together at heart level; press elbows against your inner knees. Hold for 10–20 deep, diaphragmatic breaths to loosen the abdomen and relax the low back.
See also A Better Way to Sit: Garland Pose
Cow Face Pose, variation
This variation works the hips (the seat of vata dosha), and a twist wrings out digestive organs to help eliminate toxins. Sit down, and stack your right knee atop your left, keeping your sit bones rooted and between your feet. Bring your right hand behind you and place your left arm against your right thigh. Gently twist to the right. Hold for 10–20 breath cycles. Change the cross of your legs; repeat on the other side. Hold for 10–20 breaths.
See also Kathryn Budig’s Twist + Detox Video
Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
The deeper stretching in this pose gets into the side torso, which opens up the chest and lungs to support the release of mucus and congestion. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh. Sidebend to the left, reaching your right arm along your right ear. If you can, hold your left foot with both hands. Do both sides, holding for 10–20 breaths on each side.
Half Wind-Relieving Pose
Loosen up back tension and massage the digestive organs (especially the ascending and descending colon) to help move out waste (including gas and bloating—excess vata). Lie on your back. Extend your legs flat onto the floor. Bring your right leg toward your chest and interlace your fingers behind your right thigh. Relax and lengthen through both heels. Hold for 10–20 breath cycles. Repeat on the other side.
See also 8 Poses for Better Digestion
Revolved Abdomen Pose
Jathara refers to the stomach, and this pose is all about stoking digestion and wringing out waste. Draw your knees into your chest. Extend arms to a T position. Lower legs down to the left. Gaze at the ceiling. Take 10–20 breaths, pausing at the end of each exhalation. Bring knees to center. Repeat pose on the other side.
Supported Shoulderstand, variation
Lie on your back. Lift your hips, and place a block at its medium height under your sacrum. Lift your legs to 90 degrees, and evenly press up through your feet, allowing tension to drain out of the legs. Hold for 10–20 breaths.
Fish Pose, supported variation
With all the props, this pose grounds and soothes, and also offers gentle heart and chest opening for deep breathing and circulation to help remove toxins. Sit up, and place a bolster under your knees. Lie back over a blanket roll placed below your shoulder blades. Drape a folded blanket on your thighs and an eye pillow over your eyes. Hold for 10–20 breaths, or longer.
See also 7 Restorative Poses to Stay Grounded
Corpse Pose, supported variation
Rest is key to proper digestion, and here it is. Place a bolster behind you, with a folded blanket on the top end. Lie back with your head on the blanket. Rest a second blanket over your thighs (to settle vata). Cover your eyes. Let your elbows and hands rest on the floor. Breathe gently. Hold for 5–20 minutes.
See also Your Most Restful Savasana Yet
Larissa Hall Carlson, E-RYT, is the dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. Model Alia Sebben is the founder of Amana Yoga Boulder studio in Colorado.