8 Yoga Poses That’ll Help You Poop (After Class, Hopefully)

If you’ve ever entered your yoga class feeling a little, um, backed up, you might be surprised to realize that you don’t walk out of it the same way: There just might be something about the practice that—while calming your mind and soothing your muscles—also revs up your digestive system.

“It’s very likely that yoga students will experience effects on the GI tract, and it’s completely normal and natural,” Valerie Lucas, registered yoga teacher and YogaSix senior master trainer, tells SELF. She knows the feeling all too well, which is why she says she skips the pre-class breakfast burrito so she doesn’t end up running out in the middle of it.

All this explains why yoga can be a helpful choice for folks dealing with constipation, too. While there’s not a whole lot of research on the topic, there’s some evidence to suggest that it can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Jill Deutsch, MD, director of the Yale Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Program and a registered yoga teacher, tells SELF. According to a small 2014 study, when young adults with IBS took a couple of yoga classes a week, they reported improvements in constipation (plus in other symptoms like pain) over the course of six weeks.

It’s tricky to pinpoint a particular feature of yoga that’s responsible, Dr. Deutsch says. “It’s likely a combination of things,” she says, pointing out that the practice can include both asana (movement) and pranayama (breathwork).

The first part is obviously huge. For one, movement in general can speed up your gut motility, or how quickly waste moves through your GI tract. “We understand that a body in motion means that all of its parts are in motion,” Dr. Deutsch says. This might explain why you suddenly have to poop after taking your dog for a walk in the morning, or if you sometimes have to head directly to the bathroom after coming back from a long run.

Digging a little deeper into yoga specifically, “there’s no data to say that there is one particular pose you should be doing for gut health in general,” Dr. Deutsch says. But, she says, yoga practitioners and teachers and those who work in ayurvedic medicine point to some particulars that they say can “improve overall gut health, function, and motility,” she says.

For example, “twisting poses can be helpful,” Dr. Deutsch says. “The GI tract moves from the right lower abdomen up and around to the left lower abdomen in a circle, so it makes logical sense that a twist or circular motion can potentially help stimulate or improve movement through the GI tract,” she explains.

Other poses that involve folding or bending forward can gently compress and release the stomach and colon, Kelly Turner, registered yoga teacher and vice president of training and experience at YogaSix, tells SELF. “This internal massage can help move things along, so to speak, which is why it’s not uncommon to hear the occasional flatulence in a yoga class,” Turner tells SELF.

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