We have a tendency to indulge in richer foods during Thanksgiving dinner. If you have a post-dinner tummy ache, use these easy seated stretches to relieve a bloated belly.
These specific stretches can aid in digestion by increasing two important functions: vagal tone and peristalsis. Vagal tone is the state of our vagus nerve, which starts at the base of the skull and travels through the body, regulating all of the body’s major functions, including digestion. When the vagus nerve is functioning optimally, vagal tone is increased. This in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or rest and digest state. (1) Relaxing stretches and slow, controlled breathing help to increase the vagal tone.
Peristalsis is the movement of food through our intestines. In order to break down food, the stomach releases digestive enzymes. There is a limited quantity of digestive enzymes in our system, so the more food you eat, the longer it takes to digest. The stomach also produces hydrochloric acid to help break down food, but if you are too full, this acid gets pushed up the esophagus, causing heartburn. Stretches that twist the torso or compress the abdomen act like a massage for the intestines, increasing peristalsis and improving digestion.
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7 Easy Stretches to Reduce Belly Bloat
Seated Cat Cow | 8 breaths
This stretch increases vagal tone, gets blood circulating around your digestive organs, and releases tightness in your chest and shoulders.
- Begin sitting upright in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your palms on top of your knees and engage your abs.
- Inhale to lift your chest and chin up towards the sky, bringing an arch into your back.
- Then, exhale to round your spine, bringing your chin towards your chest. Use your hands as leverage to lean back and stretch your entire back.
- Repeat for eight rounds of breath.
Seated Upright Twist | 5 breaths per side
This gentle twist improves peristalsis and releases tightness along the spine.
- Begin sitting upright in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Engage your abs.
- Place your left hand behind you on the chair. Then, exhale and twist to the left, placing your right hand on the outside of your left thigh.
- Hold for five slow breaths. With each inhale sit up taller, and with each exhale, twist deeper.
- Switch sides.
Seated Forward Bend | 30 sec
Push your chair back from the table for this relaxing stretch that relieves your lower back and increases vagal tone.
- Begin seated with your feet hip-width distance apart.
- On an exhale, fold forward, allowing your belly to rest on your thighs.
- Reach your hands towards the ground and let your head hang heavy. Close your eyes and relax here for 30 seconds.
Single Knee-to-Chest | 30 sec per side
This stretch improves peristalsis and stretches the hip flexors.
- Start sitting up tall in your chair with both feet on the floor.
- Place your right foot on the chair, interlacing your fingers in front of your shin and hugging your knee in towards your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Seated Camel | 8 breaths
Here, you’ll open up the belly and chest to create space and relieve indigestion.
- Begin sitting on the edge of your chair.
- Place your palms on the chair behind your hips and turn your fingers to point away from your body.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your chest and chin as you lean back into your palms. Breathe deeply to expand your belly, ribs, and chest. Hold for eight breaths.
Seated Prayer Twist | 5 breaths per side
This twist increases peristalsis and relieves stiffness in the back.
- Start sitting up straight in your chair. Bring your palms together in a prayer position in front of your chest.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine. Then, exhale and twist your torso to the left, hooking your right tricep outside your left thigh. If this isn’t accessible, twist without hooking the tricep.
- Hold for five slow breaths, then switch sides.
Chair Down Dog | 30 sec
You’ll only have to stand up briefly for this final stretch. This modified downward facing dog pose brings the body into a gentle inverted position to reverse blood flow and improve circulation.
- Stand up facing your chair.
- Place your hands on the seat of the chair and walk your feet back a couple of feet.
- Lower your chest towards the ground to create an L-shape with your body. Your ankles should be stacked below your hips.
- Engage your abs and allow your chest to melt towards the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.
(Your Next Workout: Yoga For Digestion: 6 Poses To Undo Bloating)