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Benefits Of Yoga For Acid Reflux Symptoms

John Miller
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If you have done any research related to acid reflux, you've probably already realized that it affects a lot of people, but that is also very treatable! There are many prescription medications that can be used and acid reflux sufferers usually reach for these because they tend to quiet down the symptoms quite quickly. However it is becoming more and more obvious that the medications do not solve the actual cause and cannot provide you with a long-term healing treatment.

Many people today try to find the more permanent solution in trying the natural and alternative ways to try to either prevent or cure acid reflux symptoms. Another big factor in all of this is our constant exposure to stress. I'm not aware of any scientific studies that directly link the stress and acid reflux, but a lot of experts and medical professionals agree that everyday excess stress definitely aggravates the gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)  symptoms.

Yoga practitioners already know the calming effects that yoga brings after every practice. In addition to that, depending on the sequence and particular yoga asanas (postures) you do, you pretty much end up stretching and twisting almost all parts of the body, including the digestive system. Physical postures and movements and almost all breathing exercises that yoga brings aid directly in any of the GERD symptoms you might be experiencing. Granted, learning some yoga for acid reflux postures may take a little bit of time, but after that practicing yoga requires very little exertion and provides you with great benefits.

In this article, L.W. Westerfield further explores some common elements you need to know before trying yoga for acid reflux, basic considerations and possible contraindications to keep in mind.

Acid reflux is a common digestive complaint often caused by dietary imbalance or as a side-effect of obesity or pregnancy. The calming, centering effects of a gentle yoga practice combined with yogic dietary guidelines can help alleviate the symptoms of acid damage; however, not all yoga postures are appropriate for individuals experiencing acid reflux, and yoga alone may be insufficient to treat the condition. Individuals suffering from symptoms of acid reflux should consult a physician before attempting to practice yoga.

Condition

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition in which stomach acid rises into the esophagus due to a malfunction of the valve that separates the contents of the esophagus and the stomach. Commonly described as acid indigestion, this condition results in acid creating a chronic burning sensation in the throat and chest that is often exacerbated by substances including alcohol, citrus, caffeine, chocolate, high-fat foods and pungent foods like garlic, onions and spices. Conventional treatment includes the use of antacids, prescription medications and lifestyle and diet adjustments; but yoga can supplement these changes to further counteract indigestion and bring patients relief.

Yoga Postures

According to yoga teacher and Yoga Journal contributor Barbara Kaplan Herring, certain yoga for acid reflux poses promote good digestion and alleviate symptoms of conditions like GERD. These poses include restorative postures such as reclined hip-openers, supported backbends and modified side-stretches that reduce digestive acidity and increase blood supply to the abdominal region. Specific poses to try include Supta Baddha Konasana, or Reclining Bound-Angle pose, Supta Sukhasana, or Reclining Easy Cross-Legged pose, and Parsvottanasana, or Intense Side-Stretch pose.

Yoga Contraindications

Kaplan Herring suggests that individuals suffering from digestive complaints avoid yoga poses that compress the abdominal area, such as standing or seated forward bends. Full inversions like headstands should also be avoided in order to prevent symptoms like headaches and vomiting. Finally, physically strenuous yoga can exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux and ought not to be practiced when symptoms are present.

Yoga Considerations

Although yoga can be beneficial for individuals dealing with acid reflux, it is not an effective treatment in and of itself. Diet plays a key role in the avoidance and control of acid reflux, as do lifestyle changes to aid digestion such as slower eating and reduced alcohol and caffeine consumption. Remember that these factors are a necessary complement to yoga when seeking relief from acid reflux symptoms, and consider consulting a physician or dietician to determine which foods and substances are best for your individual health.

Warning

As with any alternative therapy, always consult your doctor before undertaking a yoga practice to treat symptoms of acid reflux. Certain postures are not safe for individuals with digestive problems, back pain and other health conditions. Do not practice yoga without first seeking instruction from a certified instructor.

There is also a scientific proof that yoga for acid reflux works and, not only as a method of prevention, but also as a great way to improve the already diagnosed condition of GERD. One of these studies was titled “Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease?” and it examined a case of a 62-year old man with history of serious heartburn and dysphagia caused by a large hiatal hernia.

Yoga For Acid Reflux - Warrior Asana

Yoga For Acid Reflux, Warrior II

The study then followed this patient practicing yoga over the course of the next 6 months and recorded significant improvements in his acid reflux symptoms! See the complete study here. All of the yoga postures bring the benefits one way or another, but if we had to pick a few that are more targeted and help the symptoms of acid reflux, some of them would be these three asanas, as described here.

Warrior II

Warrior II is a great yoga position to help with heartburn because it not only stretches muscles in the chest and therefore helps to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the condition, but also allows the participant to take deep breaths, which can also be important in the treatment of heartburn. To perform this yoga position, start by standing tall with both feet flat on the floor.

Slowly step your left foot back approximately two feet behind your body, and angle your foot so that it is pointing to the wall at a 45 degree angle. Drop your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Now carefully rotate your torso that that your shoulders are over your knees. Finally, raise your arms to shoulder height, extending them out from your body. Hold this pose for as least thirty seconds before switching to the other side.

Side Airplane

Side Airplane is another great pose for alleviating heartburn due to its similar properties as Warrior II. To perform Side Airplane, start by rolling your body so that you are resting on your right side. Rest your right elbow on the ground and put your head in your right hand. Alight your body so your left leg is comfortably resting on top of the right. Take a few deeps breaths while in the position.

As you exhale your next breath, carefully lift your body off the ground, so that you are resting on your right shoulder and feet. Your body should be in a straight line from your feet up to your shoulders. Finally, carefully extend your left arm, reaching it up to the sky. Hold this pose for at least thirty seconds before switching to the other side.

Corpse

Finally, corpse is a great pose to end any workout, especially if you suffer from heartburn. Start by lying flat on your back. Relax your legs and feet, allowing them to fall to the sides. Rest your arms by your sides, and let the palms of your hands face up. Close your eyes.

Take deep breaths from your abdomen, and try to relax your body as much as possible. Once you feel relaxed, let your feet fall from side to side. Do this for around two to three minutes. Finally, make a fist and slowly begin circling your wrists first in one direction, and then the opposite. Do this for a few minutes as well.

 

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