Yoga is the secret ingredient that has the ability to improve many aspects of one’s life. From reduced stress and increased flexibility to stronger lung health, improved digestion, and consistent elimination, the benefits of yoga are far-reaching.
Yoga Poses for Lungs & Breathing
Asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) maintain the overall health of the respiratory system. The lungs especially benefit from yoga poses that open and stretch the chest and stimulate the lungs.
Below are a few poses that are especially effective at creating space in the chest and spine by stretching the muscles in these regions in all directions.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Begin lying on your belly on top of your mat. Stretch your legs back with the tops of your feet pressing against the floor. Position your hands so that they’re directly under your shoulders with your palms pressed firmly into the floor.
- Hug your elbows close to your side body. Press the tops of your feet, thighs, and pubic region into the floor.
- On an inhale, slowly strengthen your arms to lift your chest from the floor. Avoid lifting beyond a height where you’re no longer able to keep the pubis against the floor. Keep your elbows hugging toward your side body and allow your butt to loosen.
- Lift your chest and head upward toward the ceiling with your shoulders fixed against your back, and avoid pushing out through the ribs.
- Lower to the floor on an exhalation to release.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet resting on the floor.
- On an inhale, slightly lift your pelvis from the floor and slide your hands under your butt with your palms facing toward the earth. Rest your butt against the tops of your hands.
- Hug your forearms and elbows close to the side of your body.
- Press your forearms and elbows firmly against the floor.
- On an inhale, lift your chest and head away from the floor.
- Place your head back on the floor. Based on what feels best, either the back of your head or the crown of the head will be on the floor. This depends on how high the chest is lifted. Make sure you aren’t crunching your neck.
- Strengthen your legs out onto the floor, keeping your thighs active and pressing through the heels. If this feels like too much, you can also keep your knees bent.
- To release, lower your torso and head to the floor on an exhalation. Then pull your knees to your chest and give yourself a squeeze.
Half Spinal Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Begin seated on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your knees with your feet on the floor, then slide your left foot under your right leg so that your left foot is near your right hip.
- Bring your right leg over your left. Place your right foot on the outside of your left knee. Your right knee will point directly toward the ceiling.
- Set your right hand behind you with your palm slightly in front of your right butt cheek.
- On an inhale, reach your left arm up.
- On the exhale, twist your body to the right and hook your left elbow against the side of your right knee.
- Keep your back straight. With every inhalation, lift through the sternum and deepen your twist on the exhalation.
- When you’re ready, release the twist on an exhale.
- Repeat this same process on the other side.
Other poses that are beneficial for the lungs include upward facing dog, bridge pose, big toe pose, extended puppy pose, extended side angle pose, gate pose, revolved side angle pose, and even more.
A weak digestion is often caused by unhealthy foods, inadequate fiber intake, stressful lifestyle, and a lack of water. Digestion is strengthened by eating healthier foods, consuming more fiber, reducing stress, and drinking more water. Practicing yoga will aid in reducing stress, and certain poses will especially support the digestive process.
- Position yourself on your mat on all fours. Place your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders with your palms flat against the earth.
- Begin with a flat back.
- On your inhale, lift your chin and tailbone up, drop your chest toward the floor and arch your back as your belly loosens.
- On the exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, tuck your chin toward your chest, and pull your navel in toward your spine.
- Continue to ride your breath as you flow between these two postures.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Begin on your mat on your hands and knees. Position your knees below your hips and your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Make sure your palms are completely flat on your mat.
- On an exhale, lift your knees away from the floor. Keep your knees slightly bent here and your heels lifted from the floor until you begin to feel the back of your legs stretch out. You can pedal out your feet to help your body warm into this pose.
- Lift your hips toward the ceiling and push through your palms with your shoulders relaxed. Stretch your heels toward the floor and strengthen your knees, but not enough to lock them. Keep your head between your upper arms.
- When you’re ready, release this pose by lowering your knees to the floor on an exhale.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
- Come onto all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands beneath your shoulders.
- On an exhale, slowly walk your hands out in front of you as you lower your chest to the ground. Keep your hips over your knees and your arms at a shoulder distance apart.
- Release your forehead to the ground. If you’d like a deeper stretch, rest your chin on the ground instead.
- Reach your hips toward the ceiling as you keep your arms activated by pushing into your palms and lifting your elbows and forearms away from the ground.
- Relax your neck and allow your breath to help stretch your spine in both directions.
- When you’re ready, release this pose by gently lifting your forehead and walking your hands back toward your body.
Other poses that benefit the digestive system include supine twist, triangle pose, seated side bend, sun salutation, locust pose, bow pose, knees to chest, and many more.
OK–let’s admit it: going #2 is so important for overall health. Ideally, we should poop at least once a day, but for many of us that’s not the case. Our elimination cycle is impacted by many things, the most significant of which is our digestive system. Thankfully, yoga and Ayurveda can support this process. By incorporating the above poses for digestion and the following poses for elimination, you’ll be pooping in no time.
Buddha Squat (Malasana)
- Begin standing with your feet just slightly further than hip distance apart.
- Bring your palms together at the center of your chest.
- On an exhale, drop your hips toward the floor until you’re seated in a squatting position with your butt slightly above the floor.
- If this feels like too much, you can always use a blanket or a block under your butt to support your hips. You can also place a rolled up blanket under your heels if they rise up.
- To release, press your feet firmly into the ground on an exhale as you straighten your legs.
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
- Begin in a wide stance on your mat with your left foot toward the back of the mat, your right foot towards the front, and your toes on both feet pointing forward.
- Turn your left foot in slightly and turn your right foot 90 degrees so that your toes are now facing the front of your mat.
- Align the right heel with the left heel so that a straight line can be drawn between them.
- Exhale and extend your torso to the right so that you’re leaning over the right leg. Make sure your left leg is straight with your outer left foot pushing firmly into the floor.
- Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or outside your right foot on the floor. Do what feels most comfortable without overstretching or causing pain in the body.
- Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with your shoulders.
- You can either keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left with your eyes gazing toward the ceiling or at the left thumb.
- On an exhale, release the pose by pulling your torso back to center.
Revolved Crescent Lunge
- Begin in crescent lunge with your left foot forward and your hands in a prayer position at your chest.
- Slowly twist your torso to the left as you hook your right elbow outside of your left knee.
- Keep your chest open and your gaze toward the ceiling.
- On inhalation, elongate the spine. On exhalation, deepen the twist.
- When you’re ready to release, pull your torso back toward the center on an inhale.
Elimination is also strengthened by revolved chair pose, child’s pose, supine spinal twist, crescent lunge twist, legs up the wall pose, wind-relieving pose, child’s pose, and others.
If you’d like to strengthen your lungs, digestion or elimination, yoga is a great addition to other healthy lifestyle choices that support the overall health of your body. If you already practice regularly, try incorporating some of the poses mentioned in this article into your next practice.
If you’re just getting started, try one of these poses on their own before working them into a sequence. Wherever you are on your journey, we wish you ease and health today and everyday!