Yoga and Ayurvedic Perspective to Digestion or Gut Health

Improve gut heath through Ayurveda and Yoga

Yoga and Ayurvedic Perspective to Digestion or Gut Health

According to Ayurveda, a person is said to be in a healthy condition, if there is a balance between mind, body, and spirit. In a healthy human being, the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha will be in equilibrium and the digestive fire (Agni) will be in a balanced state.

Today’s busy lifestyle disturbs the normalcy of the Tridoshas and affects the Dhatus (tissues) and Malas (wastes) resulting in various diseases within the body. A balanced immune system is the result of a well-balanced gut microbiome. There are several microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that are beneficial for maintaining a balanced ecosystem and gut health. Ayurvedic herbs like Guduchi/Giloy, Triphala, and Ashwagandha improve our immunity.

Ayurveda says, there are two key terms that are related to digestion – the “Agni” for the stomach Jathara Agni is even more important (digestive fire that helps to digest everything that we eat and its related to the abdomen ) and “Ama” that creates diseases in the digestive system. When our digestive fire is strong, our system breaks down the food, absorbs vitamins and nutrients, and keeps us healthy. If Agni is weak, it results in the creation of “Ama” leading to diseases. Digestion starts from the mouth and ends with excretion at the colon (in between there are many processes that happen at different levels to digest the food ingested in the body).

Ayurveda suggests several tips for improving our digestive fire and gut health.

    • Eating local, seasonal and cultural food: If we eat what is grown locally as per the season and which also belongs to our culture/genes, that food is much easier on digestion v/s eating processed food or food that is imported which is kept in cold storages and sold through retailers later. It is said that anything that grows within the range of 100 to 150 Kms should be consumed.


    • Drink optimum level of water: Ayurveda scriptures have not mentioned drinking too much water like modern-day science, it is rather mentioned to drink optimum level of the water as per the need (for ex: different Prakriti (body-mind composition) type, weather, activity level, kind of food eaten and few other factors). Water’s temperature should be either lukewarm or at body temperature. Avoid refrigerated cold water, if it is too hot prefer drinking water that is cooled in a mud pot. Slight warm water (in cold temperatures is also good to drink or it aids in digestion, reduces “Ama” and boosts our immune system. Avoid taking cold beverages during mealtime. You may choose to drink a very small quantity (few sips) while having the meal as that can aid in making the food more digestible for example a chutney is ground better when you add some water to it instead of grinding it too dry.


    • Chewing food properly: Never gobble your food and chew it well. It helps to break down your food easily. This enhances the production of saliva that produces digestive enzymes thereby helping in better digestion. Chewing the food properly helps your gut time to send signals to the brain saying that you are full. This reduces over-eating. Never eat your food while watching TV, using phones or while reading books. This diminishes your body’s ability to digest what you have eaten.


    • Eat only when you are hungry. Never have your meal just sticking onto the clock. If you are not hungry, it means that your last meal is not yet digested. Wait for a while giving time for the body to digest and then have your food.


    • Eat your largest meal during mid-day. According to Ayurveda, the digestive fire will be strongest in the noontime. Eating a large meal during this time gives your body plenty of time to digest it before your dinner. Having dinner before sunset is most recommended as per Ayurveda as the digestive fire is better at that time v/s late in the evening or night. Always make your dinner very light so that your digestive system gets to rest while you are sleeping. Avoid eating between meals until and unless the hunger is unavoidable. Ayurveda does not suggest eating too many meals during the day or it suggests eating as per need (age, activity, weather, and the like).


    • Include Ghee in your meal. The primary fatty acid in ghee helps to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall. Ghee also helps to lubricate the digestive tracts helping things to run smoothly. Eat a balanced diet combining foods appropriately and incorporating all the six tastes – sweet, salty, pungent, bitter, sour, and astringent. Combining foods with incompatible energies diminishes your digestive fire leading to gut problems. Incorporate spices like turmeric, fennel seeds, cumin, coriander, and asafoetida (hing) into your diet. Ayurveda suggests eating Sattvik food that aids in digestion and which boosts our immune system. Avoid eating processed food as it contains large amounts of sugar and salt. This may upset the gut health.


    • State of mind: Have your food in a relaxed state. Avoid eating when you are stressed /angry, or when going through any emotional turbulent emotions. A bad/non-harmonious state of mind can make the healthiest food poisonous or difficult to digest.


    • Immediately after food take few moments seated (not too long) and then take a gentle walk for few steps say 100 or so (use your awareness of what makes you feel little settled with the food that you ingested) This significantly aids digestion according to Ayurveda. This also balances blood sugar levels.


    • Seasonal changes: Different seasons bring different things and the digestion impact is also different. For example. in the monsoon season, digestion is generally weak or any onset of a new season can also bring change in the digestion. In Ayurveda, Ritucharya (seasonal routine changes) are advised and these apply to dietary changes also.


  • If one experiences severe digestion disorders, then an Ayurveda specialist needs to be consulted. Depending on the condition they might prescribe Panchakarma (cleansing remedies), medication, or dietary changes, therefore take a look at the season (learn about the do’s and don’ts) to manage your digestion better.


As per Yoga, the dietary instructions are not as elaborate as Ayurveda but briefly it is mentioned about Satvik Ahara (Food that is sattvic in the prana level, easy on digestion, ahara (food), Mitahara: moderation in diet. Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentions Mitahara and a few of the other things to be preferred to eat.

Why digestion is considered very important from the Yoga point of view is that if digestion is proper it facilitates the flow of Prana in an effective way and Yoga practices can be done with more ease and benefits can be reaped even sooner.

Few Shatkriyas are recommended to clean the colon at the physical and physiological level so that body can prepare better for the yogic practices and maintains a balance in the physical, physiological and psychological levels. This in turn helps for keeping the digestive system also in balance. For example. Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana is one such practice. If you are curious about this then find an experienced teacher and practice under the guidance for the first time. Once you know how to do it the right way – you can do this on your own with the required cautions.

Many of the asana practices and other yogic practices help in maintaining Urja (energy ) of the body in balance and that in turn also works on stimulating/balancing the digestive fire. These work on the body’s vital organs, increase blood flow, stimulate/relax the organs, these organs start getting healthier and functions more effectively. For example Liver produces Bile and if this bile secretion is at an optimal level – it helps in digestion and Yoga practices help in maintaining the good health of these organs. Similarly, other organs like the pancreas, kidneys and the likes perform better and aids in digestion.

Improving your gut health not only improves your immune system but also improves your mental health. There is always a connection between your gut and mind because your gut responds to the emotional signals from your brain and vice-versa. Modern research has found out that patients suffering from depression and anxiety see improvements in eating a balanced diet. Follow Ayurvedic principles to improve your gut health. Eat mindfully and always be grateful for what you eat. Yoga practices are to be done when you are at optimal health or to manage a few of the conditions through a therapeutic approach. Overall, use a suitable practice of Ayurveda and Yoga to maintain a healthy Gut.

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