By Kristin McGee
In the fall and winter we may feel a little more sluggish in the digestive system. In addition to drinking lots of water, eating a diet that consists of mainly whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, Pilates is a great way to help with digestion.
The Pilates method consists of low impact exercises done on a mat or on special equipment that emphasizes the body’s core region, aka powerhouse, which consists of the abdominal muscles, lower back, inner and outer thighs, hips and buttocks. Pilates is named for its founder Joseph Pilates and has been around since the early 1900s.
Pilates, especially the mat based exercises, can be done year round, anywhere and anytime. The Pilates method’s focus on the mind/body connection, concentration, control, flexibility, breathing and fluid movements makes it a wonderful method for aiding in digestion. Often times we stagnate because we aren’t breathing as deeply as we should be. In Pilates we strengthen the diaphragm muscles and breathe in the lower half of the body. On the exhalation the abdominals are drawn in and upwards which helps massage the internal organs.
Pilates will emphasis strengthening the core region and glutes, while also stretching the body out. When our muscles and especially the psoas is tight, it pulls on our lower back and compresses our abdominal region making it harder to digest and more uncomfortable.
All exercise gets the blood flowing and the heart rate pumping which stimulates digestion. Often times we don’t feel like doing anything vigorous when we have eaten too much or have indigestion. Pilates is great because you can lie down and work out.
Try any of these Pilates moves next time you want to strengthen your digestive system.
This move is great to get the blood pumping and the breath flowing. Start on your back, then lift your head and neck up off the mat, extend your legs to a forty-five degree angle and stretch your arms at your sides. Hover the arms off the floor and start pumping them vigorously up and down five times on an inhale and five times on an exhale. Repeat 10 times for 100 pumpings.
Climb a Tree
I like this move for massaging the internal organs and for creating space in the sides of the waist and hamstrings. Lie down on your back and lift your right leg straight up in the air. Inhale and start to climb up the back of the thigh until you sit up nice and tall. Exhale and roll back down one vertebrae at a time. Repeat three times and then switch to the opposite leg.
Single Leg Straight Leg Kicks
Lie down on your back, lift your head up off the floor and both legs straight up to the ceiling. Lower your left leg about 10 inches from the floor as you pull your right leg towards you and pulse it twice, then kick the left leg up and do the same pulse. Continue switching sides for 10 repetitions. Single leg kicks work the abdominal muscles and get the legs moving which aids with digestion. I think of this move as a walk or run on your back initiating the movement from your core. You will definitely stimulate digestion with this exercise.
Any twisting motion is great for stimulating digestion and massaging the internal organs and entire core region. I particularly love the saw; it feels so good for the entire body and stretches and strengthens the obliques and lower abdominal muscles. Sit up nice and tall with your feet hip width apart. Open your arms to your sides and twist towards your right foot then imagine sawing off the right pinky toe with the left pinky finger. After three little pulses, scroll up through the spine and twist in the opposite direction and repeat. Do each side five times.
Finish with Swan dive to really massage the entire front body and help stoke the digestive furnace. Lie face down on the mat with arms overhead. On an inhalation, lift the entire body up off the mat. Exhale, and lower back down. Repeat five times. Only if it works for you—you can try rocking back and forth in this position.
Give these moves a try and see how much better your entire body feels. When we tap in to our core, it helps us make healthier choices, live with less stress, breathe properly and function optimally. Your digestive system and entire body will appreciate it.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga, Pilates, and fitness instructor, the author of a number of DVDs and a retreat leader. Find her online at kristinmcgeefitness.com and on social media at @kristinmcgee