Maybe you have been practising yoga for a long time, or maybe you have dropped into our site to purchase our amazing, sustainable cork yoga mat (wink,wink!) so that you can go to your first class. Either way, you know that yoga comes with benefits for both your physical and mental health.
As a form of gentle exercise, yoga helps to improve your posture, increase your flexibility and build muscle mass. It gives your metabolism a boost, helps control blood sugar and makes your immune system stronger. A yoga workout can help keep stress at bay, improve your mood and help ensure you get a good night’s sleep¹.
You know that movement is good for you, but how does yoga offer all of these health benefits? A lot of the improvements you see in your health when you start practising yoga on a regular basis are a result of better gut health².
4 REASONS WHY GUT HEALTH IS IMPORTANT FOR OVERALL WELLBEING
If your gut is in good health, you are more likely to enjoy good health. Scientists started mapping out the human gut microbiome in 2007. By 2012 they had determined what a ‘normal’ healthy gut microbiome is. Gut what, you may be asking? We are referring to the more than 100-trillion bugs, the bacteria, viruses and fungi, that live inside your digestive system³. Gross, right!
It may be a bit unappealing to think about, but we have a perfectly mutually beneficial relationship with our gut microbiome. We provide food and shelter for the bugs, and in return they provide important chemical compounds that keep us healthy⁴. It’s a win-win situation!
What can a healthy gut do for you? Here are four reasons a healthy gut is important⁵:
1. Helps to protect brain health and prevent conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Promotes cardiovascular health by reducing hypertension and cholesterol-clogged arteries.
3. Improves metabolism, helping to prevent obesity and diabetes.
3. Promotes overall gut health.
As you can see there is a connection between your gut and every system in your body. And the communication is bidirectional. For example, your gut talks to your brain and your brain returns the favour. That is referred to as the gut-brain-axis.
REGULAR YOGA PRACTICE TO BOOST GUT HEALTH
Now that you’ve had a quick lesson in why gut health is so important, let’s get back to the reason you are here. Yoga! What is the connection between yoga and gut health?
There are three ways yoga benefits gut health⁶,⁷:
1. It reduces stress
Did you know that a large portion of your feel good hormones and neurotransmitters are produced in the gut and not in the brain? Stress can cause an imbalance in the good and bad bacteria in the gut, which results in impaired gut health.
When you are stressed and you meditate and/or practice yoga you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that helps your body to relax. Yoga, therefore, helps to restore balance in the gut microbiome and keeps your digestive system healthy.
2. Promotes a healthy gut microbiome
Exercise has been shown to support a healthy variety of microbes in the gut. The more different types of bacteria found in the intestines, the better. Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that almost anyone can do to maintain the robustness of their gut microbiome. A happy, healthy microbiome is the foundation for a happy, healthy you.
3. Improves digestion
Certain yoga poses are known to give the intestines and other organs in the abdomen a bit of a massage. If you suffer from constipation, it could help to get things moving. These asanas stimulate our digestive fire (agni), thought to support digestion and release toxins from the body.
OTHER LIFESTYLE FACTORS THAT SUPPORT GUT HEALTH
Exercise, including yoga, is just one piece of the gut health puzzle. Almost everything you do has the potential to either harm or improve the wellbeing of your gut. Other factors that support a flourishing gut microbiome include:
- Stress - yoga and meditation are great ways to manage your stress.
- Sleep - Poor sleep affects the gut, but an unhealthy gut can cause sleep issues.
- Diet - Eating foods high in fibre such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables to feed the gut microbiome and fermented foods such as kombucha (we love the kombucha made by our friends over at All About Kombucha), kimchi and yoghurt promote a healthy gut.
- Hydration - just as the rest of your body needs water to work properly, so does your gut.
YOGA AND OTHER LIFESTYLE FACTORS SUPPORT GUT HEALTH
Next time you lay out your yoga mat or settle onto your meditation cushion to calm your mind and relax your body, think about the trillions of little friends living in your gut. They will thank you for taking the time to exercise and relax by rewarding you with better digestion and overall health.