Stress and tension can cause many problems in the body, including trouble with digestion. These poses use a rolled blanket to aid digestion by stimulating the vagus nerve—a nerve that runs from the cranium to the abdomen and fosters communication between the brain and stomach.
The first pose stimulates the vagus nerve while pressing the abdomen up toward the spine. If you feel tenderness, do your best to relax and maintain steady breath.
- Fold the blanket to about an inch of thickness. A blanket that measures around the same width as the mat when folded is ideal.
- Roll the blanket up and place it off to the side.
- Kneel on the mat, with your knees out directly in front of your hips, and your rump comfortably seated on your heels. If sitting on your heels feels uncomfortable, you can use a second blanket to add extra padding.
- Set the rolled blanket on your lap and let it rest against your lower abdomen.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine, and then exhale and fold forward over the blanket.
- Try to reach far enough forward that your ribs are past the blanket.
- Slowly walk your fingers forward, reaching your head down toward the mat.
- Breathe fully.
- If your blanket feels too thick, come out of the pose to roll it more tightly, and try again.
- Stay in the pose as long as you like.
- To exit the pose, use your hands to walk yourself back up to a seated position.
Though the pose may not look as impressive as other yoga poses, it's significantly challenging. It's normal to feel a little flushed considering that the entire digestive and circulatory systems have been stimulated.
The second pose provides even more of a challenge. If it feels too intense, you can spend additional time in the first pose instead of moving on to the second.
- Place the blanket on your mat so that its width matches the width of the mat.
- Come to all fours over the rolled blanket.
- Slowly walk your hands forward and your knees back until you're lying on the blanket. The blanket should be right under the soft part of your belly beneath your rib cage.
- Inhale, lengthen your spine, and then fold forward over the blanket. Be sure that your ribs are far enough forward that they clear the blanket.
- Rest your head on the mat by laying it to one side.
- Take a few breaths, and soften your belly to let it become more receptive.
- Breathe fully for at least a minute.
- For an extra challenge, push into your hands so that your forearms are resting on the mat and your chest is lifted.
- Bend your knees, reaching your feet up toward your head.
- Reach back with your hands and grasp your ankles, allowing your stomach to be supported by the blanket.
- Inhale to lift your chest and legs off the mat even further to intensely work your belly.
- Stay for a breath or two, then slowly release back down to the mat, resting your legs behind you and your head to one side.
These poses may feel slightly painful at first because the nerve is being stimulated in a way that isn't practiced every day. It may take time for you to be able to allow your body to soften into the poses.