Modern medicine gives little attention to the bowel movements, but Ayurveda for constipation could improve imbalances that shouldn’t be ignored.
Normal bowel movements are classified as daily, complete, formed, and passed without pain or gas. When these movements are anything less, these guidelines from Ayurveda and yoga can help to move things along.
According to Ayurveda, there are three different types of constipation: vata, pitta, or kapha doshas, each type manifests with different symptoms.
Here, we’ll focus on the vata type of constipation: hard, difficult to expel stools that are sometimes passed with straining. Constipation may be accompanied by gas, headaches, abdominal pain, breakouts, joint pain, and a brownish coating on the tongue.
Abdominal region asanas are key.
Yoga excels at relieving and preventing constipation. Poses such as Wind Relieving pose (Pawanmuktasana) specifically target the lower abdominal region, helping the body to expel wastes and flatus. You can also try sun salutations and spinal twists to support healthy digestion.
One of the best poses for constipation is Garland pose (Malasana). A long stay in this posture with slow, deep abdominal breathing helps to concentrate blood flow to the lower abdominal region, bringing on the urge for bowel movement.
Never hold the urge.
A common but very bad habit is to hold in the urge for a bowel movement. Those suffering from constipation should be especially mindful of tending to their urges. For some, waking up a few minutes earlier each day to make time for number twos can help.
Other important lifestyle adjustments are to keep stress in check with yoga, regular exercise, and eating and sleeping at regular times.
All pranayama helps to balance vata and can be used for constipation in one of two ways: either for stress and anxiety relief with practices such as honeybee breathing (Bhramari Pranayama) or to ignite the power of digestion through practices such as bellows breath (Bhastrika Pranayama).
Be mindful of what you eat.
Vata-type constipation should be supported by a vata-pacifying diet. Cold drinks, raw food, salad, and excess spicy, bitter, and astringent foods must be avoided.
Foods to eliminate:
- Brussels sprouts
- White potatoes
While that may seem like a lot of elimination, there’s still plenty to eat! Steamed vegetables with moderate amounts of ghee help to lubricate the digestive tract.
Warm, leafy, and juicy vegetables such as zucchini cooked with cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, bay leaves, and black pepper provide bulk and fiber. Soups, stews, and one-pot meals also help to lighten the load on the digestive tract.
Ayurveda suggests drinking a cup of hot water when you first wake up along with drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Having warm milk with a teaspoon of ghee or a couple of soaked figs or dates before bed is also a great way to find relief from constipation.
While all of theses guidelines are supportive measures, it’s best to have constipation assessed by an Ayurvedic practitioner for a customized treatment program.