By Nizha Periaswamy

Besides weight gain and chronic illness, constipation is a common issue that affects people of all ages.

It means that you are either not passing stools regularly, or unable to completely empty your bowel.

Constipation can also be accompanied by other issues, such as stomach bloating, indigestion and tummy troubles. By practicing yoga frequently, one may reduce the severity, or get rid of constipation, or other stomach-related issues.

Some yoga poses require compression and provide massaging effects to the abdomen, and encourage the digestive tract to pass stool or gas.

If you are suffering from constipation, yoga can provide some relieve. Start with simple twists and turns, before moving to more advanced poses. Be cautious when attempting these postures; it is best to consult a yoga instructor before getting started.

Now let's look at the poses best practised by a person suffering from constipation:

1) Revolved chair pose - Parivrtta Utkatasana

This pose increases flexibility throughout the spines, tones one's internal organs, including the kidneys and digestive organs, and helps with detoxification.

Begin with a half squat, with the knees together, and weight mostly in your heels. From here, put your palms together and raise it to the chest-level. Inhale to lengthen your spine and exhale to hinge forward, then twist to your right and tuck in your left elbow outside your right thigh. Keep your knees together, palms together and hips lowered to the count of five breath cycles. Then, exhale and release the half squat pose, and eventually, the full pose.

2. Cobra Pose - Bhujangasana

Though it is best known for its ability to increase the flexibility of the spine, this pose also stimulates one's abdominal organs, improving digestion.

Lie on your stomach with the toes pointed out. Place your palms on the mat, parallel to your chest. Engage the thigh and abdominal muscles, and lift your head up slightly, while gently curling your neck backwards and pressing the palms on the mat. Lift your shoulders and body up and hold this pose for several breath cycles, and lower your body back to the floor.

3. Garland pose - Malasana

This pose stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles and torso, as well as tones the abdominal muscles and improves the colon's function.

From a standing position, with both palms together at chest, inhale. As you exhale, slowly lower yourself to a complete squatting position. Both your knees should be pointed in opposite directions, and place your heels flat on the floor. Drop your tailbone towards the ground, lengthen your spine and place your elbows against your inner thighs. Hold this pose for 10-15 counts. Release this pose by exhaling and lifting yourself up to a standing position.

4. Wind-Relieving Pose -Pawanmuktasana

This pose helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles and massages the intestines and digestive organs, releasing trapped gases and improving digestion.

Simply lie down on your back with the knees pulled up towards the chest. Inhale and exhale while you pull up both knees towards your chest, and hug them with your hands. Hold this pose for several breath cycles, then slowly release it.

5. The Bow Pose - Dhanurasana

According to the Yoga Institute, this pose is good for those experiencing gas and digestive problems as it puts pressure on the abdomen.

Lie flat on your stomach, bend both knees and extend your arms back to clasp the ankles. Gently raise your chest off the floor as far as is comfortable using the tension between the arms and legs, and try to lift your thighs and upper body off the floor. Hold for 10 counts or 5 breathing cycles, then slowly release the pose.

These are poses which may help you ease the symptoms of constipation. However, please consult a doctor if your condition persists, or worsens. In some cases, constipation may be a sign of some other serious illness.

Besides practising yoga, constipation sufferers are also encouraged to eat food that are high on fiber, and drink plenty of water.

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.

Photo source: Rehnukadevi Nesajothy, Sai Divya Yoga Centre