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Beat Bloat with Yoga

It's easy to overindulge, and feel bloated and puffy after a big meal. The main cause? Not-so-savory reasons like gas and acid reflux. Instead of popping a Tums and flopping back on the couch, think about trying a natural cure for stomach troubles.

"Fifteen minutes of yoga will help ease your pain," says Zayna Gold, creator of Healing Through Movement and a Boston-based yoga instructor. As a long-time sufferer of Crohn's disease, she's created this yoga sequence to beat bloat, flatten your middle, and ease your stomach pains.

Benefits of yoga
Gold recommends starting from a reclining position. "This gives you a chance to take a deep breath and feel energized," she says. Then, she progresses from seated to standing positions. Some, like the bridge pose, are stretch moves that stimulate your abdominal organs. Next are twist poses that massage and tone your abdomen, great therapy for gas, bloating, and constipation. The remaining poses work out your back, neck and spine. "You will feel less stress when your nervous system is relaxed. The health benefits will spread to the rest of your body and ease your digestion," says Gold.

Knees hugged to chest or "Apanasana"
You'll want to do this simple stretch, also known as the wind-relieving pose to gain relief from bloating and gas pains.

How to do it: Lie down, relax and inhale, placing your hands on your knees. Exhale, and hug your knees to your chest. Rock your knees from side to side to maximize the stretch. Stay for five to ten breaths, and release your knees. Repeat this move a few more times.

Modification: Bring up your knees as far as it is comfortable. To vary the stretch, you can do one side at a time. Leaving your left leg extended, bring up your right knee and hold it for five or more breaths. Then, switch to the other side.

Spinal twist
Use this twist pose to soothe and tone your abdomen.

How to do it: Lie down, hug your knees and inhale. As you exhale, drop your knees to the left, using your left hand to push them down gently. Then, turn your head and stretch your arm out to the right. Stay for five to ten breaths. Inhale, and return your hands and knees to center. Repeat on the other side.

Bridge Pose or "Setu Bandha Sarvangasana"
This mild inversion helps your blood flow, making you feel more energized.

How to do it: Lie on the floor and bend your knees. Keep your arms beside your body and your feet flat on the floor. Move your hips up to give your chest a good stretch. To better aid your digestion, try this variation. "Press one hip up and hold the pose. Take five breaths, then switch to the other side," says Gold.

Modification: Keep your hands under you as you arch your back and open your chest. You can also clasp your hands and interlace your fingers under your back.

One-legged seated spinal twist
Since you're doing this twist pose from a seated position, you have more control over your stretch.

How to do it: Sit with your legs extended. Bend your right knee and place your heel close to your body. Reach your right arm behind you and place your palm on the floor. Your left elbow goes on the outside of the right knee to help you twist. Stay for five or more breaths, deepening the stretch every time you exhale. Then release the twist and repeat on the other side.

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