by Shannon Funk, RYT
GERD, also known as acid reflux or acid indigestion, is a common condition where because of a valve malfunction stomach acid actually rises up into the esophagus and this results in a chronic burning sensation in the throat and chest area and can lead to a multitude of secondary conditions. GERD is often exacerbated by the particular foods an individual eats, like citrus or fatty foods, but also substances like caffeine and alcohol seemed to initiate symptoms as well, so diet is really key to a first line defense to controlling symptoms of GERD.
Lifestyle choices, such as practicing yoga, can certainly compliment a whole body approach to promote good digestion and alleviate symptoms of GERD. The reason for this is that certain families of poses, such as reclined hip openers, can actually lower digestive acidity and at the same time increase blood circulation to your abdominal region, as well as the fact that many poses, like restorative poses, just generally give your digestive system a well needed break.
Supta Baddha Konasana, for example, is a great reclined hip opener. Simply lay on your back, either flat or over a folded blanket or bolster is you prefer a supported pose, bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall away from each other as your groins open and your legs create a diamond shape. This is a pose you want to stick with for a good 1-2 minutes to allow your body to soften and release.
If you are actively experiencing acid reflux symptoms, it is best to avoid yoga poses that compress your abdominal region, like deep forward forward bends, and also full inversions, such as headstand, as these generally take blood away from the abdominal region. I would also recommend slow flow and Hatha yoga over very strenuous practices like power or ashtanga, these can exacerbate symptoms. Semi-inversions, like Legs Up the Wall pose, can actually be quite beneficial and restorative, as these generally keep the circulation of blood boosted in your core region.
Again, yoga is just one piece of a holistic approach to supporting your digestive health and cannot in and of itself address the issue altogether. Always check with your doctor when beginning a new exercise regimen.