Yoga for Acid Reflux

Too much acid in the stomach is not good – but neither is too little. Alkalosis is the name given to an excessively alkaline environment in the stomach. Many dieticians, nutritionists, naturopaths, and even doctors say that “it’s good to be alkaline and bad to be acidic.”

However, it is not good to be in a state of alkalosis either because it results in a lack of hydrogen. In specific types of alkalosis, there is a loss of potassium in the cells and excessive secretion through the kidneys. This causes a decrease in plasma hydrogen levels, resulting in an increase in bicarbonate levels. Therefore, the pH of the stomach must be acidic for you to be healthy.

Acid reflux is the backflow of stomach contents up into the esophagus. The mucosa protects the stomach from the effects of its own acid.

Food is transported from the mouth through a tubular organ called the esophagus. The esophagus consists of mucous tissue that is surrounded by muscles. This muscle layer is responsible for transporting food through the esophagus to the stomach by creating synchronous peristaltic waves. At the lower end of the esophagus, at the junction with the stomach, is a circular muscle ring called the lower esophageal sphincter. When the act of swallowing occurs, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes (opens) and food passes into the stomach, and after that it contracts again (closes) and prevents the return of the contents from the stomach.

Because the esophagus does not have a similar protective lining, stomach acid that backs up causes pain, inflammation, and damage. Acid backs up when the lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t work properly.

The amount of reflux and the number of episodes that cause symptoms varies from person to person. In general, damage to the esophagus is more likely to happen, if episodes of highly acidic stomach contents are frequent, and the esophagus fails to clear the contents quickly with peristalsis and saliva.

The most obvious symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, a burning pain under the breast bone. The pain, which originates in the chest and can spread to the neck, throat or even the face, is caused by acid reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. It usually occurs after eating or lying down. Heartburn can be accompanied by regurgitation of stomach contents or very strong drooling. Heavy drooling, which occurs when stomach acid irritates the inflamed lower part of the esophagus, is called heartburn.

Complications of acid reflux include narrowing of part of the esophagus. Esophagitis can cause pain during swallowing and usually light bleeding. The narrowing makes swallowing solid foods increasingly difficult.

How is it Diagnosed?

  • Esophagoscopy (with biopsies if necessary);
  • Esophageal pH;
  • Radiological techniques are most often used to visualize esophageal peristalsis;

How is it Treated?

  • Elevating the headboard while sleeping;
  • Reduction of body weight
  • Engaging in physical activities (yoga) that include poses that are great for solving acid problems;
  • Avoiding: chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, cola drinks, orange juice;
  • Do not go to bed immediately after eating;
  • Quit smoking;
  • Medicines that form a barrier between the stomach lining and the acidic contents;
  • H2-receptor blockers;
  • Proton pump inhibitors;
  • Antacids;

Emergency surgery is not required except for massive bleeding in esophagitis.

As for practicing yoga in order to solve acid reflux, it has been proven through yoga practice that the following five yoga poses can greatly help when it comes to stomach acid.

The first pose that is practiced to solve the problem is the forward bend pose or paschimottanasana.  It is very important to keep your core tight and your back straight during this pose. Try grasping your toes with your fingers. If necessary, use the yoga belt. Forward bend pose enables better functioning of the digestive organs. This is achieved by a fine massage. In case you are comfortable staying in this pose, try to stay in it for up to three minutes.

The second pose is a dynamic pose, the so-called cat-cow pose. This pose is good for massaging the digestive organs, but it is also good for improving circulation throughout the body. Since it is a dynamic yoga pose, repeat it at least five times, if you can, repeat it a maximum of ten times.

The third pose is thunder bolt pose. Sit with your back straight, sit on your heels. It is recommended to do this pose immediately after eating. It will help the food to be digested properly and to prevent the appearance of acid reflux. If you can, stay in this pose for up to ten minutes.

Half spinal twist pose is the fourth pose. This pose is excellent for detoxifying the entire body. It is excellent for circulation, digestion, and of course for acid reflux. In this pose, it is important that your back is straight. Since this is a pose in which the spinal column twists, do it with great care. If you can, stay in this pose for up to three minutes.

The fifth, last pose, that concerns acid reflux is reclining butterfly pose or supta badhakonasana.

Get into the pose by lying on the floor and bringing your feet together. Lower your knees as close to the floor as possible. Relax your arms at the sides of your body. Become aware of what is happening in your groin, hips and stomach muscles. Stay in this pose for three minutes. If necessary, place a blanket under your head or lower back.

Breathing can also help when solving acid reflux. Full three-layer yogic breathing is recommended for acid reflux. Try to make your exhalation twice as long as your inhale. Breathe only through your nose. Breathe for seven cycles for each pose. Three-layer breathing includes breathing with the tops of the lungs, the lungs, and the stomach.

The combination of these poses with three-layer breathing will certainly ease your problem with acid reflux.

As a bonus, I point out another breathing technique, Kapalabhati. It is very important that you practice this breathing technique on an empty stomach. It is important that your back is straight, take a deep breath. While exhaling, pull the navel towards the spine. Place your right hand on your stomach to become aware of your stomach contractions. Breathe at least twenty times in this way.


About the author

Urosh Martinovic

Urosh Martinovic is a yoga and mindfulness teacher. He has experience in more than 7,000 guided classes. His work includes 1 on 1 online classes and workshops. Uros is a founder of holistic portal for Balkan Moja Solja Joge (My cup of yoga).