10 Yoga Poses That Help With Bloating, Back Pain, and More

These moves from your favorite fitness class might help heal your most frustrating body problems.

Aching back? Menstrual cramps? Next time you're hurting, grab a yoga mat— your favorite fitness class can also help heal you.

Research shows that yoga can help with a variety of pains and aches. For example, a 2015 study in the Journal of Rheumatology found that 8 weeks of yoga improved pain, flexibility, and general health among arthritic adults who do not exercise much. This adds to evidence that yoga can provide relief for headaches and menstrual cramps, as shown in a 2015 Journal of Physical Therapy Science article and 2019 Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice meta-analysis.

Wondering how yoga can help you? Here are 10 poses that help with some of the most commonly annoying issues, provided by Katie Brauer, CEO of The Yoga Professional and former chief program officer of Yoga Six.

Menstrual Cramps

Monthly menstrual cramps can be painful and annoying, and many people with periods treat their cramps using over-the-counter painkillers and birth control pills. Consider trying these poses at the height of your pain.

Janu Sirsasana

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While sitting, extend your left leg out straight and bend your right leg. Your right foot should press into the inside of your thigh. Fold forward over your extended leg, hinging from the hips. Elongate your spine and breathe.

How it helps: This move reduces anxiety and stress levels, helping you relax. Bending from your groin also stretches muscles that are tense from cramping.

Malasana

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Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out. Squat down deeply. Bring your hands together in a prayer position as you press your elbows into your inner thighs. If you would like, you can twist your back to each side. For additional support, you can place a balancing block under your butt.

How it helps: The Malasana stretches your thighs, groin, and lower back. Additionally, this move helps support digestion and affects the ascending and descending colon to help ease discomfort in your lower abdomen.

Stress-Related Teeth Grinding

So stressed your jaw hurts? You might be suffering from bruxism, also known as teeth grinding. For many people, teeth grinding is an unconscious habit brought on by stress or anxiety. It can lead to dental problems, jaw disorders, and headaches. Meet with your dentist or healthcare provider if you are concerned about teeth grinding.

To ease the after-effects of a frustrating day, you can use these poses to relieve stress and tension in the neck, upper shoulders, and trapezius.

Eagle Arms

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Sitting up straight, put both arms out in front of you. Wrap your right arm under your left and catch your wrist or palms. Then, lift your fingertips straight into the air, pressing your pinky fingers forward in the direction away from you. Take several breaths. Then repeat, wrapping your left arm under your right.

How it helps: Eagle Arms stretches out your rhomboid muscles, which helps to relieve any built-up muscle tension in your shoulder blades.

Chest Stretch

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The chest stretch can be done in a seated or standing position. Move your arms behind you and interlace your fingers, stretching out your chest. Bring your chin to your chest and roll your neck gently, side to side.

How it helps: By rotating your neck, you reduce tightness in the muscles surrounding your jaw.

Back Pain From Poor Posture

Most of us spend hours hunched over our phones and computers. A 2014 study published in the journal Surgical Technology International showed that looking down at your screen may put as much as 60 pounds of added pressure on your spine. This poor posture over time can lead to what physical therapists dub "text neck."

Before starting these poses, "open up your spine with the cat-and-cow pose—start in the tabletop position [on your hands and knees] and curve and collapse your spine 10-15 times," Brauer recommended. Then move on to:

Bridge Pose

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Start by lying on the ground with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground. Then, raise your hips straight up towards the sky. Hold the stretch. If you need, you can place a block under your lower back for stabilization.

How it helps: The bridge pose helps open up your hip flexors and chest, decreasing tension and stress in the muscles.

Belly Bloat

When a big meal leads to gas and an upset stomach, a few minutes of yoga can help reduce your discomfort. Brauer stated that many of the yoga poses that ease menstrual cramps may work for your bloating. "Focus on movements that will activate or stimulate the digestive system," she recommended.

Seated Twist

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Sit up straight with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right leg at the knee and take it over your left leg, planting your foot on the floor. Inhale to straighten your spine, and exhale while twisting to the right. Use your right hand behind you like a kickstand for support. Take several breaths, continuing to lengthen your spine with your breaths and twisting more deeply with your exhales. Repeat on the other side with your left leg bent over your right.

How it helps: This move helps relax the muscles of the torso and outer hip, and the twisting action helps move gas through your digestive system.

Deep Belly Breathing

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Sit up straight or lay down with your hands placed over your diaphragm (just under your ribcage). Breathe deeply through your stomach so your abdomen expands and contracts. Your chest should not expand and contract.

How it helps: This form of breathing through the abdomen helps stretch out your abdominal muscles and massages your organs.

Ringing Ears

Tinnitus is a ringing, roaring, clicking, buzzing, or hissing sound in the ears. This is a common condition affecting approximately 25 million Americans. Research, including this 2018 article in the journal Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health, suggests that emotional stress could be a cause of tinnitus. Yoga can help relieve stress and could reduce ringing in your ears.

"Yoga in its broadest sense—especially breathing exercises and some basic postures—will immediately dilute and dissipate stress," explained Brauer.

Three-part breath

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Breathe in and out through your nose. When inhaling, relax the abdomen, allowing it to expand with your breath rising through your abdomen, ribs, and chest. Exhale from top to bottom, with your abdomen deflating last.

How it helps: This breathing exercise helps relax your mind and body.

Triangle Pose

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Start in a standing position with your legs wide apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, keeping your left foot facing forward. Lift both arms straight and keep them parallel to the floor. Then, reach your right hand down to your right foot and bring your left arm straight into the air, bending at the waist. To release, straighten your upper body back up. Repeat on the opposite side.

How it helps: Triangle pose opens your whole body, allowing you to focus on stretching outward and letting go of stress.

Karna Pidasana

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Lie on your back and bring both legs up towards the sky. Bend both knees and bring them toward your body down to your head. Use your knees to muffle your ears.

Because this is an advanced move, beginners can use a modification. Put a yoga block under your hips and lie on your back, stretching your legs up a wall. Then take both hands and cover both ears.

How it helps: This move works to create a gentle suction on your ears as you relax your body. This can help you focus on your breathing to eliminate stress.

All photos: Courtesy of Katie Brauer

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