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10 Yoga Stretches to Help Banish Belly Bloat

We all get hit with digestive discomforts from time to time. To find some natural relief, look to the centuries-old practice of yoga to help stretch those belly muscles and kick-start the digestive system. Check out these 10 yoga poses to ease belly bloat.

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Downward-facing dog

Downward dog is a yoga practice staple and works to relieve uncomfortable gas buildup in the belly by improving circulation to stimulate digestion. Standing with your feet hips-width apart, bend at the waist until your hands touch the floor, positioning the body into an inverted "V" shape. Making sure your arms are now shoulder-width apart, press hands and feet firmly into the floor, and take several deep breaths, resting deeper into the stretch with each exhale. Find out even more daily habits that reduce belly bloat.

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Upward-facing dog

The upward-facing dog pose provides a nice belly stretch while elongating the abdominal muscles, pushing bloat out of the belly. Lying face-down on the floor with legs spread hips-width apart, bend the elbows and plant the palms into the floor by your shoulders as if you were about to do a push-up. Breathing in, push yourself up by lifting through the sternum, stretching the chest open, and elongating the belly. To avoid additional pressure on the spine, be sure to lift your legs slightly off the ground by planting the toes down, and keep your core muscles engaged. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds, and release on your next exhalation. (Related: Find out when bloating is normal—and when it's not.)

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Knees-to-chest

Aptly known as "the wind-relieving pose," this simple stretch delivers when it comes to relieving digestive woes. By bringing the knees to the chest, you can soothe your stomach by improving digestion to release the buildup of gas. Start by lying flat on your back, arms resting at your side. Take a deep breath in, then on your exhale bend the knees and slowly bring them up to your chest, hugging your legs into your body. From here, you can gently rock from side to side, raise your chin toward your knees, or alternate bringing your knees to your chest one leg at a time. (Related: Check out the worst foods for your belly.)

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Cat/Cow

A feel-good move to relieve pressure in the back, chest, and neck, cat/cow works to reduce bloating by stretching and contracting the abdomen with each motion. To find yourself in this simple stretch, start by positioning yourself on all fours, keeping knees hips-width, and arms shoulder-width apart. As you inhale, raise your head and tailbone toward the ceiling, looking up at the sky as you bend your back. As you exhale, round the head and tailbone down, creating a deep arch with your back. You can do this series of stretches around eight to ten times, or as needed throughout the day. (Related: These energizing stretches will help you rock your day!)

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Child's pose

Child's pose is known as a "grounding pose," and one you can always come back to relieve pain associated with bloating by applying pressure to the lower abdomen. To find child's pose, kneel on the floor, hips resting on the heels of your feet. Bending at the waist, reach the arms out in front of you and slowly crawl your fingers forward, stretching as far as is comfortable. Once you're settled, breath in and out for about 20 to 30 seconds, before walking yourself back into an upright position with your hands. Repeat as many times as you like.

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Forward bend

The forward bend is a simple pose that works to relieve bloating by warming up the belly to promote circulation, helping those digestive juices flow. Standing upright, take a deep inhale, and as you exhale bend forward at the waist, taking care to keep a straight back and spine. From here, depending on your flexibility you can place your hands on the floor, behind your neck, or even just allow them to hang, swaying gently from side to side—just do what feels good! To release, slowly roll the body back upright, taking a minute to center your breath once you reach your starting position. (Related: Check out these 10 ways to lose weight while sitting at your desk.)

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Seated forward bend

The deep stretch found within a seated forward bend applies a lot of pressure to the abdominal muscles, diminishing discomfort with every breath. (This one does go a little deeper than the standard forward bend, so try not to push too far past what is comfortable for you and your body.) Seated on the floor, stretch your legs straight out in front of you, feet together. Then, bend forward at the hips, reaching toward your feet, keeping your back as straight as possible. Take a few deep breaths once you've reached as far as you can, and use your hands to slowly guide your way back into an upright position.

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Seated twist

Much like a wet towel, the seated twist works to "wring out" any air trapped within the abdomen while improving blood flow to vital organs. Start by having a seat on the floor, legs outstretched. Bending the right knee, bring your right leg over the left, resting the foot just to the outside of the left thigh. Turning your torso toward your bent leg, bring the right arm around the right knee, inhale to lengthen the spine, and twist the body away from the leg. For a modified version, sit upright in a chair and point both legs in one direction. Turning your torso in the opposite direction, use your hands to grip the back of the seat, slowly twisting. (Related: These chair exercises can give you a good workout.)

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Crescent lunge

This deep pose, a variation of a sun salutation, takes the ab-elongating power of upward-facing dog and adds the additional benefit of stretching the psoas muscles, which may contribute to belly cramping if left too tight. Starting in downward-facing dog, bring your right leg up in between your hands as you exhale. Bend the front knee 90 degrees, and keeping feet hips-width apart, bring the arms up on either side of your head, reaching toward the sky. You can keep the back leg engaged, or lower to rest the knee on the ground. Take five to eight deep breaths here, and then release back into downward-facing dog before repeating on the opposite side. Find out how to flatten your belly without a single crunch.

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Deep breathing

It sounds simple, but this is actually the most important move of them all. Yoga is all about connecting with the breath, and the simple act of deep breathing exercises can work to help reduce stress and anxiety, which some researchers believe may directly affect your digestive functions. This exercise is ideal for anyone looking to unwind or center themselves, and can easily be practiced pretty much anytime, anywhere. Seating yourself in a comfortable position, soften the face, close your eyes, and alternate inhaling and exhaling, keeping your spine elongated (you can imagine a string pulling you upward from the top of your head).

Originally Published in Reader's Digest