From the Mat to Metabolism: How Yoga can transform our Gut Health

As a Gastrointestinal surgeon many of the patients I see are struggling with poor metabolism from having been on extreme diets and medications which are all contributing to slowing down the metabolism.

By Dr Arun Dhir

Yoga has garnered significant attention for its holistic health benefits, including its positive impact on gut health. The intricate relationship between yoga and the gastrointestinal system can be attributed to several physiological and psychological mechanisms.

As a GI surgeon, I intuitively knew of this but could never bring myself to experience it for many reasons (excuses). Until one day (about 11 years ago) one of my mentors at the time mentioned something that resonated very deeply.

“You only know something if you are able to teach it to someone else.”

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A decision was made that day.

For the next two years I embarked on the journey to become a Yoga teacher. A mission achieved successfully, and I am proud to say that more than anyone else, I was the one who got to experience the difference this time-tested practice had to bestow in my own life.

As a Gastrointestinal surgeon many of the patients I see are struggling with poor metabolism from having been on extreme diets and medications which are all contributing to slowing down the metabolism.

While the word Yoga may scare many of these individuals, aspects of Yoga such as mindful breathing and managing the stress response with gently mind body movement, will certainly help calm the patterns of reactionary choice making that so many of us engage in.

The mind-body connection that Yoga fosters encourage mindful eating habits. By enhancing body awareness, individuals practicing yoga may develop better dietary choices and eating patterns, thereby make healthy choices. This supports gut microbiota diversity and health. Emerging research suggests that a diverse gut microbiome is essential for maintaining a robust immune system and boosting metabolism.

On the subject of gut health, there is no convincing needed that while yoga cannot fix acute attacks of biliary colic or a ruptured appendix, the regular practice of yoga allows one to develop and maintain gut resilience.

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The practice of yoga incorporates many physical postures, known as asanas, that can directly influence our digestive system. Certain asanas (postures) such as twists and forward bends, are designed to massage the internal organs, promote the movement of food through the digestive tract, and enhance nutrient absorption. This mechanical stimulation can alleviate common digestive issues such as constipation and bloating, which is the starting point of many gastrointestinal ailments.

Another aspect of Yoga is breath control (pranayama) and mindfulness, both of which play a crucial role in modulating the autonomic nervous system. Chronic stress is a well-documented factor that exacerbates gut-related issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Yoga practice reduces stress by activating the 10th cranial nerve – the Vagus nerve which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), often referred to as the “rest and digest” system. This helps to decrease gut motility problems and reduce inflammation.

As we approach the International Yoga Day on 21st June, let’s make an endeavour to integrate the practice of yoga into our daily routine. This practice when applied with faith and consistency, offers a multifaceted approach to improving gut health. Besides improving digestive function, this practice reduces stress, enhances the mind-body connection and empowers us to make healthier choices.


  1. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
  2. Exercise influence on the microbiome–gut–brain axis. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2018.1562268
  3. Possible Roles of Cyclic Meditation in Regulation of the Gut-Brain Axis.doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.76803

Contributor: Dr Arun Dhir, FRCS (Edinburgh), FRACS is a Melbourne based Gastrointestinal Surgeon. He has practiced in many tertiary institutions and is a Senior lecturer with University of Melbourne. He is the author of nine books that bring to light various aspects of the need to adopt an integrative approach to our health and wellness. One of his more popular titles being “Happy Gut, Healthy Weight”.  Dr Arun is also a Yoga and Meditation teacher credentialed by Yoga Australia. He is a Specialist Reserve Surgeon with the Royal Australian Army and also a member of the Vic State Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). For further details at www.DrArunDhir.com

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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