By Emma Stessman
Bloating can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you took a long flight and forgot to move around, or you ate too many salty snacks during movie night. Whatever the cause, when the uncomfortable symptoms of bloat strike, you want to get rid of them. Fast.
The good news is, you can. And movement is a super-effective way to do it. Thankfully, we’re not talking about HIIT or cardio (likely the last thing you want to do with a bloated belly). Simple stretching and basic Pilates movements can help relieve the built-up water and gas that causes bloat, says Elaine Hayes, the founder of MNTSTUDIO, a Bay area-based chain of Pilates and barre studios.
“Moving your body helps increase blood flow and stimulate your lymphatic system, which helps the body drain excess fluid,” Hayes says, noting that Pilates, in particular, involves a lot of twisting and engaging of the core, which can expel air.
Using proper breathing techniques can also be an excellent way to find relief. “The abs are connected to the diaphragm,” Hayes says. “So when you breathe correctly, you send more blood to your abdominal region, which will then help alleviate any discomfort in the area.”
Try this quick de-bloating tip: Sit up tall, and place your hands on the outside of your ribcage. Take a big inhale through your nose, trying to breathe into the back of your ribcage; you want to be able to feel your fingers spread apart, Hayes says. As you exhale, feel your belly button drop to your spine and your ribs zip together. Continue this rhythmic breathing for two to three minutes. This is called a Pilates breath.
If you have a bit more time and are looking for relief after a big meal or before a major event, grab your yoga mat and flow through this 5-minute anti-bloat regimen crafted by Hayes. Each move is designed to stimulate the lymphatic system, increase blood flow, and release built-up air and water, so you can feel like your best de-bloated self.
4 Exercises to Relieve Belly Bloat
Start lying on your back, arms by your sides and legs lifted up toward the ceiling. Your feet should be positioned in a Pilates V (heels touching, toes apart). Take a deep breath in, dipping your legs slightly. Exhale, lifting your pelvis and rolling your legs up and over, so your thighs are above your face, and your feet and pointing toward the wall behind you. Keep your arms grounded at your sides. Inhale again, and open your legs so each foot touches one side of the mat. Exhale, and roll slowly back down, touching one vertebra to the floor at a time. Once your tailbone touches the ground, bring your legs back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 8 to 10 times.
Begin in a seated position, with legs extended out in front of you and ankles flexed. Extend both arms out to the sides in a T-position. Take a deep inhale, then exhale and twist to the left. Keep your hips completely square, twisting only from your waist. (A good way to check your form is to keep your feet side-by-side. If you’re twisting from your hips, your feet will move apart.) When you reach a complete twist, pulse twice. Inhale back to center and repeat on the other side. Do a total of 10 reps (5 on each side).
Lie on your mat, belly-down, with your forehead touching the floor. Extend arms out in front of you and legs behind. Press your pubic bone down into the floor, to anchor your pelvis. Lift your chest, arms, and legs so you’re in a “superman” position. Flutter kick your limbs, as you control your breath; inhaling for five counts and exhaling for five counts. Continue pumping your arms and legs for a total of 5 to 7 controlled breaths.
Lie on your back with your legs raised and bent at the knees, in a tabletop position. Reach your arms straight out toward the ceiling. Inhale, then exhale, curling your head, neck, and shoulders up, moving your arms by your sides so they hover above the floor. Keep your legs in tabletop, or extend them out in front of you. Press your lower back into the mat, so there’s no empty space. Start breathing rhythmically, inhaling for five counts and exhaling for five. While counting, pump your arms up and down to match your breath, never letting your arms touch the floor. Repeat this 10 times.
(Photos: Shutterstock and Elaine Hayes)