Yoga for Hernia: Everything You Need to Know

Yoga therapy inspite of being the conventional treatment has little love among the masses for treatment of hernia. This is why it is very common for someone with a hernia to be looking for alternative ways. Especially since, even after surgery, the hernia could return! In some cases of hernia, surgery has even led to further complications.

Scientifically surgery still remains the best solution to hernia; there is absolutely no way to say otherwise. However, yoga exercises have shown a lot of promise in recent times in the treatment of hernias.

Can you do yoga with a hernia?

Yes, yoga with its safest and gentle approach of poses can be done without any discomfort, if you have a hernia. Practicing yoga strengthens your abdominal muscles and reduces fat, which in turn relieves the pressure from the abdominal wall and may improve hernia symptoms.

There are many styles of yoga, and among these individual styles, there are different types of yoga poses. Some yoga poses should be avoided in hernia which can twist and pull your abdomen in such unnatural ways, that can both hurt and aggravate the hernia. However, it’s found, selected poses are effective in the treatment of reversible inguinal hernia.

How to approach yoga with a hernia?

The biggest question that probably comes to mind is if yoga can, in reality, replace hernia surgery. In theory, yoga could replace surgery. But, the leap from theory to practice is immense. 

In any kind of hernia, you will have to focus on yoga that gently works on your kegel muscles to strengthen your pelvic floor. At the same time, you will also need to include yoga poses that will help you tuck in the protrusion and heal the abdomen muscles.

However it’s not advised to choose yoga over surgery, still, if you wish, you will have to practice yoga under the supervision of someone highly trained with immense dedication. Moreover, work on increasing your body awareness -to pull the poses every bit perfectly. You will need to tap into the meditative nature of yoga in hernia treatment.

Is Hatha yoga good for hernia?

People often have an impression that Hatha Yoga asanas are always very intensive and physically demanding. Which is true in some ways, but doesn’t necessarily indicate difficulty and pain. Hatha Yoga also has a meditative nature, and some can be very relaxing and restorative. 

As a matter of fact, even in hernia, you will have to include certain Hatha yoga like matsyasana and pawanmukhtasana. On the contrary, certain Hatha Yoga poses can actually aggravate hernia. For example, Bhujangasana and salabhasana can increase the pressure on the protrusion and aggravate the condition.

Post-surgery yoga for hernia

Post-surgery yoga is important, especially in the case of inguinal hernia, to prevent a recurrence.

It is advisable to start any kind of yoga after a sufficient rest period, which is mostly 6 weeks to 10 weeks depending on the type of hernia and the procedure of surgery. The rest period is always better consulted with your surgeon.

Again, yoga poses that create excessive pressure around abdominal muscles should be avoided after hernia surgery, for example, forward and backward bending, side-reclining leg lift, twisting, sun salutation, prone pose, and camel pose.

Note that yoga is best used as preventive and post-surgery healing, in cases of hernia. However, if you wish to replace surgery, you will have the best results in reversible inguinal hernia. In cases of other types of hernias, there haven’t been sufficient studies to prove the benefits.

Yoga exercises for Inguinal Hernia

Inguinal is the most common type of hernia, where a part of your intestine bulges through your abdominal walls, into the groin.

The focus of yoga exercise in cases of inguinal hernia should be initially to pull back the protrusion with an inversion yoga pose. Followed by an abdominal muscle healing pose and finally a pose to strengthen the kegel muscles.

1. Assisted Sarvangasana

Doing the normal Sarvangasana is what many would opt for instinctively, especially if it is something within capacity. However, in an inguinal hernia, it’s best to opt for the assisted variant of Sarvangasana where a person will hold you into the pose.

For an inguinal hernia, all you need is the counter-balancing effect of inversion on the bulge. In the regular variant, the putting up of the pose and the balancing can put unnecessary pressure on your abdomen.

Instructions

  • First find an appropriate assist, whom you can trust and will comply with care. Preferably, a spouse, parent, sibling, offspring, or a close friend. Obviously, if you have a personal fitness instructor that works best.
  • Now lie on the ground, on your back.
  • Ask your assist to stand towards your leg.
  • Now you will have to pull up your entire body vertically and balance it on your shoulders. 
  • Your assist will need to hold your legs and help you raise your body and hold you still to balance on your shoulders as well.
  • Keep your entire body, from your shoulders to feet in one line. Do not bend any part of your body.
  • Hold your pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Do not repeat the pose.

Caution – As you release this pose you might feel a bit lightheaded. Do not get up suddenly. First, lie down on your back for a few seconds, then sit in an easy pose for a few seconds and then move on. Remember the transition between each asana is equally important as the asanas themselves.

2. Pawanmukhtasana

pawanmuktasana as variation of apanasana.
pawanmuktasana as variation of apanasana. Image Source: Canva

Pawanmukhtasana is an ideal exercise when it comes to inguinal hernia. The retracting leg into abdomen posture of the pose helps the restoration of abdominal muscles, as well as, attempts to draw in the protrusion. Hernia can often cause abdominal pain and digestive issues -which too, can be relieved by this asana.

Instructions

  • Lie on your back on the floor.
  • Stretch your legs Infront and straighten your upper back.
  • Join your thighs, knees and legs together.
  • Now bend your knees, and draw them toward your chest.
  • Try to bring your knees as close to your chest as possible.
  • Hold down your knees against your chest in a fixed position, by clasping your hands around your knee.
  • Now ideally this pose also requires you to lift up your head and bury it between your knees.
  • In case of hernia you will need to modify this step. You need to lift up your head to a point where you can feel contractions in your abdominal muscles. However, you will avoid tucking your head in between your knees.
  • Taking your head all the way up can build a downward pressure in your lower abdomen; aggravating your hernia.
  • Take 10 breaths and release. Repeat the pose 3 times.

Note – Release your pose and lie in Savasana for 30 seconds before you move on. It will give better results, as well as, allow your body to return to its normal state.

3. Malasana (Garland Pose)

garland pose or malasana
Source: Shutterstock

Malasana addresses the final piece of the puzzle, in the case of an inguinal hernia. This pose strengthens your kegel floor for better support to the abdominal region. Practicing it will ensure that you don’t face conditions like a hernia in the future.

Instructions

  • Stand straight with your legs hip length apart.
  • Keep your upper body and head straight, and your shoulder blades open.
  • Increase the gap between your feet by a foot, and rotate your feet outward by 45 degrees.
  • Now Slightly lean forward from your hip, but with spine and head straight, and start sitting down for a squat.
  • As you sit down let your knees point outward as well.
  • Do this yoga Infront of a wall, or a similar support -so that you can take support while sitting down. This will help you regulate the pressure, according to your comfort, you allow to build up in your abdominal region.
  • Keep going down, till you are sitting in a full squat
  • Keep the distance between your feet such that it doesn’t hurt your ankles and toes in full squat. Also as you sit down, try not to keep your abdominal muscles rigid.
  • You can place your hands on your knees, fold your hands in a Namaste mudra.
  • Hold the pose for about a couple of minutes, and do not repeat the pose.

Note – While releasing the pose simply use your hands to support and then sit on your buttocks. Sit in an easy pose and relax for a few seconds.

Yoga exercises of hiatal hernia

Yoga poses including cardiovascular stretches, gastrointestinal stretches, and upper abdominal stretches are a good idea in Hiatal Hernia.

Hiatal hernia is often treated with lifestyle changes and exercises. In this kind of hernia, the stomach tissues push through the diaphragm and enter the chest. Whilst other hernias are downward or lateral encroaching, this type is upward encroaching. Thus Inversion poses, which are highly beneficial in other hernia types are conversely counterproductive in cases of hiatal hernia. 

As the stomach pushes upwards in a hiatal hernia, it can often cause acid reflux. Thus along with a couple of unique yoga poses for hiatal hernia, you should also try pawanmukhtasana to relieve GERD symptoms. Also do not use the following unique hiatal hernia yoga exercises in other types of hernia, as it could have negative impacts.

1. The warm water fix

The first thing you need to focus on is bringing down your stomach to its normal position. This fix uses the simplicity of weighing down your stomach by filling it up with warm water, accompanying it with downward pull by jumping on your toes.

This exercise won’t make any changes overnight, but as you do this daily your stomach will begin to slide back to its normal position. The warm water will also help you with digestive issues and bowel movement issues that are usually associated with hiatal hernia.

Instructions

  • As soon as you wake up, drink 300 ml of Luke warm water. Which is more or less a full standard size glass.
  • Stand up and stretch your hands sideways horizontally. Now bend your elbows, fold your arms, and bring back your hands to touch your chest. The purpose of this is to open up your diaphragm.
  • Now rise up on the ball of your toes and swiftly drop down on your heels.
  • Repeat this number of times, you can go up to 50.
  • Now put your hands up, open your mouth and breathe consciously for 15 seconds. The breathing will help with the closing of the diaphragm

Note – While dropping on your heels don’t just leave your weight on the fall, hold it till your toes touch the ground. Otherwise, repeated rough impacts could scar your abdominal muscles. 

2. Abdominal sit up

sit up yoga exercise for hiatal hernia
Image: Canva

The abdominal sit up is very much like the traditional crunch. However, this will focus less on reducing your fat and fleshing out your abs, and more on building the core strength of your abdominal muscles and chest muscles. The movement of the abdominal sit up will also help you push down your stomach from your chest region.

Instructions

  • Lie back flat on your back, on the ground.
  • Bend your knee and place your feet on the ground, as you would in case of crunches. 
  • Now with slight contraction of your abdominal muscles, pull up your upper body towards your knee -as you would in case of crunches.
  • However, unlike crunches you won’t attempt to reach upto your knees. You just need to lift up your shoulders off the ground.
  • Hold the tension in your abdomen for a few seconds and lie back. 
  • Do 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Note – while sitting up, do not take any support, especially not with your hands. Let your abdomen do all the work. 

3. Kapalabhati Pranayama

kapalbhati weight loss
Image Source: Shutterstock

The final exercise that you need to address for hiatal hernia is going to be the strengthening of your diaphragm. The sharp exhalation technique of Kapalabhati swiftly stretches and compresses your diaphragm, giving them the much needed strengthening exercise.

Instructions

  • Sit in an easy pose, or any other comfortable or meditative cross-legged pose.
  • Open your shoulder blades, keep your spine and head straight.
  • Keep your hands on your knees.
  • Take a deep breath in, place your right hand on your stomach to feel the movement and make 20 successive short bursts of exhalation spurts.
  • Make a contraction of your abdominal muscles to make the exhalation spurts.

Note – you need not worry about the inhalation, as your abdominal muscles relax -the inhalation will happen automatically.

Yoga exercises for umbilical hernia

Umbilical hernia requires inversion yoga poses, upper and lower abdominal stretching poses, and bodyweight reduction yoga poses. An umbilical hernia is also very common in children.

In umbilical hernia abdominal tissues push through the muscle wall and protrude toward your belly button. In this condition too, you can try the assisted Sarvangasana, as described for inguinal hernia. Apart from that there will be a couple of other yoga exercises for umbilical hernia.

1. Cycling in the air

In umbilical hernia the intestine tends to protrude outwards towards the belly button. This means the weak spot occurs at the very centre of your tummy. To resolve this issue you will need to pursue exercises that build up inwards tension in the centre of your abdomen and contain it in the region as well. The cycling in the air does just the job.

Instructions

  • Lie on a slightly sliding surface, for example, a slant board. Put your head at the lower level and your legs at the upper.
  • Now shadow pedal with your legs.
  • Hold the ground at your sides with your hands for support.
  • Do this exercise for a minute, and then relax.

Note – Pedal steadily. Remember there is no maximum count you need to reach. This exercise is about steadily holding the pressure created by the pedalling leg movement within your belly button region.

2. Navasana (Boat Pose)

Boat-Pose
Image Source: Canva

Navasana aka boat pose is a very effective yoga pose when it comes to umbilical hernia. This pose includes multiple benefits for your hernia. Like the previous exercise, this pose too holds the tension entirely in the middle section not your abdomen. Additionally, this pose also increases the strength and durability of your abdominal muscles to prevent future protrusions.

Instructions

  • Sit straight on the ground in a staff pose.
  • Bend your knees and draw them closer to your body. Keep your feet against the ground.
  • Keeping your upper body straight and firm, but not stiff, gently recline back. Reclining back to a point, after which you feel like falling. Hold your upper body in that position.
  • Now use your hand as a support under your thighs, and slowly lift your feet off the ground.
  • Lift your lower leg up till you have sufficient ground clearance.
  • After you are set in the position, if you feel comfortable remove your hand support to deepen the pose.
  • Hold the pose for 5 breaths and release. Try 3 repetitions of this pose

Note – Initially you could feel a lot of tension in your abdomen, back and hamstrings. Which is good, but if you feel the tension is too much and your muscles are trembling, use support. Use your hand support under your thighs, on your hamstrings, and clasp your hands together. This will make the pose very easy. However, gradually practice to remove the support, as that will give much better results.

Yoga & other types of hernia

  • Femoral hernia – Femoral hernia is more common in women, and it occurs when tissue bulges from your abdomen, and into your upper thigh. Inversion yogas, along with yogas of your thighs and groin can help with this condition.
  • Incisional hernia – This type of hernia occurs post-surgery, when the procedure weakens or injured abdominal tissues, and leaves an opportunity for protrusion. Surgeries with vertical incisions pose a greater risk. In this case, abdominal healing and inversion yoga are the best options.
  • Epigastric Hernia – This hernia is caused when fat pushes through a weak spot in the belly wall. This occurs somewhere between the breastbone and the belly button. Inversion yoga poses, along with upper abdomen stretching yoga poses and weight reduction poses are helpful in this hernia. Certain Pranayamas can also be included for epigastric Hernia.

Note – All types of hernia can further have two different types of nature -reducible and irreducible. A hernia with irreducible nature is very severe and needs immediate medical attention.

Conclusion

Whilst there are a great many yoga poses that can benefit hernia, there are equally challenging poses that can be dangerous in hernia. Generally all Pranayama and meditative yoga practices will be safe, but you will have to be cautious with vigorous hatha yoga and power yoga; power yoga will mostly be dangerous in hernia.

Even in hatha yoga, any pose that needs you to put direct balancing or support on your abdomen can be considered dangerous. For example, locust pose, forward bends, cobra pose, wheel pose, and downward-facing dog are a few common hatha yoga poses that you must avoid practicing with a hernia.

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One Response

  1. Suzanne January 20, 2022

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