Yoga helps to improve physical and mental health and well-being. While it is unlikely to treat acid reflux directly, it may impact other factors that can contribute to the condition.

Someone who experiences a rising, burning sensation just behind the breastbone in their chest and throat may have acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER). It is relatively common and occurs when the contents of the stomach travel up to the throat via the esophagus.

Many people may try complementary and alternative therapies — such as yoga — if nonprescription and prescription medications do not help reduce their reflux-related symptoms.

Read on to learn more about how yoga can help with symptoms, yoga poses to try, and safety considerations.

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Yoga is an ancient practice rooted in Indian philosophy. It emphasizes physical postures called asanas, breathing techniques called pranayama, and meditation called dhyana to align the body and mind.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), yoga may improve physical and mental health and help control noncommunicable diseases, such as:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • chronic respiratory disease
  • cancer
  • diabetes

There is very limited research specifically exploring the relationship between acid reflux and yoga.

For instance, most studies focusing on yoga and acid reflux are typically case studies focusing on one individual. Due to the lack of control groups in these studies, they can only provide preliminary findings. These are not applicable to a larger population.

While this preliminary research indicates that yoga may help with acid reflux, it does not prove cause and effect.

Preliminary research suggests that yoga may help acid reflux in the following ways:

Improve anti-reflux barrier function

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a band of muscle fibers between the esophagus and stomach.

It is a valve that opens to allow food into the stomach and closes to prevent the contents from flowing back up. Acid reflux may occur if there is a decrease in LES pressure. The pressure may reduce if the LES becomes weak or relaxes at times when it should not.

Research indicates that breathing exercises may significantly improve the pressure the LES generates, relieving acid reflux-related symptoms. The mechanism behind this could be breathing exercises enhancing the anti-regurgitation barrier, particularly the skeletal muscles that support the functioning of the LES.

Strengthen the diaphragm

An older 2013 article published in the International Journal of Yoga mentions that certain types of yoga, such as Kapalbhati and Agnisar Kriya, could be useful in managing reflux.

Kapalbhati is a rapid breathing exercise of pranayama, and Agnisar Kriya involves pulling the abdomen in and snapping the muscles in and out while holding a breath. Practitioners say that Agnisar Kriya may improve digestion and increase metabolism.

According to research, both forms of yoga may strengthen the diaphragm and lead to reduced LES relaxation and increased LES tone. In combination, these effects may decrease episodes of acid reflux.

Reduce stress

Stress may contribute to many conditions, including acid reflux.

In a 2015 study on people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), 45.6% of them experienced “feelings of continued stress.” Some data show that stress may increase stomach acid secretion, which could lead to reflux.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), several studies agree that yoga is beneficial for stress. Yoga lowers the stress response of the digestive tract, so it may help tackle acid reflux.

Alleviate anxiety and depression

2015 research indicates that anxiety and depression may play a role in acid reflux for some people. Additionally, 2017 research suggests that GERD’s adverse effect on quality of life may increase anxiety and depression, creating a cycle that perpetuates both conditions.

A 2021 study found that yoga could help treat anxiety. Researchers assigned people with anxiety to three groups to compare how Kundalini yoga, CBT, or stress management education affected their symptoms. After 3 months, 54% of study participants practicing yoga had significantly improved symptoms.

However, the NCCIH states that although the research on yoga for anxiety disorders is mildly positive, it is still in the early stages of investigation.

Maintain a moderate weight

Acid reflux is strongly associated with excess body weight. Therefore reaching a moderate body weight is an effective therapy for people with obesity and reflux.

Practicing yoga may help a person with this in various ways.

For example, a 2016 study found that people following a yoga program were more mindful about what they ate and more in tune with their hunger and fullness cues. These factors help people decrease their food intake and increase their awareness of overeating.

Yoga may also increase muscle tone and improve metabolism, which helps to support weight loss.

Yoga practitioners may recommend the following yoga practices for digestive disorders:

  • Vibhaga pranayama (yogic deep breathing)
  • Madhya pranayama (chest breathing)
  • Adham pranayama (abdominal breathing)
  • Nadi Shuddhi (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Vatasara (air swallowing)
  • Vatasara with holding
  • Laghu Shankha Prakshalana (short intestinal wash)
  • Kapalabhati (frontal brain cleansing)
  • Agnisara (activating the digestive fire)
  • Suryanamaskar (sun salutation)
  • Shitali (cooling breath)
  • Shitkari (hissing breath)
  • Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
  • om chanting

Yoga is generally a safe form of physical activity when performed under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. However, as with all forms of physical activity, it has an inherent injury risk. Severe injuries are rare.

People over age 65 should be particularly cautious when practicing yoga. More people in this age group receive yoga-related emergency room treatment for injuries than those in younger age groups.

There is limited research exploring the relationship between acid reflux and yoga.

Some small preliminary studies have investigated whether yoga improves acid reflux and noted promising findings.

Yoga may help acid reflux by improving the anti-reflux barrier function, strengthening the diaphragm, and reducing stress. It can also help a person maintain a moderate weight.