Can Surya Namaskar Help GERD?

The short and quick answer is often “no”. First it is important to determine what is causing GERD. If it is hiatal hernia, surya namaskar (also known as sun salutations) may not be helpful at all and may even be contraindicated. This comes under yoga therapy and expert guidance is essential as every one is different.

For some with GERD, it may be helpful if it is done after a shat karma kriya/cleansing technique such as kunjal (drink a couple of glasses of slightly warm, lightly salted water on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, and regurgitate it–basically throw up). This gets rid of the excess acid accumulated overnight. But again, expert guidance is necessary as this may not be good to do for many people. After kunjal, rest for a few minutes in shavasana to get the heart beat and breath settled and then try surya namaskar without holding the positions, particularly the inversions. See how it feels over a few days–if it is strengthening the gastrointestinal muscles and the valves (but these are involuntary muscles that may be affected by voluntary muscles–research evidence is unclear).

There are many questions raised around the practice of surya namaskar. It is considered the most important sequence of asanas and it is almost thought of as a panacea to all ailments–physical and mental. There are many benefits to this important flow of breath and movement but it is not good for everything. There are also as many variations as teachers, particularly in the West/US.

No asanas should be done on a full stomach, but this is particularly true of inversions (where the head comes below the heart and often below the stomach). So anyone with gastrointestinal acid reflux, hyperacidity, gastrointestinal viruses, ulcers, may not benefit and may even aggravate or trigger a worse outcome. This is also true for very high blood pressure, cardiac problems, glaucoma, severe headaches/migraines, back problems. Some people benefit from doing the series with significant personalized modifications.

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