Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects millions of people worldwide, causing discomfort, pain, and digestive distress.
For those who experience IBS, medication and diet modifications are common management strategies. Incorporating yoga for IBS into your routine can offer additional relief by targeting stress reduction and promoting overall well-being.
In this article you will learn more about:
- What is IBS?
- Understanding the Relationship Between IBS and Stress
- Benefits of Yoga for IBS
- Yoga Poses for IBS Relief
- Balancing Prana and Apana Vayus
- Yoga to Support Digestive Health
Read on with us!
What is IBS?
IBS is a condition that affects the functioning of the large intestine, which plays a vital role in the digestion and elimination of food.
It is estimated that around 10-15% of the world’s population suffers from IBS, making it one of the most prevalent conditions affecting the gut.
Although the exact cause of IBS is not fully understood, it is believed to result from a combination of factors such as abnormal bowel contractions, heightened sensitivity to pain signals in the gut, changes in gut flora, and psychological factors such as stress and anxiety.
People living with IBS may experience a range of symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, excessive gas, and changes in bowel movements, including diarrhea, constipation, or both.
One of the defining features of IBS is the presence of chronic abdominal pain or discomfort, which is often described as cramping or aching and can vary in intensity.
It is essential to understand that living with IBS can be challenging at times, as the symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, causing physical and emotional discomfort.
Understanding the Relationship Between IBS and Stress
The correlation between IBS and stress is well established. Stress is known to exacerbate the symptoms of IBS, and in some cases, it may even be a triggering factor for the development of IBS. Stress can:
- Lead to changes in the gut and its functioning. It can affect the movement and contractions of the intestines, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or both.
- Impact the immune system and overall inflammation levels in the body. Chronic stress can lead to increased inflammation, which can worsen the symptoms of IBS.
- Influence the communication between the brain and the gut. They are connected through a bidirectional pathway called the gut-brain axis. This means that stress can affect the gut, but the gut can also send signals to the brain, influencing mood and stress levels.
Benefits of Yoga for IBS
Yoga offers several benefits for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- It promotes relaxation and reduces stress, which is known to trigger or exacerbate IBS symptoms.
- Yoga for IBS can help calm the nervous system, alleviate anxiety, and improve overall well-being.
- Certain yoga poses can aid digestion and relieve constipation or bloating, common symptoms of IBS.
- Gentle stretching and twisting movements stimulate the digestive system, increase blood flow, and facilitate smoother bowel movements.
- Yoga encourages mindful eating habits and fosters awareness of one’s body, allowing individuals to identify and avoid trigger foods that worsen their IBS symptoms.
Yoga Poses for IBS Relief
Every person is different, and we encourage you to talk with your doctor and a trusted yoga teacher before you practice yoga poses for IBSThere are many gentle Irritable Bowel Syndrome physical exercise choices for you to try out, and they may include yoga poses for IBS like:
1# Wind Relieving Pose (Apanasana)
This is a supine yoga for IBS posture that you can practice on your bed or on the ground.
It involves mildly compressing the abdomen by bringing the knees towards the chest.
This gentle pressure may help stimulate peristalsis, the wave-like muscle contractions that propel food through the intestines.
It promotes healthy digestion and eases bowel movements.
2# Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Similarly to apanasana, child’s pose also brings mild compression to the abdominal organs which can sometimes bring relief for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
3# Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
This is another asana that can be practiced on the ground or on your bed, just laying on your back.
The twisting motion of the supine twist stimulates the abdominal organs and can help facilitate digestion.
It increases blood flow to the digestive system, potentially improving the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and alleviating IBS symptoms such as bloating, gas, and constipation.
The twisting action in this yoga for IBS twist gently massages the abdominal area, aiding in relieving tension and promoting healthy bowel movements, stimulating the process of peristalsis.
4# Garland Pose (Malasana)
Malasana encourages the release of excess intestinal gas and minimizes bloating. It stretches and massages the digestive system, helping to alleviate discomfort and prevent gas buildup.
The squatting position of Garland Pose can assist in easing constipation.
It activates and stimulates the lower abdominal muscles, promoting regular bowel movements and relieving constipation symptoms.
Practice this yoga for IBS pose sitting on a block for more comfort.
5# Crocodile Pose (Marakasana)
Makarasana is performed by lying face down with the weight of the body resting on the abdomen.
This gentle compression of the abdominal area can provide a soothing effect, encourage relaxation of belly muscles, and aid digestion.
6# Seal Pose
While in seal pose, gentle rocking movements can be incorporated which can massage and stimulate the abdominal area. These movements may help relieve gas, bloating, and constipation, commonly associated with IBS.
You could also consider placing a bolster perpendicularly below your chest in order to find more relaxation in the posture and encourage tension release.
7#Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
This is a gentle yoga for IBS posture that you perform lying on your back. It gently stretches the hips, groin, and lower back, which can help ease tension and cramping in the abdominal region.
Happy baby pose helps promote relaxation by calming the nervous system and releasing tension in the body.
As stress levels decrease, the overall impact on the digestive system may also decrease, leading to improved IBS symptoms.
Balancing Prana and Apana Vayus
Beyond yoga for IBS postures, we can also utilize the power of energy as a supplement to other practices and treatments to ease the symptoms and find relief.
Here is a bit more about Prana and Apana Vayus and how balancing these energies can relieve IBS symptoms:
Prana Vayu Balancing
Prana is responsible for the intake of energy, food, and thoughts. It governs the upper body, including the head, chest, and stomach.
When Prana Vayu is imbalanced, it can result in symptoms like indigestion, bloating, and anxiety.
- Regular practice of breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, square breathing, and many others, help activate the Prana Vayu, promote relaxation, and reduce anxiety.
- Pay attention to your food while eating, chew it thoroughly, and avoid any distractions. This allows you to connect with the energy of your food and helps balance Prana Vayu.
Apana Vayu Balancing
On the other hand, Apana governs the lower abdominal region, including the intestines and elimination.
An imbalance in Apana Vayu can lead to symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Practices for balancing this Vayu include:
- Specific yoga for IBS asanas like the ones explored already in this article can regulate Apana Vayu and promote healthy digestion.
- Other than yoga for IBS, engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, can help regulate Apana Vayu and promote healthy bowel movements.
- Drinking an adequate amount of water helps maintain the balance of Apana Vayu and prevents dehydration, which can worsen IBS symptoms.
As always, these practices may offer relief, but it is important to consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner or healthcare professional. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific needs.
Yoga to Support Digestive Health
If you’d like to experience a yoga for IBS and digestive health practice, we invite you to try this YouTube class, where you’ll get to try some of the postures we’ve included in this article:
- IBS is a common digestive disorder characterized by abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and bloating.
- Although there is no cure yet, managing IBS symptoms through lifestyle adjustments and various treatments can greatly help individuals with this condition.
- It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized management plan.
- Incorporating yoga postures and irritable bowel syndrome physical exercise practices into your daily routine can provide significant relief from the condition.
- From reducing stress and anxiety levels to improving digestion and promoting overall well-being, yoga offers a holistic approach to managing IBS symptoms.
Remember to listen to your body, modify poses as needed, and consult with a healthcare professional before getting started.
Discover more yoga for IBS and digestion poses by clicking here.
Check out yoga for bloating here.