Yoga for IBS
I have been practicing yoga for almost 20 years, on and off. Granted there has been a lot of OFF…I was off a good long time after I had my kids, so I am by no means some mystical Yogi, all-knowing in the secrets and power of yoga.
What I do know, is that by far, yoga has been the type of exercise (with the benefits of meditation, as well) that has been most beneficial to my overall wellness. That said, when the exercise part of my IBS ‘get well’ regimen is considered, fitting in the yoga component is integral.
As big a fan as I was of yoga before my IBS diagnosis, I honestly believe that yoga is one of THE most important things I can do for myself to keep my IBS symptoms tolerable, as well as contributing in a very positive way to my mental and physical health, in general.
Benefits of yoga
There is no RIGHT kind of yoga. You do not need to be a Yoga Master. You DO NOT need to be able to twist your body into a thousand different shapes. Yoga is about movement, circulation, focus and breath. Yoga is about the movement of the body in a healthy way, strengthening and developing flexibility. Notice some of the words I used to describe yoga: Circulation, strength, flexibility, focus and breath.
Your body will be happy to have improved each of these traits when it has to deal with the destructive power of IBS. I began with Hatha yoga, which in the Western tradition is considered the most gentle, easiest form of yoga to practice and benefit from.
Hatha yoga’s focus is on diet, cleansing, breath and the connection between the body and the mind. As with all exercise, it is not about becoming the best, the strongest, the most knowledgeable, it is about what it can do for your mental and physical health. I know, for me, that yoga works to slow down my IBS. The gentle pressures applied to the abdomen and stomach, along with the increased circulation of blood throughout the body, prepares the body for some of the more difficult symptoms that IBS can bring.
How I view yoga
I look at yoga a bit like walking. Walking is exercise, whether you think so or not. Walking around the block is better than no walking at all. Yoga is similar in that you do what you can handle. What I have found, is that because yoga makes you feel so good mentally, physically and spiritually, that you often want to do it again the next day, as opposed to a session on a treadmill or gym machines. It is not boring; it makes you think. I think most of us are generally looking for holistic solutions to managing the IBS and yoga really can be a one-stop shop for many of the things we need to deal with IBS.
There are many kinds of yoga and some have subtle differences, some quite substantial. Finding the right type might take some trial and error and some research. What do you need most from the experience? What are your weak spots? Where are you strong?
The answers to these questions may help you determine which route to take. Again, the overall benefits of adding this to your IBS wellness plan cannot be underestimated. And remember, if you are saying to yourself, ‘I can’t do yoga, it looks too hard,’ even just practicing the easiest pose for a little while, with proper breathing can make you feel really, really good. I promise ;)
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?