How Yoga and Meditation Helped Heal my IBS
In my first yoga class I threw up in the first 10 minutes. We had just done some warming exercises and my muscles were starting to release their tension from a busy workday. I hold my tension in my stomach and abdomen, which I find a lot of people with IBS do and so when I started to relax, I had a big release, causing me to throw up.
What did I do?
In that moment, I had to make a choice between leaving or going back out and giving it a go, despite my initial setback. Luckily I went back out. That was 10 years ago.
Many people had been telling me how beneficial yoga would be for me. I remember at the end of the class during the relaxation feeling like it was the first time in my life I had actually relaxed and from then on I was hooked.
I was a very anxious child and worried all the time. And by the time I was an adult that felt normal for me. Yoga taught me to go inside, how to relax not only my body but my mind as well. People who knew me before the yoga, comment on how much I’ve changed. I now live in another country and am constantly pushing my boundaries. My mum can’t believe it! Yoga started all that for me.
How does yoga help with IBS?
Pranayama is the name of the breathwork that you can learn with yoga. Using your breathing is one of the fastest ways to calm down when you are stressed or anxious, especially if you are having an IBS-D flare (which I was prone to). Focusing on the breath calms the mind and can stop the mental chatter.
Learning to meditate taught me how to use my mind as a tool and to stop all the racing thoughts. It helped me to distance myself from my thoughts and realize that my thoughts are not me but are often a type of program running through my head. I was able to learn how to switch off the negative thoughts or at least not to attach to them and believe them, and therefore feel more positive. As one of my IBS triggers is stress and anxiety this helped immensely.
Less caring what others think
As I became comfortable with who I am and able to control my thoughts more, I cared less about what others think. I gained more self-confidence and felt better. This translated into less worrying about what others thought if I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom, which stopped the diarrhea, worry, more diarrhea because of the worry cycle that had been occurring.
Using yoga poses to help with digestion also helped control my IBS. I relaxed my abdomen and used breathing exercises before meals to make sure my digestion was able to function without my sympathetic fight or flight system taking over.
Started me on my whole health journey
Yoga was really the start of my overall health journey and the beginning of my path to becoming a naturopath who now helps others with their IBS. I was surrounded by like-minded people who looked after their bodies and their minds, so this was really inspirational. We used to hang out, swap stories, recipes, meditation techniques and a whole community grew. There were others who also had IBS and we supported each other to discover our triggers and get well.
So even if this all sounds very alternative, the health benefits of yoga especially for IBS, should entice you to at least give it a go. And when you start you may have nausea, it may provoke a flare up initially as your body relaxes and gets to know itself. Don’t let that discourage you, keep going (within reason of course) and see how it can change your life and your IBS.
Do you avoid using seasonings or spices on your food?