IBS-C? Try Some Yoga Poses to Help Unclog Those Pipes

For more than 2 decades, I’ve been trying every diet-related modification and stress-reduction technique imaginable to help nudge my sluggish bowels into gear. Some helped more than others, but I’d always get a severe flare-up whenever I started a new job, moved across the country, or struggled with any other kind of life event. After all, when you’re wound up, bound up and stressed, it’s virtually impossible to help move the food bolus, gas, and waste through your system.

Then I found yoga. Hot yoga, to be specific. And now I’m hooked. The downward dogs, twists, and cobra poses, combined with heat (and water!), have made me a new woman.

Why yoga?

Yoga is an ancient technique that works on the physical as well as psychological level and relieves the body of ailments like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Practicing yoga helps massage different organs and strengthens them.

Yoga is associated with decreased bowel symptoms, disease severity, and anxiety in patients with IBS, according to a review published in the December issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.1

Constipation-relieving postures

There are certain yoga asanas, or postures, that are especially effective for easing constipation by stimulating blood flow and moving energy to your digestive system and its many muscles. These actions stimulate peristalsis, helping your stools move more freely through the intestines. Plus, when you’re more relaxed, you’re less likely to strain or have unwanted tension in the bowels.

Here are a few specific asanas that I’ve found to be particularly helpful for managing my IBS-C:

Wind-relieving pose

This is the tummy trifecta: it also stimulates the ascending, descending, and transverse colon, as well as the stomach and small intestines.

How to do it:

Lie on your back with both legs extended straight. Draw the right knee into the chest with both arms, and hold for 20 breaths. Return to the beginning position, then reach the right arm overhead to stretch the entire right side of the body. Hold for 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Downward dog

This is a great full-body stress that helps to release tension, which contributes to a build-up in the digestive tract.

How to do it:

Start on the ground on all fours, placing hands shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width apart. Tuck your toes under, then gradually straighten your legs. Press firmly into the palms of the hands and aim to get your heart as close to the mat, ending in an upside-down “V.” Bend the knees slightly, and tilt the tailbone toward the ceiling. Take 10 deep breaths.

Sitting twists

Like wringing out a washcloth, twisting and churning the stomach and spine massages the digestive tract to stimulate elimination.

How to do it:

Sitting on the ground with legs straight in front of you, bend the right knee. Cross the right knee over the left leg, placing your right foot just outside of the left knee. Keep the left leg long. Wrap the left arm around the right leg, placing the right hand on the ground behind the sacrum (low back) Lengthen the spine on the inhale, and deepen the twist to your right on the exhale. Take 10 breaths, then do the same pose on the other side.

Forward bends

Whether you’re sitting down or standing up, forward bends help to calm the nervous system and compresses the abdomen area, which aids in digestion. It also soothes a hyperactive bowel.

How to do it:

Standing with feet hips-width distance apart, hinge at the hips and fold forward. Hinge at the hips to fold forward, drawing the chest toward the thighs (you can bend your knees if you need to). Drop your arms towards the floor, and press into the soles of the feet. Eventually, straighten the knees if possible. Focus on relaxing your stomach muscles as you breathe in and out for 10 breaths.

Cobra pose

My personal favorite, this pose helps massage the entire digestive tract while also relieving stiffness in the spine, lower back and hips. When you’re in this pose, your navel is pressed into the floor, which activates the secretion of more digestive juices.

How to do it:

Lie flat on the floor on your stomach. Place your forehead on the floor and your feet flat on the ground. Make sure your feet and heels are slightly touching each other. Place your hands with your palms facing downwards right next to your shoulders, keeping your elbows as close as possible to your body. Exhale and lift your upper body one part at a time – first your head, chest, then your back and pelvis. At this point, make sure your hands are straight and elbows are locked, and make sure your feet are still touching. Make sure your navel is in contact with the floor and you are placing equal pressure on both hands. Breathe in and out slowly, and slowly release.

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