Whether you’ve got IBS or are just feeling a bit bloated, yoga can offer both short- and long-term relief for gut health problems. We take a closer look at how to adapt your yoga practice to improve your gut health, before revealing the best poses for easing IBS symptoms like bloating, cramping and constipation…
Words: Lizzy Denning | Images: Shutterstock
Around two in 10 people suffer from IBS, and stress is often a major factor in exacerbating symptoms. But, as anyone who’s enjoyed a class will know, yoga is great for calming down a busy mind and slowing a racing heart, not to mention its physical benefits for your digestion and gut health.
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Stress and gut health
During times of anxiety your parasympathetic nervous system can shut down or become less efficient, as your body plunges into ‘fight or flight’ responses. As this system is responsible for good digestion by increasing intestinal activity and relaxing sphincter muscles, it can mean that you could suffer digestive problems, such as bloating or constipation.
But yoga could help. A study of participants who suffered from gastrointestinal disorders, who started using stress management techniques including yoga and meditation, found that their symptoms were significantly reduced even as long as three weeks after their weekly sessions stopped.
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Can yoga help with IBS relief?
Studies have found that regular yoga sessions can have a big impact on people suffering from IBS and its related complications. A group of adolescents with IBS found that four weeks of daily home practice led to significantly reduced gastrointestinal symptoms as well as lower anxiety levels, according to a study from British Columbia.
So, if you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from the painful – and often debilitating – symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it might be time to dust off your yoga mat!
Yoga for bloating and flatulence
So it’s not the sexiest topic, but there’s no doubt that gentle yoga postures are a great way to relieve wind. ‘A gentle back bend could give the kidneys a gentle squeeze, while poses with your knees to your tummy squeeze the colon and give a little massage,’ says Clare Maddalena, yoga teacher and founder of LushTums.
‘Once the pressure is released the blood flow to that area will increase, helping reduce bloating’. Safe to say, you might want to try these moves in the comfort of your own home!
Improve your posture with yoga
‘As well as soothing your digestive system, yoga improves your posture. So, rather than being in a hunched position and constricting your organs, it helps lengthen the spine and create space for your organs to work properly,’ says Clare. In turn, this can help your digestive system to flow and work optimally. It will also help to prevent and reduce back pain!
Best yoga poses to improve gut health and ease IBS symptoms
From Chantal di Donato, founder of Live Lean Health.
CAT AND COW
This classic yoga sequence has a motion that lengthens and compresses your intestines. This improves blood flow and givers your gut health a helping hand.
- Cow: come onto all fours, placing your wrists directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath hips. Inhale, pushing your belly button towards the ground, and lifting your chest and hips to the sky.
- Cat: exhale, rounding your upper back and dropping your gaze to your naval. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
HALF GAS RELEASE POSE
This pose does exactly what it says on the tin!
- Lying on your back on your mat, hug your right knee straight in towards your ribs, keeping your left leg straight.
- Hold for a minute, then repeat on the other side.