Yoga & Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


If you are reading this you are probably suffering from IBS or know someone who is and hoping to help them?? 


IBS is painful, debilitating and anxiety ridden at worst and on your mind and contributing to life’s stresses at best. The symptoms of IBS impact on many areas of your life and may be stopping you from having the life that you deserve.


So wherever you are on the IBS spectrum, yoga can be a useful tool, an adjunct to a better eating regimen (low FODMAP diet). I might be a little biased but I think Yoga helps most things – it may not be a cure but it sure helps to put things into perspective. Here is an interesting study and article written to support my beliefs.


Physically, yoga can help reduce the symptoms of an IBS flare up. Some yoga asana (postures) help to tone and regulate your digestive system. Some IBS friendly poses are stretches that lengthen the whole body, abdominal compressions and lengthening, forward bends and twists.


Stress seems to lie in the shadows of a lot of our health problems and that is where other aspects of yoga can be a shining light. Pranayama (breathing) practices are valuable for relaxing the body, regulating the movement (and softness) of the abdomen (abdominal breathing), reducing mental overload and stress. Relaxation and meditation also help to ease us into the rest and digest mode (parasympathetic nervous system), which if we manage to do regularly can really help to reduce some of the pain and discomfort of IBS.


So how do you get started? It is always a great idea to get some advice from a professional but its not always possible and there are some very easy gentle practices that are ‘go to’ if you are having a bad IBS day. I teach a lovely gentle sequence that covers most of the moves you need to relax the abdomen. Below are some instructions with photos.


Yoga Asana – Postures

Straight Stretch

Begin by lying down on the floor flat on your back (if that is too difficult lie on your bed).  Breath IN slowly and deeply (through your nose) and stretch your arms above your head and onto the floor, extend without straining or forcing, breath OUT slowly as you bring your arms back down by your sides. Repeat 3 times.


Abdominal Compressions

Breath OUT when bringing the knees in to the chest and breath IN when pushing them away. Repeat 5-10 times.


yoga for IBS
yoga for IBS
yoga for IBS


Abdominal Lengthening

Breath I when raising the arms over head and the hips up and breath OUT when rolling back down and bringing the arms back down by your side. Repeat 5-10 times.


yoga for IBS



Take arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Breath OUT as you drop the knees to the side and breath IN as you bring them back to centre. Repeat 5-10 times each side.


yoga for IBS

yoga for IBS


More Abdominal Compressions

Roll over onto your tummy and push up onto your hands and knees. Bring your feet and your knees quite close or completely together. Breath OUT and gently drop your buttocks back towards your heels and your arms stretch forward, rest there keeping your abdomen soft and breath gently IN and OUT for about 10 breaths. Notice the feeling of your abdomen being massaged against your thighs by the movement of the breath, and the nice stretch into your back. From here come to standing.


Forward Bend

Stand up with your feet about hip distance apart. You can rest your hands on your hips (easy version) or interlace your hands behind your back. Breath IN and lift your chest up, gently pull the shoulder blades a little closer and lengthen your tailbone to avoid squashing your lower back. Breath OUT soften or bend your knees and gently fold down so that you are looking back towards your knees. If your hands are clasped extend through your arms and lift them up as high as feels comfortable, a little stretch is fine. Hang forward and breath, let your head and neck relax and your face soften. Stay for 3-5 breaths. Bend your knees deeply and rise back up to standing. Repeat 3-5 times.


Standing Twist

Rest your arms by your sides and you can take your feet wider. Gently swinging the arms around from side to side and wrapping them around your waist. Look over your shoulder in the direction you are swinging. Keep your knees soft, even bent and keep it  smooth, no jerky movements. Repeat 3-5 times each side and then slow it down until you stop in stillness. Settle with your eyes closed.


Pranayama – Breathing

Abdominal Breathing

Lie down on your back and bend your knees placing your feet on the floor hip distance apart. Rest your hands gently on your abdomen. Start to relax and follow your breath. Imagine you are breathing into your hands, rising as you breath IN and falling as you breath OUT. As you breath let the abdomen soften more and more. Notice how it gently balloons out as you breath IN and falls back in towards the spine as you breath OUT, you can even draw it in with a little bit of effort if it feels OK. Then soften again as you breath IN and expand. Follow for about 20 breaths and then let go of the breath and relax. You can slide your legs down and rest your arms by your sides.



Remain on your back with your arms by your sides, palms up. Close your eyes and continue to watch your breath coming in and out of your body. Each time your mind wanders come back to the breath. Relax and soften every time you breath OUT. Relax, relax, relaaaxxxxx….


Posted by Megan Jones – July 2015

Megan has been teaching for 28 years and is a Senior Teaching Member of Yoga Australia and the Turiya Yoga Foundation, holding Diplomas with the International Yoga Teaching Association and the Turiya Yoga Foundation in massage and aromatherapy. Megan holds regular classes and retreats, workshops and international yoga treks.