Irritable Bowel Syndrome or “IBS” is essentially a nervous system condition. Even though the symptoms of IBS are in the gut area; Gas, bloating diarrhea, and constipation are the most common symptoms. There are not any issues with the intestinal tract, rather a brain-gut communication issue. One way to think about it is that the muscles in these areas are spasming or not functioning properly. This condition effects possibly 40 million people in the U.S. alone.
The key to working with IBS is to lessen anxiety. Yoga, as we know, is well suited for this. Many people with IBS present with other indicators of anxiety, however, it is chicken and egg. Is it the IBS causing anxiety or anxiety causing IBS? In terms of treatment, it may not matter what is causing what since the system must be balanced and anxiety lessened to reduce symptoms.
In clinical practice I’ve found it useful to assess the individual and determine what type of practice will lead to less anxiety. In terms of directly soothing nerves in the gut area, it is best to let the breath do the work. I have seen it suggested that certain poses are best for IBS. I believe it’s more the breathing practice and matching a style of practice to the individual’s needs that produces results.
Below is a general practice that incorporates breathing practice, forward bending, back bending, and twists in a combination that will stimulate the gut-brain connection without irritating the digestive tract. This practice can be modified to suit individual needs but is a good starting point.
May this information be helpful for all those suffering.
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PDF Version: IBS Practice
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