IBS and Anxiety – How Yoga Can Help

ibs-yogaStress, anxiety and depression are often responsible for triggering IBS symptoms. What makes this fact worse is that this illness and its often distressing and debilitating symptoms can themselves cause stress, depression and anxiety.

Sufferers can subsequently all too easily end up caught in a vicious IBS and anxiety, depression and/or stress cycle. Stress management is therefore of utmost importance. Yoga can help reduce the symptoms of IBS and anxiety, stress and depression.

Yoga, IBS and Anxiety

In order to effectively combat IBS, it is necessary to reduce stress; identify triggers likely to induce IBS symptoms; restore normal digestive tract function and come to reasonably comfortable terms with the discomfort associated with this complex condition. Yoga can form an important, valuable part of all of these steps.

Clinical Trials on Yoga, IBS and Anxiety

According to clinical studies in 2004 (All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi) and 2006 (University of British Columbia), performing basic Yoga postures coupled with mindful breathing on a daily basis can reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of IBS and anxiety, depression and stress.

How Yoga Helps with IBS and Anxiety

Reducing stress by calming your nervous system, Yoga also:

  • Calms your somewhat irritated digestive system
  • Helps to accept and deal with IBS attacks in a calm, mindful manner that prevents further anxiety, which in turn could otherwise turn a mild attack into a severe one
  • Increases your awareness of what triggers your symptoms (through an altogether heightened awareness of causes and effects within your body), providing you with greater insights into what is helpful or harmful and a greater desire to do what is good for you
  • Restores motility of your gut

Some poses, such as the prone backbends and seated twists, for example, assist gut motility by applying gentle pressure to abdominal organs. Other poses, like reclining twists and side bends, for instance, help to release tension around your abdomen. In essence, Yoga soothes IBS by sending gentle stretch/compression pulses to sensory receptors within/along your digestive tract. Combining pressure and release in this manner helps to balance gut contractions, which is, of course, helpful whether you need to slow things down (as in IBS D) or move things on (as in IBS C).

Yoga Poses Helpful with IBS and Anxiety

When using Yoga to help with your IBS and anxiety, it is important not to be over-ambitious and choose accessible postures, as opposed to trying to squeeze your body into a selection of poses likely to cause more pain than peace. Yoga International offers a selection of 5 postures considered to be most helpful with IBS and anxiety.

As you try out these postures, it is equally important to ensure you maintain a smooth, steady breathing rhythm, as strained breathing will reinforce your stress, anxiety and IBS symptoms.

Finally, make sure to include relaxation poses at the beginning and especially the end of your Yoga practice, as this can send clear signals to your mind and body that it is now time to shift towards a healing state, slow down and let go.


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