Yoga for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

 “Nearly one in five Singaporeans suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) ” and “”Women are twice as likely to suffer from IBS as men” (excerpt from Beautiful Inside Out). These statistics are quite alarming. Even though IBS is not fatal, it has tortured many sufferers with great anxiety and may impair the daily activities. Some syndromes of IBS include irregular bowel habits where patients can suffer from constipation of diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and bloating, excessive winds and feeling of urgent need to open the bowel.
 According to the founder of American Viniyoga Institute and author of Yoga for Transformation, Gary Kraftsow, IBS is a disorder with variable symptoms, having possible neurological, immunological, or psycho-emotional roots. Emotional ups and downs disturb complex networks of the body; the lining of the large intestine becomes more sensitive and it behaves in an abnormal way.
 Since yoga is well known for calming effects to the mind and body, some yoga postures could be helpful in reducing the effects of IBS.  
 Yogic point of view (Pranayama and Asanas)
 To begin with, daily practice of pranayama and meditation can be incorporated. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Sodhana) or the Victorious breaths (Ujjayi) are recommended as the vital capacity of the lungs will be increased, and the mind will be calmed. These pranayama practices will massage abdominal viscera and ease IBS symptoms.  
 Several seated and forward folding asana to help massage the internal digestive organs, help to support the liver, pancreas and kidneys, and help to alleviate cramping and gas. Seated Forward Fold (Pashimottanasana) and Standing Forward Fold (Uttansana) are great places to start in an asana practice to help alleviate IBS discomfort. During a flare-up, Kraftsow recommends concentrating on postures that provide a soothing effect. He suggests forward bends and simple abdominal twists like Jathara Parivrtti (a revolved twist) and Apanasana (a knee-to-chest pose), which may help soothe a hyperactive bowel or stimulate a sluggish one.
For indigestion, the digestive system can be stimulated by working the abdomen more strongly in Parivitta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose).
 The asana practices should end with corresponding, gentle backbend such as Bridge Pose (Setu Bhandasana) or Camel Pose (Ustrasana) to bring the body back to balance and keep the spine healthy while correcting the IBS.

Another aspect is diet.  According to Ayurvedic and yogic science, stimulants such as caffeine and tea should be avoided. Light and more frequent meals are recommended as heavy meals tend to slow down metabolic rate.
To date, there is no cure for IBS. Rather, the western medical science only prescribes medications to alleviate the syndrome. More research studies are conducted in recent years has shown how yoga can be an alternative treatment to IBS. Such researches will certainly boost up confidence level of those seeking alternative IBS treatment to improve their health.       


Siew Wei (200hr July weekend TTC)

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