Easy Yoga Poses for IBS Symptom Relief

If you've ever experienced symptoms of an IBS flare-up, you know that the gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea are not fun to deal with. You also know you'll try just about anything to manage your symptoms.

The good news is, practicing yoga can help you manage your symptoms naturally. While it shouldn't be considered a treatment for IBS on its own, the practice is scientifically proven to help ease certain symptoms of IBS. 

To get started at home, try the following nine yoga poses.

Half Knees-to-Chest Pose

Women alternating their knees to nose

Wavebreak Media

When you're feeling gassy, hit the floor for half knees-to-chest pose, also known as wind-relieving pose. Katrina Love Senn, an international yoga teacher and author says, "It helps to relieve gas and bloating, as well as strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles."

This simple pose is an accessible exercise that just about anyone can do. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift one foot and draw one knee in toward your chest by letting your thigh bone drop in toward you. Grab hold of your shin and gently tug your bent leg in closer to your chest. Extend the opposite leg long. Take several deep breaths here before releasing your foot to the floor and repeating on the other side. It may be helpful to repeat for a few more rounds on each side.

Boat Pose

A woman in boat pose in yoga class

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To beat the bloat so common with IBS, try boat pose. "This pose helps engage your core, toning and tightening the abdomen," says Alex Samet, a vinyasa yoga teacher. "This is a perfect pose for eliminating belly bloat."

If you're unfamiliar with Boat Pose, use these steps for setting up correctly:

  • Sit tall with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Grab hold of the backs of your thighs and lift both feet as you shift your weight to balance on your sitting bones.
  • Keep your knees bent and try to retain a tall and neutral spine to avoid compressing your lower back.
  • As you lift through your chest you have the option to float your palms.
  • Work on your balance by straightening through your legs, but avoid hyperextending or "locking out" your knee joints.
  • Bend your knees if you start hunching forward and collapsing into your lower back.

Breathe deeply into your belly as you hold the pose. You can draw your navel toward your spine to keep your abdominal muscles actively engaged. Hold for for several rounds of breath and be sure to retain your upright posture, then release your feet back to the floor. Repeat a few more times, resting for a moment in between.

Knees-to-Chest Pose

Woman holding her knees to her chest

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Knees-to-chest pose is another great option whenever you're feeling bloated or gassy. "This soothing pose targets the belly area and digestive organs. It helps allow internal healing of the entire tummy area by encouraging your digestive system to fully relax and release," Senn says.

Lie supine on your mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Draw your knees in toward your chest and use your hands on your shins to gently draw them in closer. Your tailbone will naturally tuck under and draw your spine into flexion. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, you have the option to lift your shoulders from the ground and curl your forehead head up toward your knees. Hold for a count of three, then release your head and shoulders back to the floor. Repeat anywhere from three to five times.

Wide Legged Forward Fold

A woman in a wide legged forward bend

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If you're experiencing gas pain related to stress, Samet suggests that wide-legged forward fold can relieve tension while "squeezing your belly to help move things along."

Stand tall with your feet wider than shoulder-distance apart, your toes pointing slightly outward. Bring your hands to your hips and a slight bend in your knees. Take a deep breath in to prepare yourself, and as you exhale hinge forward from your hips and release your fingertips to the floor. Soften your knees to help guide your head closer to the mat.

Take several deep breaths, and when you're ready to release the pose, bring your hands back to your hips and press into your feet to return to a standing position. Bring your feet together, shake it out if need be, then repeat the forward fold 1 to 2 more times.

Cat and Cow Poses

A woman performing cat-cow pose
Ben Goldstein

The cat and cow sequence can be incorporated into just about everyone's self-care routine. "Done together, these two rhythmical yoga poses internally massage all the way through the digestive system and spinal column, aiding and supporting healthy and efficient digestion," Senn says. So if you're dealing with a bout of IBS-related constipation, it may be time for a little cat-cow routine.

Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. You can begin with your palms stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips, but it may be helpful to you to widen your hand placement or adjust the positioning of your knees. Keep your tabletop stable by pressing the floor away rather than collapsing in your chest.

On an inhale, press through your palms even more to lift the back of your heart (your thoracic spine) toward the ceiling and drop your head and tailbone down. This is cat pose. On an exhale, broaden through your chest to reach through the top of your head and sitting bones. This is cow pose.

Continue articulating your spine, passing through flexion and extension and alternating between cat and cow pose with each inhale and exhale. Perform at least five sequences.

Shoulderstand

A woman in a shoulder stand pose

 
Geoff Lister / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you have IBS-D or diarrhea, practicing shoulderstand may prove helpful. "Poses, where the abdomen is inverted, slows bowel mobility and promotes the absorption of fluid," Samet says.

Since shoulderstand places body weight on the back of the neck, which can be problematic, you can simply extend your legs upward either in the air or against a wall. You can also try shoulderstand with a folded yoga blanket underneath your shoulderblades to support your back body and offer the back of your head more support.

Samet offers these additional tips for performing shoulderstand:

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Lift your feet from the floor so your lower legs are parallel to the ground. Rock your pelvis up and away from the floor as you bring your knees toward your head. Use your hands if you need to help guide the movement.
  • Bring your hands to your lower back, with your fingers pointing upward and your upper arms and elbows touching the ground. Try to move your elbows toward each other so they are parallel, which will provide you with a sturdy base.
  • On your next inhale, try to lift your legs (together, or one at a time), so they are extended upward and perpendicular to the ground. Take a series of deep breaths in this gentle inversion.

When you're ready to release the pose, you can lower your legs to release your knees on either side of your head to come into an easy plow pose. You have the option to drop your feet behind your head for plow. When you're ready to come out, slowly and carefully roll your flexed (curled up) spine back to the floor, allowing your knees and feet to follow. Rest in a neutral starting position with your knees bent and feet on the ground.

Cobra Pose

A woman doing cobra pose

Ben Goldstein

"Cobra pose stretches all the way through the front and back parts of the center of the body, relieving constipation and intestinal gas," Senn says, adding, "There are also benefits for the spine, and the abdominal and back muscles, which together help promote healthy digestion."

Cobra is another accessible pose, appropriate for many individuals. Lie on your stomach and place your palms on the ground, just below, but aligned with, your shoulders. Take a deep breath in, and as you inhale press through your palms and and your navel to lift your shoulders, chest, and forehead away from the floor. On your exhale, release slightly back down. Take another breath in, and as you breathe out, lift yourself back up again, and this time, you have the option to float your palms beside you. The goal here is to inflate the belly with your breath to press your naval into the ground to lift you up, and then use the muscles of your back-body (posterior chain) to sustain the shape. Be sure to keep the back of your neck (cervical spine) lengthening. Repeat three to five times.

Seated Spinal Twist

Seated spinal twist
Sporrer/Rupp/Getty Images

According to Samet, the seated spinal twist (and really, just about any twisting yoga pose), helps encourage blood flow, reduces bloating, and aids in digestion. "My favorite way to get into this pose is to start in a seated position and move into cow-facing legs [pose] by bringing the right knee on top of the left knee, so your feet are by opposite hips," she says.

From a comfortable seat bring your left heel closer to your right sitting bone, and cross your right ankle just over the outside of your left thigh, placing the foot on the floor. Place your left elbow outside your right knee and reach your right fingertips behind you. Turn the left side of your ribcage toward the right and let your chin turn slightly to the right as well. Your gaze will naturally follow. The key here is to avoid over-rotating or torquing the spine. Take a few deep breaths into your belly.

Continue for five deep breaths before you slowly release and repeat the twist on the opposite side.

Child's Pose

A woman in child's pose
Courtesy Stockbyte/Getty Images

Last, but certainly not least, is the wonderful child's pose. Senn touts this relaxing position as one that increases energy through the digestive system, basically offering a general assist for all your IBS symptoms.

Kneel on the ground and sit back on your heels. You can keep your knees together or slightly wide as you lean forward. You have the option to reach your arms out in front of you, relax them by your sides, or make a pillow for your forehead with your palms. Breathe deeply into your belly as it inflates to press into your thighs to help stimulate your digestive tract.

Take long, slow breaths, and make sure it's a shape you can sustain comfortably for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds, or more.

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  1. Kavuri V, Raghuram N, Malamud A, Selvan SR. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yoga as Remedial Therapy. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:398156. doi:10.1155/2015/398156