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 accessible pose can be done laying down on a bed or the floor. Lie on your back with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Draw your right thigh into your chest, keeping the leg bent. Interlace your fingers around your right shin or right hamstrings. Begin to hug the bent right leg towards your chest and slightly to your right side. As an option, you can extend the opposite leg long. Make sure to keep your head and shoulders relaxed on the ground. 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.

Malasana

Garland Pose - Malasana
Garland Pose - Malasana. © Ann Pizer

This pose can be done with support and is both calming and introspective. It compresses the belly while aiding in a healthy elimination stance that can ease IBS.

To do the pose come to stand with your feet about mat's width apart. Bend the knees and lower the hips toward the floor, coming into a squat. Be sure to keep the heels on the ground. Bring your upper arms inside your knees and bend the elbows to bring the palms together into anjali mudra (prayer position).

Encourage your arms to press into the inner thighs while the inner thighs press into the arms. Keep your spine straight as the tail bone relaxes down. As an option, sit on stacked blocks or a rolled mat or use a blanket underneath the heels.Stay here for five breaths, then release the hands to floor and straighten the legs to come out. You can come directly into a Forward Fold if you like. 

Knees-to-Chest Pose

Woman holding her knees to her chest

Blend Images - ​Jose Luis ​Pelaez​ Inc/Getty Images

 

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

fizkes/Getty Images

 

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 and shake it out.

As an option, your palms or fingers can stay on the ground or you can clasp opposite elbow with opposite hand and sway. You can extend your arms forward as the head relaxes keeping weight in feet or you can walk arms through the leg opening behind you.

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 exhale, press through your palms even more to round your spine while dropping your chin towards your chest as if you could see your navel. This is cat pose. On an inhale, lift your heart, head and tail bone up towards the sky arching your back while relaxing the belly. 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.

Follow these steps to perform shoulderstand:

  1. Start with two folded blankets stacked. Lay down on your mat aligning shoulders onto the blankets. With your legs bent and feet on the floor walk your shoulders underneath your upper back. The chest will be gently rising.
  2. Lift the hips off the mat coming into bridge pose. Extend your arms onto the ground with palms facing down. Press firmly into the palms and lift onto the balls of the feet, extending one leg up. Bend at the elbows, place your hands on your low back and then extend the next leg up.
  3. Once you lift the legs, avoid turning the head to the side as it can injure your neck.
  4. Lift up through the balls of your feet. Walk the hands further up the back for stability.
  5. Move the hips toward the front of the room and the feet toward the back of the room to straighten the body. The correct alignment is with the hips over the shoulders and feet over the hips. Legs are perpendicular to the floor
  6. Stay in the pose for several breaths.
  7. To come out, bring your feet back over your head to come through plow pose. Then finally roll out of plow.

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. Place the palms flat on the ground directly under the shoulders. Bend your elbows back and hug them into your sides. Pause while looking straight down at your mat keeping the neck in a neutral position. Inhale to lift the chest off the floor. Roll your shoulders back and keep your lower ribs on the floor. Make sure the elbows continue hugging your sides. Keep the neck neutral. Keep your gaze on the floor or slightly forward of your mat.

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.

To do a seated spinal twist begin in Staff Pose (Dandasana). With legs straight in front of your body, bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to the floor on the outside of your right thigh. Bend your right knee and tuck the right foot in near the left buttock. Inhale and extend the right arm up to the sky.

Now exhale and twist your torso to the left. Bring the right elbow to the outside of your left knee and the left palm to the floor just behind your sit bones. Take your gaze over your left shoulder keeping the neck relaxed. On each inhale, lengthen the spine. On each exhale, deepen the twist. Be sure to keep the sole of your left foot firmly planted flat on the floor.

When you release the pose, take a slight twist to the opposite direction as a counter pose. Release your legs and switch their position as you prepare to twist to the other 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 can also spread the legs mat-width apart if that is more comfortable. You also 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