If you're someone who experiences bloat and bad digestion, you probably find yourself frustrated that there seem to be so few ways to manage the symptoms.
It's essential to see a doctor if those symptoms are getting in the way of your everyday life, and trying methods like a food diary or the FODMAP diet may help. Gentle exercise, like beginner-friendly yoga stretches, could also provide some relief, especially if you are suffering with IBS.
"Stress often exacerbates IBS, and scientific studies support the effectiveness of techniques such as deep breathing and yoga in reducing stress and, consequently, IBS symptoms," says the yoga instructor and nutritionist Simone Venner.
She adds: "These practices help transition the body from the fight or flight mode of the sympathetic nervous system—which can hinder digestive function—to the rest and digest mode of the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting better digestive health."
Venner has shared five yoga poses that could help decrease bloating. Some might provide immediate release, but research suggests the best way to incorporate yoga into your life—if you want to reduce IBS symptoms—is by doing these exercises on a regular basis.
Five-move yoga routine to decrease bloating
1. Child's pose
Start sitting on your feet, either with your knees together or as wide as the mat with toes touching. Make fists with your hands and place them at the base of your abdomen before folding forward. You can gently rock the fists for a lower abdomen massage. Stay for 8-10 breaths.
2. Reclined eagle side twist
Lie on your back, bring your right knee to your chest, and guide it to the left. Extend your right arm, align it with your shoulder, and look in that direction. Cross your right leg over the left, hooking the toes behind the left calf for a deeper twist. Hold for at least eight breaths on each side.
3. Lung twist with prayer arms
Start in a low lunge with the back knee on the floor. Ensure the front knee is above the ankle. Bring your hands to a prayer position and place the opposite elbow on the front knee. Use the resistance of the elbow for a deeper twist. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
4. Low lunge backbend
From the low lunge position, interlace your fingers with index fingers pointing up. Inhale and lift your arms above your head and gently arch your back. Keep your arms straight in line with your ears and go only as far as your spine allows. Breathe deeply for 3-5 breaths to deeply stretch your torso.
5. Cat cow pose
Place both hands and knees on the floor, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale, arch your spine, look up, drop your shoulders away from the ears and lower your belly into a cow pose. Then exhale, round your spine, push the floor away and tuck your chin to your chest into a cat pose. Repeat for 5-10 rounds, syncing movement with breath.
How does yoga help with bloating?
A variety of research shows that exercise can help with IBS symptoms, including a 2015 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology that followed participants for at least three years and found that exercise can have a long-lasting and beneficial impact on IBS.
Some studies have specifically looked into the effects of yoga, with a 2015 paper published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine concluding that yoga improves the symptoms of IBS; participants in the study took part in three one-hour yoga sessions each week for 12 weeks.
Researchers are unsure exactly why yoga for bloating can decrease IBS symptoms, but it's thought to be a combination of the physical and mental benefits of the practice. Movement and relaxation might decrease bloating and ease IBS symptoms. Some yoga postures may also improve digestion by placing pressure on the stomach and the organs around it.
If you enjoyed these exercises, try this yoga for hips and lower-back routine which will target similar muscles and help you expand your practice.
Need some new cushioning to support your practice? Have a look at our round-up of the best yoga mats
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Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.
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