Soothing constipation doesn't always involve medication. Learn how trying out yoga for constipation can be effective as well.
·September 8th, 2021
The best relief for constipation might not be prescription medicine. Yoga for constipation is an excellent alternative approach.
Yoga helps address constipation due to the mind-body connection (specifically, the brain-gut axis) that links your mental state to your digestive health.
Yoga’s physical movement also stimulates the intestinal muscles and increases blood flow, which can help stimulate your digestive tract.
There are many styles of yoga, so finding one that works for you is key. You can always modify poses as needed.
Ask your complementary care provider if yoga for constipation will help and how to incorporate it into your wellness routine.
The brain-body connection
The rationale behind this advice lies in what is known as the brain-body connection. Constipation caused by irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, often responds just as well to psychological treatment as it does traditional medication and dietary changes.
That’s because IBS is linked to a person’s emotional state—flare-ups often happen during times of stress, anxiety, anger, or depression. Hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown to be effective when utilized regularly, but that can get costly and time-consuming.
Studies suggest yoga provides an alternative way to learn how to manage intense emotions and stress levels by giving a person better body awareness, a feeling of self-control, and tools like deep breathing to control an overactive nervous system. In a 2011 study of people with IBS, people who did a 90-minute yoga class twice a week reported positive changes in their symptoms, including constipation.
Moving for bowel movements
Exercise is important for health, but it’s critical for keeping constipation at bay. The colon responds to regular activity, so the more you move, the better your digestive system moves.
Cardiovascular workouts, like swimming or a HIIT class, get the blood pumping through the body, including the intestinal muscles. Running, skipping, and jumping movements provide outside forces on the body that can get things moving. But high-intensity workouts aren’t your only options to treat constipation.
Yoga also stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs and digestive organs. Yoga poses and stretches like cat-cow, bow pose, or spinal twists stimulate the digestive tract and gently increase breathing rate and heart rate for better blood flow.
The snowball effects of yoga for constipation
Small physical activity changes, like incorporating a few yoga moves into your daily routine, can naturally lead to other changes that can help manage constipation. A 2018 study found that when people begin an exercise routine, they naturally gravitate toward eating more nutritious foods, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and nuts, and fewer fried foods, soda and snack foods.
These dietary changes are exactly the same as the diet typically recommended for relieving constipation and achieving regular bowel movement. This becomes even more important for those who have chronic constipation – defined has having infrequent bowel movements, usually fewer than three bowel movements a week.
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There are multiple styles of yoga, from gentle stretches to vigorous movement. There is no one “best” yoga style for constipation—only the one that you enjoy doing consistently. You’ll get the benefits of yoga from all of them. Finding the right yoga practice is a bit like dating—it might take some trial and error to find your type!
Decide whether you want an in-person instruction or a virtual guide.
Whether you choose to sign up for a class or to begin to practice yoga at home is up to you. There are a variety of videos available for free online through platforms like YouTube, and subscription streaming services like Amazon Prime also offer yoga workout videos from a variety of instructors.
If you choose to take an in-person class from a yoga instructor, ask an expert, like a physical therapist, to recommend a class that meets your fitness level, abilities, and goals. Don’t be shy about saying one of your objectives for taking yoga is to relieve constipation—you’re not the first to ask, and you won’t be the last.
Digestive issues are an incredibly common theme in yoga. Case in point: A favorite pose of yogis is something called the “wind removing pose,” and yes, the name is referring to that kind of wind.
Modify the yoga pose as needed.
No matter what kind of yoga class you select, remember that yoga is for every body. With every move, listen for modifications of the yoga postures that may help you be more comfortable, especially if you are new to stretching and yoga poses.
This is particularly important if your constipation is accompanied by bloating, which can make certain moves, like twists, uncomfortable. A small amount of discomfort is okay with yoga, but if a move is painful, don’t do it (or modify your depth or position to make it more comfortable).
Ask your primary or complementary provider if yoga for constipation will help.
Studies show a regular yoga practice can decrease a person’s need for pharmaceutical treatment of constipation. However, don’t change your medication regimen without first consulting your doctor or complementary care provider, such as a pelvic floor therapist. Some medications must be tapered off, and stopping abruptly can result in negative side effects.
Whether you choose to do a few moves each day to get things moving or attend a regular class as a part of a healthier lifestyle, there’s no doubt that yoga is a great strategy to help manage constipation, especially chronic constipation. So break out that yoga mat, get the blood circulation going and not only will your internal organs thank you but your entire body will as well.
As with any addition to your health protocols, it’s a good idea to consult a professional before starting. Your doctor or complementary healthcare provider can help you decide if you need any changes to your lifestyle or medications. Check out Bright Belly’s list of providers who can meet your needs.