Yoga for IBS

There are several practices within yoga that have been proven to alleviate painful, unwanted digestive symptoms. What makes this even more alluring is that yoga techniques can also improve digestive function – unlike pills which usually only provide temporary relief for symptoms.

Scientists have discovered there is a strong connection between what is happening in our digestive system and what is happening in our brain. Have you ever noticed your brain feels foggy or that you’re more forgetful when you’re bloated, gassy, or backed up? This is just one of many ripple effects that occur when our gut is not flowing at a healthy rate.

So, let’s discuss some yoga practices that can help stop digestive troubles and get your system on track.

Pranayama for Pooping

Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath. Our breath is strongly correlated with our nervous system so tapping into these techniques can help switch things from a fight-or-flight state to a rest-and-digest state. Unless you’ve intentionally practiced improving the efficiency of your breath, chances are good you generally breathe pretty short, shallow breaths. When we focus on taking deep, slow, nourishing breaths, our nervous system understands that we’re no longer in danger or stressed (ie we’re not being chased by a lion or more accurate to modern day, we’re not juggling three tasks at once while trying to complete a project by the deadline) and it can work on sending hormones and blood flow to our digestive system, among other areas.

1:2 Breath

To start this breath inhale for a period of time and exhale for twice as long. Beginners can generally start with a 2 second inhale followed by a 4 second exhale. While inhaling, allow the torso to expand in all directions. You can place a hand on your belly to help bring awareness to this expansion. After a 2 second: 4 second breath feels comfortable, try increasing to 3:6, 4:8, maybe even 5:10.

Nadi Shodana – Alternate Nostril Breathing

This is a great breath to use when you feel anxious. Use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril. At the top of your inhalation use your right ring finger or pinky finger to gently block your left nostril, remove your thumb from your right nostril, and exhale through the right side. After a complete exhalation, leave your hand in place and inhale through the right nostril. At the top of the inhalation, remove your finger from he left nostril, use your right thumb to block the right nostril, and exhale through the left. Continue this for several rounds or about 3 – 5 minutes, alternating in through the left, out through the right, in through the right, out through the left.

Asanas to Alleviate Digestive Pain

Movement in general, yoga or not, can be beneficial in eliminating constipation problems. Yoga poses, also known as asanas, are a great way to move your body. Poses help to stimulate blood flow throughout the body, massage the organs that help our digestive system thrive, and create space through the torso so there’s more room for movement. Here are a few poses that may be soothing while you’re experiencing bloating, cramping, or other painful symptoms.

Child’s Pose

Reclined Twist

Knee To Chest (Wind Releasing Pose)

Downward Dog

If you’re constipated, you might find the following poses to be helpful since they are a bit more stimulating to the digestive system.

Triangle Pose

Standing Forward Fold

Seated Twists

By using these yogic techniques your mind and body will become more relaxed and better able to handle stress. And as we discussed using the poses helps to literally move your system so you don’t have stagnation that leads to pain and discomfort. These poses can provide relief and benefit the digestive system when done alone or paired together. As with most things though, the benefits are best when practiced consistently.

Spiritual Benefits of Yoga

Spiritual Benefits of Yoga

Spiritual Benefits of Yoga

How Yoga Can Improve Your Spiritual Health

What’s your definition of spirituality? Spirituality is universal, yet in many ways, it’s personal, just like yoga itself. There are countless benefits to practicing yoga. Many people enjoy it because it helps them to feel good and fit physically. Others love a peaceful hour away from their busy lives. For many, what makes yoga special, is the spirituality.

Yoga Benefits More Than Your Physical Health

In our culture, yoga is often thought of as a physical exercise. If you consistently practice certain types of yoga regularly you’ll improve your strength, stamina, and develop great posture.

Although there are many physical benefits to practicing yoga, the benefits reach far beyond your physical body. Yoga can help you work through psychological changes, emotional stress, and connect with a higher power as well.

The word yoga translates to union and when practiced correctly, the mind, body, and spirit of a person can become aligned and well. In addition to the asanas, aka poses, meditation, and pranayama (breathing exercises) are particularly helpful in creating more wellness in the mind and body and a deeper connection to your authentic self and/or a higher power (God, The Universe, Allah, whatever you call it).

As with almost all other things, the more consistent and dedicated you are to your yoga practice, the more access you’ll gain to wellness, alignment, and blissful states of being.

Cultivating Awareness

Our spirit is the unchanging part of us. It’s everything we do. It’s our higher consciousness: the reason behind our thoughts, our motivation, and our driving force. When practicing yoga on a regular basis, we can become more aware and in-tune with the unchanging spirit within us.

Life for many people is busy and full of distractions that cloud our ability to understand what’s best for us, why we’re here, what our next decision should be, and how we play a part in the world. Yoga asks us to sit in silence with ourselves so we can become aware of what we’re experiencing and accept life as it is in the current moment.

This awareness of yourself will have a significant effect on how you live and your interaction with others. This is how little by little, yoga on your mat changes life off your mat.

Feeling Empowered

Sitting in silence is a big challenge for a lot of people. Becoming aware of your current life whether that be your relationships, job, health, or all of it plus some can feel painful. We’ve often allowed ourselves to be distracted because it’s easier than facing the truth. Although reality may be a challenge to face, becoming aware and accepting it as truth is the where change comes from and healing begins.

Yoga will not help you get rid of negativity by controlling your environment or mind. Instead, yoga will remind you that life has no “sweet spot.” In life, you may still be ignored by your lover or chastised by your boss. Your car may run out of gas and your neighbor’s dog may still bark all night.

You’ll almost always find something in your life that could be improved or changed. Thankfully, our yoga practice allows us to find happiness even when things are different than we imagine they should be. It also empowers us to trust that things in our life are happening for us instead of to us.

Yoga physically, mentally, and spiritually empowers you to take control of your life with a sense of trust that we can’t always see the big picture. It asks us to be present and strong while also being fluid and able to roll with the ebbs and flows of life around us.

Quiet Your Mind

Often, in life, people are busy focusing on their performance and analyzing their actions instead of just being. In order to develop awareness, you need to make the time and space to connect with your deeper self.

Yoga is a great opportunity for this. Some styles of yoga (like vinyasa) emphasize lots of vigorous poses. These can be a great way to prepare the body to sit still without being a distraction to the mind.

If you find it challenging to sit in a comfortable position, feel free to sit on a block, blanket, or bolster. Once you’re able to sit comfortably you’ll realize it’s much easier to focus your mind.

After you’ve made yourself comfortable, gently close your eyes or let your eyes gaze a fixed spot shortly in front of you. Then the practice of focusing and quieting the mind begins.

Be patient with yourself. Our minds are usually consuming loads of information, they’re not used to stillness. It is helpful to focus on your breath. Whenever your mind starts to wander, as it inevitably will, just bring it back to watching your breath.

Try not to attach to the feelings you experience or the thoughts you have. Realize they are not you and let them all come and go without labeling them as part of who you are.

Be aware, and be grateful, for the practice. If you have an attitude of gratitude and surrender to the mat, freeing yourself from everyday life, yoga will be a spiritual practice for you.

Yoga is Not a Religion

You don’t have to be a certain faith to practice yoga. In fact, no faith is needed because yoga is not a religion. Yoga can be a spiritual experience. However, it is not linked to any organized religion or form of worship.

As mentioned earlier, yoga means to unite or join. Different yogis will view this joining or union in different ways. Some may feel that it is uniting yourself with a spiritual force or higher power. Others may believe that it is about uniting all aspects of yourself and your life. Still, others may believe it’s a joining of body, mind, and spirit.

Whether you believe in one God, many gods, or nothing at all, asanas can be like a prayer, helping you work through problems by quietly focusing on breath and moving reverently.

The next day your prayer may come. You might feel a jolt of completion or recognition that will take you back to the way you felt on the mat when you were totally in the moment.

Yoga is a way to cultivate wholeness. It can help you remember wholeness and recognize it everywhere. For some yogis, wholeness is the spiritual practice of yoga.

Spirituality helps you trust in life and yourself even when managing difficult situations. When you’re connected in the self, inner peace grows. You’ll find you’re more capable of caring and loving for yourself and others and you’ll experience the joy of being who you are by deepening your yoga practice.

Woman Practicing Physical Yoga

Physical Benefits of Yoga

Woman Practicing Physical Yoga

How Yoga Can Improve Your Physical Health

If you are passionate about practicing yoga, then you most likely have noticed some benefits – perhaps you feel more at ease and relaxed, get fewer colds or sleep better. However, if you have tried to tell a beginner about all of the important benefits that yoga has to offer, you may find explanations such as “it increases energy along your spine” or “it increases prana flow” to fall on skeptical or deaf ears.

Research on Yoga’s Benefits

Western science has started to provide some strong evidence on how yoga keeps sickness under control, heals aches and pains, and improves health. After you have a good understanding of them, you will be even more motivated to roll out your mat, and most likely next time you won’t feel as tongue-tied when someone wants proof.

1. Improves Your Flexibility

One of the most obvious and first benefits that yoga provides is improved flexibility. During the first class that you take, you may not be able to touch your toes, much less be able to perform a deep backbend. However, if you don’t give up and continue to practice, you will notice yourself loosening up gradually and eventually those poses that seemed impossible will actually be possible to do.

You’ll probably also notice a decrease in pains and aches. That isn’t a coincidence. Poor posture caused by immobility of connective tissue and muscles like ligaments and fascia can cause discomfort up and down your body. When your hips are tight, your knees may feel strain due to your shin bones and thighs being improperly aligned. Tight hamstrings might lead to your lumbar spine being flattened which can result in back pain. The more you mobilize your muscles and other connective tissues, the better you’ll feel.

2. Builds Muscular Strength

Not only do strong muscles look good, but they also help to prevent elderly people from falling, and protect against conditions such as back pain and arthritis. By practicing yoga you increase your flexibility and build up your strength at the same time. If all you did was lift weights in the gym, you might build up strength but sacrifice your flexibility in the process.

3. Improves Posture

Your head is similar to a bowling ball – heavy, round and large. When it is balanced over your erect spine directly, it doesn’t take as much work from your back and neck muscles to support it. However, if you move your head several inches forward, those muscles start to become strained. If you hold up your forward-leaning head for 8-12 hours per day, of course, you are going to be tired and uncomfortable. This poor posture can also cause neck and back pain as well as headaches and other conditions. When you slump, it forces your body to compensate by flattening the regular inward curves in your lower back and neck. That can cause degenerative arthritis and pain in your spine.

4. Prevents Breakdown of Joints and Cartilage

When you perform yoga, your joints often get to move through their entire range of motion. That can help to mitigate or prevent degenerative arthritis through “soaking and squeezing” parts of the cartilage that aren’t used normally. Joint cartilage is similar to a sponge; it only receives fresh nutritions when the fluid gets squeezed out and when there is a new supply to soak up. If proper sustenance is not received, then then neglected cartilage area might wear out eventually, which exposes the worn-out bone-underneath.

5. Protects Your Spine

Spinal discs need movement. These “shock absorbers” in between your vertebrae can compress and herniate if not properly cared for. You can help your disks stay supple by practicing a well-balanced asana regimen that includes plenty of twists, forward bends, and backbends.

6. Improves Bone Health

It has been well-established that weight-bearing exercises help to strengthens bones and fight off osteoporosis. Many yoga postures require your own weight to be lifted. And some, such as the Upward- and Downward-Facing Dog, help to strengthen the bones in your arms, which are especially vulnerable to getting osteoporotic fractures. At UCLA, a study was conducted that showed that vertebrae bone density was increased by yoga practice. The ability of yoga to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, might also help bones retain their calcium.

7. Increases Blood Flow

Yoga helps to get your blood flowing and deep breathing exercises can increase the amount of oxygen delivered to your cells, which causes them to function better. Twisting poses are believed to wring venous blood out from internal organs as well as allow for the flow of oxygenated blood after releasing the twist. Inverted poses, like shoulder stands, handstands, headstands, and legs up the wall promote the flow of venous blood from the pelvis and legs to the heart, which then can be pumped into the lungs and to be freshly oxygenated. If your legs have any swelling due to kidney or heart problems, this may be beneficial.

Yoga also helps to boost red blood cell and hemoglobin levels, which carry oxygen into the tissues. This thins the blood by making the platelets less sticky and cuts the clot-promoting protein levels in the blood. These benefits may help reduce strokes and heart attacks since blood clots frequently cause them.

8. Boosts Immunity and Drains Your Lymph

Whenever you come in and out of your yoga postures, move organs around, and stretch and contract your muscles, you increase lymph drainage (which is a viscous fluid full of immune cells). This helps your lymphatic system dispose of toxic waste from cellular functioning, destroy cancerous cells, and fight infection.

9. Increases Your Heart Rate

Whenever your heart rate gets into aerobic state on a regular basis, it can help to relieve depression and reduce the risk of heart attacks. Although not every form of yoga is aerobic, when you do it vigorously or take Ashtanga or flow classes, it can get your heart rate boosted into an aerobic range. However, even doing yoga exercises where your heart rate isn’t increased very high may improve your cardiovascular conditioning. It has been found that practicing yoga improves your maximum oxygen uptake during exercise, increases endurance and reduces your resting heart rate – which all reflect improved aerobic conditioning. It was found by one study that subjects who only were taught pranayama (breathing exercises) were able to do more exercise while using less oxygen.

10. Reduces Your Blood Pressure

You may benefit from yoga if you have high blood pressure. Two studies that were conducted on individuals with hypertension and published by The Lancet, a British medical journal, compared effects of the Corpse Pose (Savasana) with just lying on the sofa. After three months it was shown that Savasana had a 26-point decrease in systolic blood pressure (upper number) associated with a 15-point decrease in diastolic blood pressure (lower number). The drop was bigger the greater the initial blood pressure was.

11. Regulates Your Adrenal Glands

Yoga reduces cortisol levels. This might not sound like a lot, however, consider the following. The adrenal glands normally secrete cortisol as a response to an acute crisis, and that boosts immune function temporarily. If, following the crisis, your cortisol levels continue to stay high, that can compromise your immune system. Temporary cortisol boosts can help with your long-term memory, however, having levels that are chronically high can undermine memory and might also cause permanent brain changes. Also, there have been links shown between excessive cortisol and insulin resistance, high blood pressure, osteoporosis (calcium, as well as other minerals, are extracted from the bones and it also interferes with new bone development), and major depression. High cortisol levels in rats lead to what is termed by researchers as “food-seeking behavior” (where you are driven to eat whenever you are stressed, angry, or upset). Those extra calories are taken by your body and distributed as fat in your abdomen, which contributes to weight gain as well as the risk of heart attack and diabetes.

12. Makes You Happier

Are you feeling sad? If so, sit in the Lotus position. Or even better, soar into the King Dancer Pose or rise into a backbend. Although it isn’t that easy, it was found in one study that practicing yoga on a consistent basis improved mental health traits, including depression, and also led to decreases in cortisol and monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks neurotransmitters down) levels and a significant increase in levels of serotonin. Dr. Richard Davidson, at the University of Wisconsin, found heightened activity in the left prefrontal cortex’s mediators. This finding is correlated with better immune function and increased happiness levels. In long-term, dedicated yoga practitioners, a more left-side and dramatic activation was found.

13. Helps Establish a Healthy Lifestyle

The adage that many dieters use is to eat less and move more. Yoga can help with both of these things. Practicing yoga on a regular basis helps to burn calories and get you moving, and the emotional and spiritual aspects of practicing yoga can help to encourage addressing your weight and eating issues on a deeper level. Another thing that yoga might inspire is for you to become more conscious about what you eat.

14. Lowers Your Blood Sugar

It has been found that yoga reduces blood sugar in a couple of different ways in individuals who have diabetes: it improves sensitivity to insulin effects, encourages weight loss, and lowers adrenaline and cortisol levels. Reducing blood sugar levels can help to increase risks caused by diabetic complications like blindness, kidney failure, and heart attack.

15. Improves Your Focus

Another important aspect of yoga is it helps you focus on the present. It has been found in studies that practicing yoga on a regular basis helps to improve IQ scores, memory, reaction time, and coordination. Individuals practicing Transcendental Meditation show improvement in their ability to recall and acquire information as well as solve problems – most likely because they are not as distracted by their thoughts, that can tend to play over and over again in their heads.

16. Relaxes Your System

Yoga helps to encourage you to focus on the present, slow your breath, and relax. You can even shift your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) from your sympathetic nervous system (which is your flight-or-flight response). Your parasympathetic nervous system is restorative and calming; it reduces your heart and breathing rates, increases blood flow into your reproductive organs and intestines and decreases your blood pressure. This is referred to as the relaxation response.

17. Improves Your Balance

Practicing yoga on a regular basis improves your balance and increases your proprioception (this refers to your ability to be able to feel where your body is space and what it is doing). Usually, individuals with dysfunctional movement patterns or poor posture have bad proprioception, and this is linked to back pain and knee problems. Improved balance might result in fewer falls. For elderly individuals, that translates into having more independence and either the delay or avoidance of being admitted into a nursing home. For everyone else, the Tree Pose and similar postures can help you feel more stable on your feet.

18. Maintains Your Nervous System

There are some advanced yogis that have the ability to control their bodies in amazing ways. Some have been monitored by scientists while increasing their hand temperature by 15 degrees, generating certain brain-wave patterns, and inducing unusual heart rhythms. If they can do that through the use of yoga, you might be able to learn how the blood flows into your pelvis can be improved if you are attempting to get pregnant or learn how relaxation can be induced when you are having problems sleeping.

19. Increases Limb Tension

Have you ever found yourself using a death grip to hold the steering wheel or phone or scrunching up your face while looking at your computer screen? Those types of unconscious habits may lead to chronic soreness, muscle fatigue, and tension in your face, neck, shoulders, arms, and wrists, which can worsen your mood and increase your stress. As you are practicing yoga, you will start noticing where you tend to hold tension: It may be in the muscles of your neck and face, your eyes, or your tongue. If you start tuning in, you might be able to release some of that tension.

20. Improves Deep Sleeping

Stimulation is great, however, your nervous system can be taxed when you get too much. Yoga can provide you with relief from modern life’s hustle and bustle. Meditation, pranayama, Yoga Nidra (a kind of guided relaxation) and restorative asana, help to encourage pratyahara, which is a turning inward of your senses. This provides your nervous system with downtime. Studies also suggest that practicing yoga on a regular basis can result in better sleep, so you will be less stressed and more energized which will lead to having fewer accidents and mixups in your life.

21. Improves Lung Function

Yogis have a tendency to take fewer and greater volume breaths which is more efficient and calming. A study published in 1998 in The Lancet showed findings where individuals with lung conditions from congestive heart failure implemented the yogic technique called “complete breathing.” Within one month, they noticed an average decrease in respiratory rate from more than 13 breaths per minute down to less than 8. In the meantime, there was a significant increase in exercise capacity, along with their blood’s oxygen saturation. It has also been shown that yoga improves a number of lung function measures, including efficiency of exhalation and maximum breath volume.

Nose breathing is also promoted in yoga. This helps filter the air to minimize things settling into your lungs such as dirt and pollen and also humidifies and warms it (it is more likely that dry, cold air will trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals).

22. Improves Digestive Function

Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers – stress can exacerbate all of these. So you will suffer less if you can manage stress better. Like any other type of physical exercise, yoga can ease constipation – as well as theoretically reduce the risk of colon cancer – due to the fact that more rapid transportation of waste and food through the bowels is facilitated by moving your body. Also, although it hasn’t been scientifically studied yet, it is suspected by yogis that twisting poses might help to move waste through the system.

As you can see, there are many positive physical benefits that come from practicing yoga. Try it yourself and see what your favorite part of the experience is.

Mental Benefits of Yoga

Mental Benefits of Yoga

Mental Benefits of Yoga

There are many research studies that have been done showing the mental benefits obtained from practicing yoga. Improved symptoms of many common lifestyle conditions such as depression, hyperactivity and attention deficit, and sleep disorders all lead to a calmer, more centered nervous system which helps to sharpen your attention and concentration.

Yoga is also a way to improve your sense of being. It gives you the chance to better understand yourself and create a less judgemental relationship with who you seeing looking back at you in the mirror. As you start to build self-trust, you’ll notice it’s often easier to make healthy eating choices and exercise more because the unconscious mind is telling you “I’m worthy.” As your confidence builds and you’re more aligned with your authentic self, you start developing a healthier, more balanced ego, allowing you to feel as though you aren’t in a constant state of having to prove or hide anything. You feel more courageous and develop high willpower.

Your Relationship With Yourself

As part of building a better relationship with yourself, you’ll likely be more aware and accepting of your various qualities (some you may have never really tapped into or understood). The pairing of the lunar and solar (dark and light) in yoga will help you recognize various qualities in you. You can accept what is and choose to change or remain the same.

While you’re becoming more at peace with yourself, you will likely be the same way with your partner- and start seeing them through the same lens of unconditional and compassionate love. You probably find it easier to be less reactive and more empathetic.

Improved Behavior

All of these positive benefits have started to make it a go-to tool in psychotherapy and other medical professions. It’s also made its way into high schools where students are being mindful, showing improved behavior, and having increased moods when yoga is paired with PE versus taking only the PE.

A consistent yoga practice can provide more sustainable results but the moment you start taking deeper breaths, you’ll create an impact on your nervous system and move it from fight of flight to a calmer, more healing rest and digest state.

Adaptability For All

Many of the different forms of yoga are safe. However, there are some that may be too strenuous and might not be the right option for everyone. Elderly patients or those having problems with mobility should ask an experienced teacher for guidance on choosing the right class. It may also be wise to talk with their doctor before beginning a yoga practice.

For many of the patients that are dealing with anxiety, depression, or stress, yoga will be a good way of managing their symptoms better. The many studies that have been done on yoga have shown that physical and mental health are essentially equivalent. More studies are showing that yoga is low risk and will provide you with many benefits.