Yoga for IBS: 21 Poses For Relief

And how yogic breathing can help, too

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas may be reduced by practicing yoga.

Emerging research on yoga for IBS shows it can improve both physical and emotional symptoms of the chronic digestive disorder. In fact, studies show yoga may be more effective than medications used to treat IBS.

This article discusses the benefits of yoga for IBS. It explains the science behind yoga's positive impact on IBS symptoms. It also includes yoga poses and breathing techniques to improve digestion, ease pain, and improve your mood.

Woman on a yoga mat doing upward facing dog pose
Sporrer / Rupp Cultura / Getty Images

How Yoga Can Help IBS

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Symptoms range from mildly annoying to debilitating abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea.

IBS also impacts mental health. Studies show people with IBS are three times more likely to have clinical anxiety or depression.

Enter yoga: an ancient Indian practice that combines breath control, simple meditation, and specific body poses or asanas. Used for centuries to relieve a wide range of ailments, modern science shows yoga benefits people with IBS in many ways.

Yoga has been shown to:

  • Reduce the severity of IBS symptoms
  • Improve gastric motility to relieve and prevent constipation
  • Increase physical functioning and day-to-day quality of life
  • Ease depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal-specific anxiety
  • Counteract the effects of stress, which are a major contributor to IBS symptoms
  • Improves autonomic and somatic nervous system responses
  • Address the IBS brain-gut connection

The following yoga poses can be used to address different IBS symptoms. Before trying these exercises, take note of your current symptoms and select poses accordingly. IBS symptoms can run from one extreme (constipation) to the other (diarrhea).

Avoid poses that treat the opposite of your current symptoms.

Yoga Poses For Constipation

Yoga poses that involve side bends and twists massage the digestive organs, increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery. This helps promote peristalsis—wave-like movements that push the contents of the digestive tract forward. 

Asanas to try if you are constipated include:

  • Ardha Matsyendrasana: Sitting Half-Spinal Twist 
  • Jathara Parivartanasana: Reclining Abdominal Twist
  • Parivrtta Anjenayasana: Crescent Lunge Twist
  • Parsva Upavistha Konasana: Side Seated Wide Angle Pose
  • Trikonasana: Triangle Pose

Yoga Poses For Diarrhea

Yoga poses that involve bending at the waist or being upside-down can to to relieve diarrhea. These movements work by slowing bowel motility. This allows the intestines to absorb more fluid resulting in firmer stool.

Asanas to try that may ease diarrhea include:

  • Adho Much Shvanasana: Downward Facing Dog
  • Balasana: Child’s pose
  • Halasana: The Plow
  • Paschimottanasana: Seated forward bend
  • Prasarita Padottanasana: Wide-legged forward bend
  • Sasangasana: The Rabbit

Yoga Poses for Gas Pain

Yoga poses that involve bringing your knees to your chest helps to relieve trapped gas. These postures squeeze the abdominal muscles and massage the intestines. This can cause stool to shift and release trapped gas. 

Try these asanas to relieve gas pain:

  • Ananda Balasana: Happy Baby
  • Balasana: Child’s Pose
  • Paschimottanasana: Seated Forward Bend
  • Pawanmuktasana: Wind-Relieving Pose

Yoga Poses to Ease Bloating

Yoga poses that involve arches and back bends work to relieve bloating by stretching your abdomen and massaging internal organs.

Try these asanas to relieve bloating:

  • Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose
  • Chakravakasana: Cat-Cow Stretch
  • Dhanurasana: Bow Pose
  • Salamba Bhujangasana: Sphinx
  • Setu Bandhasana: Bridge
  • Ustrasana: Camel

Yogic Breathing For Anxiety, Depression, and Pain

Yoga uses various breathing techniques long-believed to relieve pain, anxiety, and depression—common co-existing conditions for people with IBS. Research shows pranayama (yogic breathing) has physical and psychological health benefits. 

Yogic breathing alters the body’s autonomic response to pain, one study found. Researchers measured heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure levels in response to painful stimuli in people who practice yoga (yogis) with those who do not.

Yogis had slower heart rates, lower blood pressure, and more controlled breathing before, during, and after the painful stimuli. The study authors note that yogis used breathing, relaxation, and mindfulness techniques that helped moderate their response to pain.

Additional research found short-term yogic breathing exercises can relieve anxiety in people who were nervous about upcoming surgical procedures. Another study found yogic breath work can ease depressive symptoms in people with depression and bipolar depression.

Pranayama: Yogic Breathing Exercises

Pranayama (breathing) involves three stages: puraka (inhalation), antara kumbhaka (retention or holding), and rechaka (exhalation). While there are many yogic breathing techniques, this basic exercise is a good place to start:

  1. Inhale through your nose and direct the air into the lower abdomen.
  2. Continue to inhale, filling the mid-section of your torso and extending your diaphragm toward your sides.
  3. Keep inhaling until you draw the breath into your upper chest and shoulders. 
  4. When your lungs are at full capacity, pause briefly.
  5. Then exhale slowly through your nose.
  6. Release the air in the reverse order: first from your upper chest and shoulders, then the mid-torso.
  7. As you continue exhaling the air from deep in your abdomen, draw your diaphragm inward and upward to expel every last breath.
  8. Repeat as many times as you are comfortable. 

There are also specific yoga breathing exercises that may relieve pain, anxiety, and depression. Breathing exercises to try include:

  • Bhastrika: Bellows Breath
  • Brhmari: Humming Breath
  • Chandra Bhedana: Lunar Breath
  • Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • Shiitali Kumbhaka: Cooling Breath
  • Siitkari Kumbhaka: Hissing Breath
  • Surya Bhedana: Solar Brath
  • Ujjayi: Ocean’s Breath
6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Zamani M, Alizadeh-Tabari S, Zamani V. Systematic review with meta-analysis: the prevalence of anxiety and depression in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019;50(2):132–43. doi:10.1111/apt.15325

  3. Jayawardena R, Ranasinghe P, Ranawaka H, Gamage N, Dissanayake D, Misra A. Exploring the therapeutic benefits of pranayama (yogic breathing): a systematic review. Int J Yoga. 2020;13(2):99-110. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_37_19 

  4. Cotton VA, Low LA, Villemure C, Bushnell MC. Unique autonomic responses to pain in yoga practitioners. Psychosom Med. 2018;80(9):791-798. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000587

  5. Azeez AM, Puri GD, Samra T, Singh M. Effect of short-term yoga-based-breathing on peri-operative anxiety in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Int J Yoga. 2021;14(2):163–7. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_120_20

  6. Ravindran AV, McKay MS, Silva TD, et al. Breathing-focused yoga as augmentation for unipolar and bipolar depression: a randomized controlled trial: Le yoga axé sur la respiration comme traitement d'appoint pour la dépression unipolaire et bipolaire: Un essai randomisé contrôlé. Can J Psychiatry. 2021;66(2):159-169. doi:10.1177/0706743720940535

Additional Reading

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.