A couple of times recently, I’ve come across people mentioning IBS during Yoga classes. 

Its something I’ve struggled with, and I know in my case a good part of it stems from stress.

Here are some thoughts I put down on paper for someone:

I have much empathy with your IBS; IBS has been, and remains, an ongoing battle for me.

When it’s at its worst I be found some simple energy techniques can help.

The most simplest, from lying – I find with the knees bend towards me, feet flat on the floor, known as “constructive rest” is best – is just to bring the hands to the abdomen and to breath in and out of the abdomen for several minutes. Abdominal breathe helps to gently massage the digestive organs, the hands bring awareness and warmth.

Another technique, from sitting or lying, is bring mental awareness to the abdominal area and letting the breath follow. This is more subtle, the breath being subservient to awareness. This is subtle, and there isn’t necessary a right and wrong way to do this.

Finally, as a development to the above, practice sending “positive thought” or “self love” to the abdominal area. It may sound a little strange, but negative thoughts about one part of the body can create a spiral of negatively and dis-ease. The gut area is often called our second brain – the tissues making up the gut stem from the same part of the embryo as our brains, and gut and brain work very similarly.

The area of focus in the abdomen is an energy centre – chakra – in the body known as manipura (“ball of fire”). I don’t know if you’ve come across concepts of chakras – body energy centres before – but there is loads of stuff on the Internet if curious. To be honest you can buy into the chakra concept or simply leave it to one side and concentrate on abdominal awareness, it’s the opposite side of the same coin.

The bigger issue is, of course, managing the triggers of IBS.  Thesemay be physical – spicy or acidic foods, I’m sure my coffee habit doesn’t help! – or they can be psychological, generally stress in our lives.  Stress in itself isn’t inherently bad, its our reaction to it – and I know personally my reaction is never as mindful and measured as it could be despite best intentions.  Yoga has helped in that regard but its ongoing.    Stress of course can be concious – our reaction to circumstances – and sub concious, as we respond unknowingly to things around us and the general hubris of life – a mindfulness or mediation practice can help with this.  Bottom line is identifying our individual causes of stress, and starting to develop ways to tame them.