Constipation is a common complaint. While medications and over-the-counter treatments can help, some people may be interested in alternative therapies, such as yoga.
For example, a 2015 study of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) determined that yoga could be a cost effective alternative therapy for the predominant symptoms of the condition, which are constipation and diarrhea. The researchers added that yoga might also help address other symptoms that IBS may bring, such as anxiety and fatigue.
Some yoga postures can manipulate a person’s digestive tract and may help relieve constipation by encouraging the digestive tract to pass stool or gas.
Keep reading for more information on yoga poses that may help alleviate constipation. Some of these poses are more challenging than others. Be cautious when attempting these postures, and do not push yourself too hard. Some people may prefer to speak to a yoga instructor before attempting the more advanced postures.
People can try this posture while sitting on a yoga mat or other soft surface.
To perform the twist:
- sit with the legs straight out in front of the body
- bend the right leg and place the right foot on the ground on the outside of the left leg, ideally near the knee
- bend the left leg and place it under or close to the buttocks
- place the left hand or elbow on or over the right knee and gently twist to face over the right shoulder
- hold the pose for a few breaths, then switch sides
The supine twist also may help a person alleviate constipation.
To perform this twist:
- lie flat on the back
- bring the arms out to the side in a T-position with palms down
- bend one leg at the knee
- while keeping the shoulders flat, gently let the bent leg drop over the other leg
- hold the pose for a few breaths, then repeat on the opposite side
The Crescent Lunge Twist is a standing pose that requires a person to be in a lunge position. This pose also involves twisting the torso, which may help promote a bowel movement.
To perform this twist:
- lunge forward with the right leg bent and the left leg straight
- place the hands into a prayer position and slowly bend the upper body toward the right knee, leading with the left shoulder
- hold the pose for a few breaths, then return to standing and start again with the opposite leg
The Cobra Pose does not require any twisting, but it could help alleviate other symptoms, such as gas.
To perform Cobra Pose:
- lie flat on the stomach with the toes pointed out
- place the palms on the floor at the sides, next to the shoulders
- engage the abdominal muscles and legs
- lift the head slightly, and gently curl the neck backward
- press the palms into the floor, gently lift the shoulders and upper body up
- hold for several breaths
- release and lower the body back to the floor
This pose is an inversion pose. This means that part of the person’s body will be upside down.
To do this pose:
- sit on the floor close to a wall
- lower the back to the floor and with the hips as close to the wall as possible, walk the legs up against the wall
- use a folded towel or blanket under the hips to relieve discomfort, if necessary
- let the head rest on the floor
- place the arms wherever it feels comfortable
- stay in this position for as long as it feels comfortable
- release and gently roll to one side to get up
The Wind-Relieving Pose is an easy pose for beginners that can help alleviate gas associated with constipation.
To perform this pose:
- lie on the back with the knees pulled up toward the chest
- place the hands on or around the shins
- tuck the chin in and gently press the back into the floor, gently pulling the knees toward the chest
- hold the pose for a few breaths, then release
This pose strengthens all the abdominal muscles. According to the Yoga Institute, this pose is good for those experiencing gas and digestive problems as it puts pressure on the abdomen. This is one of the more advanced poses, so exercise caution when attempting it, and do not push your body too hard.
To do the Bow Pose:
- lie flat on the stomach
- bend the knees
- reach the arms back and clasp the ankles if possible
- gently raise the chest off the floor as far as is comfortable
- using the tension between the arms and legs, try to lift the thighs and upper body off the floor
- hold for a few seconds, then release
The Adamant Pose is also called the “thunderbolt” or “firmness” pose.
To perform this pose:
- kneel on the yoga mat with knees and toes touching and heels apart
- sit in the gap between the heels
- straighten the back and place hands on lap
- hold the pose for few seconds to a few minutes
Many people will experience constipation from time to time. In many cases, a person can find relief from their symptoms with dietary changes and OTC treatments.
However, a person should see their doctor if they experience:
- changes in bowel habits
- severe stomach pains
- unintended weight loss
- persistent constipation after exercising and increasing higher fiber intake
Constipation may be a sign that a person needs to eat more fiber and exercise regularly. It could also be a symptom of underlying conditions, such as IBS.
If in doubt, a person should visit a doctor for a diagnosis.
Yoga may help a person find some relief from constipation. Different poses can encourage the digestive tract to pass stool or gas.
Take care when attempting some of the more advanced yoga postures.
If yoga or dietary and lifestyle changes do not help, or if a person notices blood in their stool, they should see a doctor.