Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects millions of men, women and children worldwide. Here in the United States, it is estimated that 10–15% of the population experiences IBS 1. There are four types of IBS, depending on what type of stool consistency is dominant 2.

A study at UCLA looked at the efficacy of a six week Iyengar yoga program for teens and young adults with IBS 3. A group of 51 participants were divided into two groups: yoga intervention and those who remained on the clinic wait list.

The researchers divided the yoga intervention into two groups; adolescents (14–17 years old) and young adults (18–26 years old). Despite not-so-perfect attendance, missing an average of 25% of the classes, there were statistically significant improvements.

The adolescent group reported improved physical function. The young adult group reported improved IBS symptoms, global improvement, and sleep quality while reporting decrease in disability, psychological distress, and fatigue.

There was a reduction in abdominal pain with both groups, but this was not statistically significant. Interestingly, there was more efficacy in the young adult population as compared to the adolescents.

A two month follow-up after the program showed that the gains the adolescent group made were not maintained. The young adult group maintained improvements in global improvement, worst pain stayed decreased (measured as 0-10/10), and reported nausea diminished.

The Iyengar teachers involved in creating and teaching the posture sequence were Manouso Manos, Patricia Walden, Leslie Peters and Lorna Sirota.

Reclining, standing, forward bends, inversions, backbends, and seated postures were practiced in small groups with close supervision. Among the postures taught were reclined bound angle, wide legged forward bend, and downward facing dog.

According to the authors, “The findings suggest that developmentally tailored yoga treatments may best serve the therapeutic needs of patients with IBS.”

This study offers evidence-based research for the use of Iyengar yoga as a complementary modality for increasing the quality of life for people with IBS. Working with the mind-body connection to decrease anxiety and increase confidence and strength can be a useful strategy for men, women, and children with IBS.

  1. Grundmann O, Yoon SL. Irritable bowel syndrome: epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment: an update for health-care practitioners. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2010; 25:691–699.
  2. Definition & Facts for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, retrieved April 24, 2017.
  3. Evans, S., Lung, K. C., Seidman, L. C., Sternlieb, B., Zeltzer, L. K., & Tsao, J. C. I. 2014. Iyengar Yoga for Adolescents and Young Adults With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 592, 244–253.