The Frog Project’s very own Carrie Froggett talks about her struggles with IBS, and we share 4 poses to help your digestion.
Almost half of the UK’s population has experienced digestive problems at some point in their lives. IBS, constipation, discomfort in the gut; all of these symptoms are commonplace, and can be long-lasting, with debilitating effects. So if this is happening to you, just remember that you’re not alone!
Talking about gut health is still pretty uncommon. Bowel movements aren’t exactly the dinner-table conversation you might be looking for. But, we should be normalising these discussions if we want to find tools that can actually help.
The Frog Project founder, Carrie Froggett, struggled for years with the symptoms of IBS before making some major lifestyle changes that have eliminated the symptoms for good. The stress-relieving benefits of yoga played a big part, and we asked her to share some of her other Eureka moments in her journey through the crazy world of digestion.
Hey Carrie. This is a topic close to your heart, isn’t it?
Absolutely. I used to suffer so badly with the symptoms of IBS that I couldn’t get out of bed some days. Finding out what’s going on down there has been years in exploration for me, and yoga is really just a part of it.
So what causes IBS?
I can't comment on this as I'm not a doctor! From my experience I believe that a combination of stress and poor lifestyle habits (sleep, diet etc) can contribute to symptoms of IBS, such as constipation.
How did the symptoms of IBS affect your day-to-day life?
At their worst, my symptoms of IBS led to feelings of depression, and uneasiness in both body and mind that caused me a lot of stress. It led to me looking outside for all sorts of help – talking to different doctors, spending hours reading things online, trying different exercises, cutting out different foods. These were a big distraction from everything that was going on around me and my connection to my life.
What lifestyle changes did you make to reduce or eliminate your symptoms? Which one had the biggest effect?
After about 6 years of looking outside for the answer and not wanting to change my lifestyle or consumption habits, I came to the belief that stress and food were perhaps the reasons I was struggling.
I began to follow a very plain plant-based diet (actually inspired by something called the FODMAP diet, which is on the NHS website) which was mostly rice porridge, easily digestible fruits and vegetables, low amounts of caffeine and no alcohol. I did this for about 2 months and started to see some differences in my body and the IBS symptoms.
Movement, massage and meditation
At this time in my life I was lucky enough to be heading to Thailand to do my Yoga Teacher Training via a two week Thai Massage course. The massage course had incredible effects on my IBS symptoms and the tummy massage did amazing things for my gut. I think a combination of the movement of the body, relaxation of the nervous system and giving a chance for the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in were all factors leading to the healing.
Following the Thai Massage course I started to study my YTT and lived at an Ashram for 4 weeks. We ate wonderfully Ayurveda-inspired, clean, simple, home-cooked food, practised meditation and yoga asana and studied philosophy daily.
By the time I left the Ashram I was cured! I can't put my finger on exactly what cured me but I think it was probably a combination of it all:
a healthy plant-based diet inspired by Ayurveda
avoiding all stimulants (caffeine, alcohol)
daily exercise (gentle exercise like yoga asana, not high intensity exercise that puts more stress on the body)
daily meditation and reflection on how I was feeling (journaling etc.)
reducing things in life that cause stress (I left my job and followed my heart to becoming a yoga teacher!)
taking regular breaks and listening to what my body needed
How has yoga particularly helped you with your digestive problems?
A regular yoga practise has helped me in many ways:
Regular gentle exercise of my body, building core strength, practising asana that promote digestion by causing abdominal pressure and generally feeling stronger all round. This has given me a greater respect and connection to my body, and I want to treat it better through food, sleep and other lifestyle habits.
Mentally and Emotionally
A regular yoga practice has taught me tools that help me to process day to day stresses with greater resilience and ease. Now when I start to feel stress creeping in, I have tools at my disposal to help to overcome and let it go, instead of storing it up in my body!
None of this happened overnight, and I believe the 6 months where I started my plant-based diet and started taking yoga, meditation and relaxation very seriously, were all elements that led to my body healing itself from the inside out.
Now I'm on the other side I can eat anything I like and if I do get stressed it no longer affects my digestion.
Carrie’s story is just one of many people who struggle daily with digestive problems. What has worked for her may not work for everyone, and it's always a good idea to speak to your doctor before attempting any major lifestyle changes. Having said that, there are a variety of yoga poses that are known to aid digestion (twists are particularly good), and others that help you to destress – they activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages the body to ‘rest and digest’.
Try the following yoga poses to help ease your symptoms. They’re all perfectly friendly for beginners, and can be done at any time of day! If you’d like to follow along with Carrie’s guidance, check out our Yoga for IBS and Constipation video.
4 yoga poses for digestion
2. Cobra pose
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Carmel is a travel professional and lover of literature and Latin America. In her day job at a tour operator she whisks people away to far off destinations, while in her spare time she moonlights as a freelance copywriter. You can find her portfolio here https://carmelhendry.journoportfolio.com. While not writing, or dreaming about travel, she can be found playing the piano, cycling or practising yoga. She’s spent the last year learning how to do a headstand, but mostly can be found relaxing in child’s pose! Join her and the Frog Project Community with 15 days of free unlimited classes. It’s just yoga.