A breathing exercise to help with IBS

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One of the factors that can trigger IBS is stress. Regular meditation (ideally daily) can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, moving you into a 'rest and digest' rather than 'fight or flight' state. You don't have to spend hours sitting in meditation, but 10-20 minutes a day is great. One of the simplest meditations to practise involves using your breath as a grounding tool. This particular meditation involves repeating a simple phrase in connection with your breathing pattern. You can also use the repetition phrase outside of a full meditation session if you need to bring about a little belly calm in a stressful situation.

What You'll Need

  • A timer on your phone to indicate when you're time is up (alternatively download the Insight Timer app which allows you to set a time and the gentle chime to end your session with)
  • Somewhere comfortable and relatively quiet to sit (and a support for your back if you have back problems)

What You'll Do

  • Set your timer for the period of time you'd like to meditate (you might want to start with 5 minutes and work up from there), then sit in a comfortable upright position. You can do this on a chair, on a yoga mat or a meditation cushion.
  • Close your eyes and take 3 gentle breaths in and out through your nose, filling your lungs and belly, and slowly releasing the air.
  • Move to regular, fairly slow breathing. On the in-breath say in your head "I am breathing in" and on the out-breath "I am breathing out". Keep repeating this for a few minutes, before letting the words quieten and then stop.
  • Sit for the remaining few minutes gently breathing in and out. If your mind starts to wander, just be aware and gently bring it back to your breath. You may also find returning to the phrases of breathing in and breathing out will help if you really can't concentrate.
  • When your timer sounds, slowly open your eyes, stretch a little and turn up the corners of your mouth into a little smile (if you don't have one already!).

Tips & Warnings

  • It's okay if your mind starts to wander during meditation! This is totally normal and part of being human. When you notice this is happening, just gently say "thinking" to yourself and return to focus on your breath. And you can do this as many times as you need to. Meditation may not be suitable if you are suffering from certain mental health issues, such as schizophrenia or some personality disorders; please check with your GP or medical specialist first before taking part in any meditation.
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