Here’s a popular question that I’m asked all the time:
Do yoga and meditation heal ulcerative colitis?
The short answer is, yes. They do.
The actual answer is a bit longer and more nuanced – that’s what we’re going to discuss in this post.
Why did I group these two practices together in the same post?
Are there specific kinds of yoga or meditation that are particularly beneficial?
Together we’ll figure out if a yoga and meditation program can really help you heal inflammatory bowel disease…
Yoga and Meditation
I currently meditate one to two times a day – once in the morning and once at night after yoga.
This wasn’t always the case. I used to struggle with meditation despite pretty regular practice, even in the early days.
Probably 2007 or so, I realized that a good way to improve my meditation was to do it after yoga.
That’s how I began a regular, daily yoga and meditation practice.
This daily combination of yoga followed by meditation was a game-changer.
If meditation has been a struggle for you, try sequencing it after a yoga practice and see what happens. (And let me know in the comments!)
Yoga is a Reliable Way to Get Present in the Body
The action of combining breath with movement – and the required concentration – is a perfect way to begin to get grounded, present and centered. Yoga helps you to “inhabit your body” more fully.
Yoga helps us become aware of, and release, the tension we build up in our bodies throughout the day.
Connection to the Body and Ulcerative Colitis
Part of the deeper root of inflammatory bowel disease is, in my opinion, lack of connection and respect for the body.
It’s in Western culture. We generally treat the body like a machine.
Many of our health – and life – decisions become much easier and clearer when we can tune in to our deepest inner guidance. This is the quiet and still voice deep inside. It gets much easier to hear over time, as we learn to connect to our inner guide and intuition through yoga.
Yoga is a reliable, physical way of getting centered and present.
It gives you a significant amount of proactive control over your mood and your mental state. It allows you to simply “do something” and bypass the thinking mind in the process.
Leaning Body Awareness
Learn to tune in and listen to your body – particularly your digestive tract.
One of the best books to learn body awareness is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Just reading that book and starting a yoga and meditation practice will work miracles in anyone’s life.
Yoga is a Reliable Way to Calm the Mind
Anyone who has ever tried to meditate when they were extremely anxious knows how difficult it can be to quiet and calm the chattering “monkey mind.”
For me, yoga became a very reliable way to “feel better” quickly from anxiety or depression without having to think about anything. Put the DVD (Remember those?) in the player or press “play” on the computer.
The act of doing a physical practice with yoga – as opposed to just sitting there for meditation – makes all the difference in the world.
Yoga and Mediation are Particularly Helpful for Ulcerative Colitis
One of the most surprising things I’ve learned on my 16-year journey through healing ulcerative colitis naturally, is how important practices like yoga and mediation are to effectively managing and healing the disease over time.
The effects of yoga and meditation accrue over the extreme long-term.
Yoga and Meditation Calm the Mind and Emotions
Generally, ulcerative colitis and other chronic diseases have much deeper roots in mental and emotional wounds and toxic thinking patterns.
Past trauma of all kinds plays a significant role in the development of chronic disease later in life.“Adam Farrah
The digestive organs and related nerves and neurological pathways have been considered the “second brain” for years now.
One of the best and most effective things you can do for yourself if you suffer from any kind of psychological illness, or just plain old anxiety and/or depression, is adopt a yoga and mediation practice.
Generally, anxiety and depression are also present in people with inflammatory bowel disease.
This is a recent video from Julien Blanc on healing trauma that I highly recommend:
Long-Term Improvements in Depression and Anxiety with Yoga and Meditation
Long-term improvements in psychological health generally lead to long-term and sustainable improvements in physical health.
This is a core truth I’ve seen over the years.
This past year, I finally joined and completed Julien Blanc’s incredible 12-month Transformation Mastery Academy (TMA).
As part of this course we did a lot of mediation and energy release work.
I’d estimate that I’ve done about 200 hours of mediation over the last year in that course.
About 8-months in, I could feel that the deep breathing and energy release work were having a profound healing effect on my entire body.
I saw significant improvements in my stools and digestion over the course of the 12 months in TMA. They’ve continued to spiral upward since.
And I’ve also go a rock-solid twice-a-day meditation habit now.
If you want to improve your physical health, the mental and emotional healing effects of yoga and meditation make a dramatic difference over time.
Here’s a live anxiety, fear and worry meditative release from Julien Blanc:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease has Deep Roots in the Emotional Body
Over these years of healing, I’ve learned how deeply old emotions relate to the development of IBD later in life.
The daily practice of yoga and meditation has a significant, long-term effect on dysfunctional thinking and emotional patterns.
It just sort of “happens” that your psychology heals after enough yoga and mediation.
Over many years of both healing ulcerative colitis and a daily yoga and mediation habit, I’ve noticed very subtle and long-term healing effects that accumulate over time.
Yoga and Meditation Release Tension, Restrictions, Trauma and Negative Energy from the Body
Important on the level of a mechanical process to control something enigmatic or intangible.
There’s a lot of “stuff” we accumulate in our bodies as we age, as we live our lives and, certainly, during a drug-filled hospital stay due to severe ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Yoga and meditation release all kinds of “energetic debris” we pick up as we live.
They also allow us to release and heal without even really needing to know the exact mechanism.
Just practice daily and let the magic happen.
Yoga and Mediation Improve Sleep
Sleep can be hard to come by with UC. It certainly was for me in years past.
I notice a dramatic improvement in both my depth of sleep and the length of sleep when I’ve done yoga and meditation that day.
Skipping one or two nights of yoga and mediation has a significant negative impact on my sleep.
Massages Internal Organs
Between the inflammation and being more sedentary, a severe flare-up or chronic struggle with UC can leave your organs in a very unhealthy state.
The gentle movement of yoga, as well as the mechanical action of deep breathing in both yoga and meditation, have a significant effect. Both massage, move around and heal the internal organs.
Having your internal organs sitting still in a bed or on a couch – inflamed and soaked in stress hormones and medications – isn’t healthy.
Increased oxygen from breath and movement is very healing for the internal organs and inflamed digestive tract.
The gentle nature of the movement and breathing is restorative and nourishing to our sick and struggling bodies.
A Note About Bathroom Emergencies and Yoga
I like to go low-tech when I can. For my DVDs, I have a big Sony carousel 5-DVD changer (They don’t make ‘em like that anymore!)
It’s built like a tank and was made in the early 2000s. It’s reliable, low-tech and offline. It’s perfect for an at-home yoga practice.
I always recommend to my clients that they avoid a yoga class for the most part – especially in the short term.
This was long before COVID-19. Now it’s even more appropriate.
So, get yourself a yoga mat, some yoga blocks and figure out where you’re going to stream some kind of yoga practice online.
Ultimately, running to the bathroom in the middle of a yoga practice can be a clearing and relieving experience. More than once I’ve returned to my paused yoga practice feeling emptied, clean, clear and refreshed. (Again, I’m talking about a home practice here.)
This is an illustration of the massaging internal organs concept that was introduced previously.
Not Just Any Yoga
Please, if you have IBD, Avoid the Power Yoga for now.
My guess is you’ve “powered through” enough in your life already.
You may have powered yourself right into UC. I know I did.
Look for restorative yoga practices. Practices with slower movement, a focus on breath and body awareness and longer times in the poses.
Avoid vigorous workout-style yoga classes. For now anyway.
Since 2007 I’ve had a daily yoga and meditation habit and practice.
For me, yoga and mediation have been absolutely essential to healing both my psychology and my body. They’ve be been absolutely life-changing.
One of the best things I’ve ever done for healing ulcerative colitis on this entire, 16-year journey is develop and maintain a long-term yoga and meditation practice.
The longer I’m on this Spiritual journey that we call life, the more I’m thankful that I’ve had a meditation and yoga habit all these years. You can’t replace all those hours of repetition and practice.
Are you considering starting a yoga and meditation practice for healing ulcerative colitis?
Are you sold on the benefits but don’t know where or how to start?
Let me know in the comments!