Yoga for Crohn’s Disease

Yoga for Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a condition which is particularly close to my heart, as my partner was diagnosed with the condition in his twenties, and so I see first-hand the physical, mental and spiritual impact that the condition has on him. 

Crohn’s Disease is often grouped alongside colitis, and they are both inflammatory bowel conditions with a wide set of possible related symptoms. Stress is thought to be a possible trigger to the initial onset of these conditions initially, and can certainly worsen the course of both. There is qualitative proof (i.e. we can observe how we feel after yoga) that yoga practices can help with reducing stress levels. A number of clinical trials have now also been conducted which have demonstrated this in a quantitative (i.e. measurable) way also. More on clinical trials of yoga in a future post… We all know that reduction of stress improves our quality life, but if we have a condition that is potentially exacerbated by stress, like Crohn’s disease, stress reduction is key to improving the quality of life in sufferers.

I wanted to see just how effective yoga techniques could be in managing the condition, so I worked with a Crohn’s sufferer over 5 sessions of yoga therapy. We used a variety of techniques, including gentle physical practices, breath work, meditation, visualisation and restorative yoga, working with the client’s energy levels and symptom levels at each session, and working towards goals of staying medication-free, improving sleep quality, overall energy levels and positive mood. We agreed ways that we would measure progress, all based around the ‘SUD’ (‘Subjective Units of Distress’) scale - ‘How painful is that, 0 being none, 10 being unbearable?’ or ‘How positive do you feel today – 0 being terrible, 10 being great?’ etc. You can see our recorded progress in the graphs below.


Over the sessions, we saw a decrease in the client’s fatigue and symptom levels, and an increase in quality of life measures such as sleep quality and mood rating. I had been hoping that we would be able to see improvements in the client’s agreed measures, but the amount of progress we saw I think surprised both of us! The client’s feedback is below.

The yoga therapy has improved my energy levels and provided me with a more positive approach and outlook.
— Crohn’s client, 2017

This is a yoga nidra practice that I recorded for the client in one of our sessions. It was designed to reduce pain and anxiety, and to invite feelings of freedom from the condition. Then I’d love to hear about your experiences with this practice in the comments below.

Donna GerrardComment