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Bikram Yoga & Diarrhea

By Sarah Barnes

Diarrhea's causes usually lie in food triggers, bacteria or viruses, and in chronic conditions, not in physical exercises such as yoga. However, if you do come down with diarrhea, you should consider taking a few days off from the yoga studio; hot yoga such as Bikram yoga in particular can aggravate dehydration, a serious side effect of diarrhea.

Causes and Treatment

Diarrhea is generally caused by a bacterial or viral infection, parasites, bowel disorders, intestinal diseases, food sensitivities or adverse reaction to medications. If you have a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease, treating the underlying cause should help treat the diarrhea as well. Ordinary diarrhea usually goes away on its own. See a doctor if yours persists longer than two days. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics if necessary,

Yoga Precautions

Severe diarrhea can cause dehydration, which in turn can lead to organ damage or coma if untreated. Dehydration symptoms include thirst, fatigue and dark urine. If you're dehydrated, the super-heated environment of a Bikram class is not the best place for you. A gentler yoga practice or complete rest will be better until your diarrhea resolves. When you do return to your hot yoga practice, be extra sure to drink plenty of water and beverages that contain electrolytes, such as sports drinks.

Contraindications

A handful of yoga poses are contraindicated for diarrhea, meaning you shouldn't do these poses when experiencing the condition. Some poses in this category that are included in the standard Bikram sequence include seated head-to-knee pose, child's pose and triangle pose. Other contraindicated poses that are not part of the Bikram sequence but may be used in a Bikram class from time to time, depending on the instructor, include Bharadvaja's twist, downward-facing dog, boat pose, plow, warrior II, wheel, half-moon pose and seated forward bend.

Helpful Poses

After you're fully recovered and are ready to return to yoga, consider trying some poses to strengthen and stimulate the intestines. Some of these poses -- such as Bharadvaja's twist and boat pose -- are the same poses that are discouraged for those with diarrhea. Others include cat-cow stretches, king pigeon, upward plank and sphinx. If your diarrhea was severe or accompanied by dehydration and other symptoms, get a doctor's consent before returning to regular physical activity.

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