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Research shows Yoga can help reduce pain & need for pain medications, while improving quality of life for pancreatitis patients.

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas. The pancreas is a long, flat gland that sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that help digestion and hormones that help regulate the way your body processes sugar (glucose). Mild cases of pancreatitis can go away without treatment, but severe cases can cause life-threatening complications.

Do you skip your meals more often just because you fear of severe abdominal pain? Is pancreatitis pain disturbing your quality of life? Chronic pancreatitis can be a distressing condition that arises over a period of time, where your pancreas becomes swollen due to inflammation. Various risk factors include autoimmune conditions, genetic mutations, blocked pancreatic duct or common bile duct and familial pancreatitis.  

The pancreas is an important organ of the digestive system that has both endocrine and exocrine function that helps break down the food. Acute pancreatitis is found to be more common than the chronic one, which is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas due to alcohol abuse and gallstones. The condition is not life-threatening and usually subsidies with proper treatment. A person suffering from pancreatitis (chronic/acute) may observe symptoms like severe pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea all of which contribute to decreased or poor quality of life. Acute pancreatitis comes suddenly and can last for days, whereas chronic pancreatitis happens over several years.

See: Ayurveda treatments for Pancreatitis

Can Yoga help Pancreatitis?

Yoga as a complementary therapy may be used along with medical therapy to help the patient feel better. Nobody should begin complementary therapy without speaking with their physician.

Therapy of pancreatitis rests on supportive care as medical therapy agents like somatostatin glucagon, and Protease inhibitors, have not been found to be useful in altering pancreatitis. Alternative treatments like avoidance of alcohol, treatment of pain, correction of metabolic abnormalities, nutritional support lifestyle modification, yoga, exercise, and meditation can help improve the quality of life in patients suffering from pancreatitis. Mild cases of pancreatitis can go away without treatment, but severe cases can cause life-threatening complications.

The pain that develops in chronic pancreatitis can be acute, chronic, aggravated by foods, and might be present continuously such as at night. In some patients the pain is so acute that they create fear for ingestion and, for that reason, they lose substantial amounts of weight. The pain may begin slowly; however, in most patients over time they grow into constant pain. The pain is usually worse at the back as opposed to in the front part of the abdomen. The intensity of the pain makes many individuals pain cripples. The worsening of the pain with foods may lead to avoidance of foods, causing severe weight loss and malnutrition of the individual.

Treatment of the pain requires familiarity with the patient's disease, an understanding of wide variations in presentation and signs of chronic pancreatitis, and an understanding of the various treatment options available, their advantages, and disadvantages. Therapy is best provided in a center where experienced doctors from various specialties deliver comprehensive approaches to the care of the individual and there is the coordination of care between the various specialties.

Therapy of chronic pancreatitis rests on five arms: Avoidance of alcohol, treatment of pain, replacement treatment for exocrine and endocrine insufficiency, and sufficient nourishment. Alcohol withdrawal enhances the patient's compliance. Additionally, it appears to retard the chronic inflammatory process. Therapy of pain depends upon the pathomechanism of pain.

Stress reduction and stress management programs could be useful for any disease since they help to create a supportive environment, where the patient may have reduced anxiety.  Studies have found that individuals with chronic pancreatitis who practice yoga twice weekly can decrease pain, decrease the need for pain medication, and enhance the quality of life.[1,2]. Findings indicate that yoga is effective in reducing the self-perceptions of anxiety and pain in this population and reducing the use of pain medication. Patients also had significant improvement in their diet and gained weight.

See: Pranayama breathing exercises & poses

What are the best Yoga poses for Pancreatitis?

The pain that develops in chronic/ acute pancreatitis is often severe and aggravated after consuming meals.  As a consequence, these patients tend to lose significant amounts of weight due to the fear of eating. Yoga for acute/ chronic pancreatitis can effectively improve the quality of life, mood disturbance, and stress-related, symptoms in patients suffering from it. 

Yoga intervention has been associated with a variety of physical and psychological health outcomes. It has been found through various research studies that yoga asanas for the pancreas can directly stimulate the pancreas by rejuvenating the pancreatic cells and increasing the pancreatic capacity through alternate abdominal contractions and relaxation that occur while performing asanas and breathing exercises.

List of Yoga Poses that may help alleviate Pancreatitis:

1.    Vakrasan- Sit down on your yoga mat with your legs outstretched towards front and hands at back behind your buttocks. Keeping the back erect, slowly bend your right knee and place the foot beside the inner side of the left knee. Twist and stretch your trunk along with your head towards the right side and bring your left arm around the right knee and grasp the right big toe. To experience the maximum benefit of this pose, try to keep your trunk erect as much as you can with a proper twist.

Benefits: It massages and activates the pancreas.  Promotes healthy digestion, alleviates constipation, and treats diabetes naturally.

2.       ArdhMatsyndrasan- Sit on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and legs straight out in front of you. Slowly bend your knees, and try to bring the left foot under your right leg in such a way that it lies outside your right hip. Similarly, step the right foot over the left leg, outside your left hip while standing your foot on the floor. Your right knee should be facing the ceiling and then bring your left hand in front of the bending right knee, and hold the right foot. Put your right hand behind and touch the thighs of the folded left leg while turning your head towards the right side.

Benefits: it tones the liver, pancreas and kidneys by gently massaging and improves the functioning of abdominal organs. Improves appetite by alleviating digestive and gastric problems.

3.    Cow head pose - start in a sitting position with the legs straight. While keeping both buttocks on the floor, bend the right leg and place the right heel beside the left buttock. Now bend your left leg and place it over the right thigh to ensure that the left heel touches the outer side of the right buttock. Slowly lift your right arm and bring it behind the head by bending your elbow, so the elbow points up. Similarly, bring the left arm behind the back from below and clasp the fingers of both hands together. The head remains upright and straight and rests on the right forearm. Keep your head up and breathe while holding this position. Return to the starting position.

Benefits: Stimulates the kidney, liver, and pancreas function, it activates the digestive system and alleviates problems associated with it.

4.    Halasana (plow pose)- lie in a supine position with arms beside your body and palms facing up. Inhale and raise the legs slowly up in the air, along with your buttocks and upper body. While exhaling, bring the legs straight behind the head without bending by lowering them down towards the floor. Ensure that the tips of your toes touch the floor. Breathing normally holds into this position as long as comfortable.

Benefits: It is beneficial for the pancreas and digestive system.

5.    Kapalbhati- It is the simplest and most effective yoga pose that involves sitting in a yogic posture with eyes closed. It’s a breathing yoga asana which requires deep inhalation through both nostrils and forceful expiration by contracting the abdominal muscles.

Benefits: Helps rejuvenate and stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland skull including massages the abdominal organs including the pancreas and help relieve abdominal pain. It also aids in digestion.

Watch: Kapalbhati yoga video

All the above-mentioned yoga asanas are believed to benefit individuals with pancreatitis by increasing the blood supply, massaging the organs, and activating the cells in the abdominal region like the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. In addition to the above-mentioned poses some other poses of yoga for pancreas health include Paschimottanasana, Dhanurasana, Mayurasana, and Padmabakasana.

See: Pancreatitis diet plan & restrictions

Scientific Studies in Yoga for Pancreatitis

1. First study: Yoga: A tool for improving the quality of life in chronic pancreatitis. [4].

A total of 60 patients diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis were enrolled, in the study. These patients were randomly divided into two groups. In one group with 30 patients underwent yoga therapy twice a week for a duration of about 12 weeks, whereas the remaining 30 patients were grouped under the control group.   

Parameters like the quality of life, profile of mood states for assessing mood, and symptoms of stress Inventory for measuring stress were assessed before and after the yoga program.

The results showed significant improvements in overall quality of life, mood changes, and symptoms of stress, alcohol dependence, and appetite after the 12 week period in the yoga group while there was no difference in the control group.

Watch: Ayurveda for pancreatitis treatment video

2. Second Study:  Yoga for rehabilitation in chronic pancreatitis.[5].

The study included a total of thirty patients who were experiencing difficulties with abdominal pain, anxiety, and weight loss due to chronic pancreatitis conditions. Out of thirty patients, twenty-four patients underwent a complete 12-week yoga program. Parameters like weight, comparison of the pain, diet, and pain medication were assessed before and after the yoga program. After 12 weeks of study, findings suggested that practicing yoga poses for pancreatitis can bring significant improvement in appetite and patients also gained weight.

Yoga is also found effective in decreasing self-perceptions of pain and anxiety thus reducing their usage of pain medication.

See: Foods & herbs good for pancreatitis


Yoga is found to be an effective solution with considerably lower side effects in controlling the symptoms of pancreatitis, especially when all the pharmacological treatment fails to provide any symptomatic relief.  Yoga not only improves the quality of life but also helps individuals become more accepting of their body and less judgmental and reactive to pain caused in pancreatitis. Findings suggest that all the studies conducted are mostly on small sample size, that lacks methodological rigor, and a large scale trial is needed to investigate the effect of yoga on pancreatitis.

See: Home remedies for pancreatitis treatment


1. Besselink MG, van Santvoort HC, Buskens E, et al; Dutch Acute Pancreatitis Study Group. Probiotic prophylaxis in predicted severe acute pancreatitis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2008;371(9613):651–659.

2. van Santvoort HC, Besselink MG, Bakker OJ, et al; Dutch Pancreatitis Study Group. A step-up approach or open necrosectomy for necrotizing pancreatitis. N Engl J Med 2010;362(16):1491–1502.


4. Surinder Sareen, Vinita Kumari, Karaminder Singh Gajebasia, and Nimanpreet Kaur Gajebasia.  Yoga: A tool for improving the quality of life in chronic pancreatitis.World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jan 21; 13(3): 391–397.

5. S Sareen and V Kumari. Yoga for rehabilitation in chronic pancreatitis. Gut. 2006 Jul; 55(7): 1051.

See: Homeopathic remedies for pancreatitis treatment

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