Yoga for Endometriosis

Millions of women and adolescent girls suffer from pain and decreased function because of endometriosis worldwide. According to Endometriosis.org, about one in ten women experience endometriosis. Here in the United States, estimates are in the ballpark of 5 million American women affected by endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue migrates outside of the uterus into the ovaries, vagina, bowel, bladder, rectum, and diaphragm. The results of the displaced endometrial tissue is inflammation, scar tissue, and pain.

Scar tissue builds bridges between organs and these adhesions decrease the ability of the organs to slide and glide. The restricted mobility of the nerves, muscles, viscera, and surrounding connective tissue can cause blockages and pain. There are also practices outside of the clinical setting that you, as a patient, can adopt to help support treatment.

How is it treated?

Treatment options for endometriosis include pain management, physical therapy, hormonal treatment, and surgery. Manual physical therapy for the pelvic floor muscles, abdomen, and viscera can help free the restricted tissues and decrease secondary muscle tightness.

Why yoga for endometriosis?

New research on endometriosis reveals yoga reduces pain and improves quality of life. A randomized control trial was performed in Brazil, looking at the use of hatha yoga to treat pain caused by endometriosis. The goal of the study was to evaluate chronic pelvic pain, menstrual patterns, and quality of life.

Pain decreased in the group who practiced yoga. Quality of life improved, as documented by a participant questionnaire, was also statistically significant. The study demonstrates this: yoga is an effective practice in reducing the day-to-day chronic pelvic pain you experience as someone diagnosed with endometriosis.

Using yoga as an aspect of a holistic treatment plan for endometriosis allows you to have a tool that is safe, portable, and effective in improving quality of life.

How does this yoga flow target endometriosis?

After seeing how much it helps with my patients and clients, I know there is value in education about anatomy and in the benefits of yoga specific to your area of concern.

Some of you might remember Abbie from my first video, Relieving Pelvic Pain. She graciously agreed to be a part of my new video series. After filming, she asked me how I determined which postures to feature, which prompted me to create a blog post explaining the rationale. The content offers you a glimpse into how this particular yoga flow supports the treatment and management of endometriosis. Introducing Your Pace Yoga: Yoga for Endometriosis.

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Aspects of a yoga practice

Eight limbs

The Indian sage Patanjali outlined “eight limbs of yoga” in the Yoga Sutras. You may be familiar with asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (breath work), but these are only two of the “eight limbs of yoga” as outlined by the Indian sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Meditation, compassion, and other concepts and practices of yoga can be applied in the holistic model of healing the pelvis and general wellness.

Pranayama

Iyengar describes pranayama as “extension of breath and its control”. Pranayama can be practiced alone or in coordination with asana. Mindful pranayama encourages the student to explore diaphragmatic breathing without gripping and holding tension in the chest and ribcage. To learn more about the relationship of the breath and the pelvic floor, check out this video blog. If you wish to gain knowledge about different types of pranayama, read my blogs about dirga, ujjayi and letting go breath.

Asana

Asana are the most widely known aspect of yoga. Prior to asana, warm-ups are an ideal way to introduce movement. Gentle and slow movements combined with conscious breathing, act to warm up muscles, lubricate joints, and direct the focus of the student inward to the mind-body-spirit connection.

This yoga practice starts with pranayama combined with reaching the arms overhead. This grounds us in the start of the practice, encourages softness in the ribcage, and offers mobilization to the shoulder girdle.

Banana

Banana is a supported side bend that allows the body to relax and soften into the stretch.

Banana stretch

Benefits

  • myofascial release of the abdomen
  • opens the shoulder girdle
  • increases tissue excursion that has been decreased from adhesions or surgery
  • sidebending at the thoracolumbar junction (where the mid and low back meet) where the diaphragm inserts
  • offers space to breathe into the ribs on the elongated side

Goddess with a Twist

Goddess is a powerful pose for grounding, hip opening, and building strength.

Goddess with a twist yoga pose

Benefits

  • Increases tissue excursion in the abdomen that has been decreased from adhesions or after surgery
  • Offers rotation at the thoracolumbar junction (where the mid and low back meet and where the diaphragm inserts)
  • Lengthens the inner thigh muscles
  • Builds strength in the lower extremities

Happy Baby

Happy Baby is commonly recommended by physical therapists to encourage decreased resting activity of the pelvic floor muscles and adductors.

Happy baby yoga pose

Benefits

  • increases flexibility of the posterior thighs and adductors
  • decompresses the lumbar spine
  • calms the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response)
  • releases pelvic floor muscles

Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose allows for an embodied check-in for postural awareness. Playing with the weight distribution at the feet is a useful exercise in awareness and grounding.

Mountain yoga pose for endometriosis

Benefits

  • encourages grounding
  • increases proprioception
  • improves balance
  • enhances body awareness

Savasana

A traditional yoga practice ends with Savasana.

Benefits

  • experience a physical letting go of the muscles relaxing
  • increase the parasympathetic response (rest and digest)
  • feel the physiological quieting
  • experience a deeper mental space of being aware of what is going on around you but simultaneously being separate.

If you are unable to creating the time/space for Savasana at the end of the video, try 5–10 breaths focusing on grounding down through the sitz bones if sitting, or through the feet if standing. This gives your body, mind, and spirit a moment to integrate the changes that occurred during practice.

Sphinx

Sphinx is a gentle spinal extension posture that can be used alone or as a preparation for a deeper back bend, i.e.: Cobra or Upward Facing Dog.

Sphinx yoga pose

Benefits

  • shoulder stabilization
  • myofascial release of the abdomen
  • increases tissue excursion in the abdomen that has been decreased from adhesions or surgery
  • strengthens back musculature
  • lengthening of the abdominal wall without overstretching the anterior hip capsule
  • shifting rib cage side to side gets into the psoas

Five Pointed Star with a Twist

Standing Five Pointed Star is a wonderful pose to take up space.

Benefits

  • lengthens adductors, hamstrings and other lower extremity muscle groups
  • increases tissue excursion in the abdomen that has been decreased from adhesions or surgery
  • rotation at the thoracolumbar junction (where the mid and low back meet) where the diaphragm inserts
  • offers rotation in the ribs
  • builds strength in the lower extremity

Supine Twist

Supine Twist is a gentle twist that can be used alone or as a preparation for a deeper twist i.e.: revolved triangle pose. Twist left for the ascending colon and right for the descending colon to be mobilized via fascial connections.

Supine twist for endometriosis

Benefits

  • myofascial release of the abdomen
  • opens the chest wall
  • increases tissue excursion that has been decreased from adhesions or surgery
  • rotation at the thoracolumbar junction (where the mid and low back meet) where the diaphragm inserts

Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is a popular standing posture that can be performed with the hand on the wall or a chair for balance.

Warrior 2 yoga pose

Benefits

  • strengthens the lower extremity
  • increases proprioception
  • improves balance
  • lengthens the inside of the back thigh
  • lengthens iliopsoas and fascia that connects to the lower abdomen

I hope this information can be a helpful guide for you in managing pain and improving quality of life. Should you have any questions or wish to deepen your understanding of something I’ve shared, please contact me!

 

Note: As with any exercise program, please consult the appropriate medical provider. Some precautions and contraindications to specific yoga postures include uncontrolled high or low blood pressure, second and third trimester of pregnancy, recent surgery, etc.

 

 

2018-01-28T19:32:22+00:00

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