Endometriosis is a disorder that affects about 190 million women worldwide, causing painful periods, infertility, and other severe symptoms that can significantly reduce the overall quality of their lives. While science is still working to fully understand endometriosis, right now there are a few ways in which women can manage the symptoms of this painful condition, including medication, surgery and various forms of therapy. Yoga can also help ease symptoms, and it’s a great option for women who are looking for a low-risk, low impact way to cope with endometriosis.
Yoga helps reduce the troubling symptoms of endometriosis in a few different ways. The overall practice of yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for operating the body's relaxation and digestive responses. These responses tell your body to slow down and rest, which are crucial when it comes to reducing the pain, anxiety, and stress that comes with endometriosis.
Yoga also enhances blood flow to your reproductive organs, which can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Yoga poses work to stretch the muscles and tissues around your uterus and ovaries, which can help reduce the intensity and duration of menstrual cramps. Endometriosis commonly causes intense chronic pain in the pelvis, lower back, and hips, which yoga can help alleviate through gentle stretches and movement that help open up and relax the muscles in these areas.
Endometriosis can also cause infertility due to scarring around the reproductive organs, but yoga can help offset this issue by increasing blood flow to the area and lowering inflammation. Yoga also works to balance your hormones by reducing cortisol and other stress hormones and regulating your menstrual cycle.
In terms of mental health, yoga is one of the most effective tools in managing anxiety and depression, which are common symptoms of endometriosis. This condition can cause immense chronic pain, which typically results in emotional distress that yoga can help alleviate. Yoga sends signals to your mind and body that encourage both to relax, reducing tension, calming anxious thoughts, and improving your sense of well-being.
There are many different kinds of yoga, but if you’re experiencing symptoms of endometriosis you may want to stick with gentle postures like those you would perform in Hatha, Restorative, Gentle, or Yin yoga. These types of yoga focus on easy, low-impact movement, along with relaxation and stress reduction, and they typically involve some type of yogic breath work – which can also help reduce inflammation and chronic pain.
If you’re considering yoga for managing your symptoms of endometriosis, there are certain precautions you should take in order to avoid making those symptoms worse. While you’re on your period, it’s important to avoid inverted postures that might interrupt or change your body’s natural flow. If a specific posture causes pain or discomfort, exit the pose immediately and take a break. It’s important to listen to your body and avoid any kind of position that doesn’t feel good. If you’re unsure about your alignment or you’d like some guidance on how to practice yoga for endometriosis, you can enroll in an online class or book a private session with one of the instructors here at MyYogaTeacher.
If you’re experiencing the painful symptoms of endometriosis, try the gentle poses below for some relief.
Start on your hands and knees and then lower yourself down so that your backside is resting on your heels, and your big toes are touching each other. Move your hands forward, palms down, so that your forehead is resting on the floor. Allow your spine to lengthen and your neck muscles to fully relax. Breathe deeply and mindfully while staying in this pose for 5-6 minutes.
Start in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor. Inhale and look up, lifting your chin and gently arching your spine. As you exhale, drop your chin and look down toward your naval as you curl your spine forward. Continue this movement 5-10 times.
Sit on your yoga mat with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressed against each other. With your spine straight, press your hands behind you and gently open up your chest and tuck in your abdomen. Hold the pose for 1-2 minutes.
Sit in the center of your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Take a deep inhale and raise your arms directly over your head. As you exhale, slowly lean forward and place your head and chest on top of your legs, and grab your big toes with both of your hands. Tuck your chin and curl abdomen, relaxing your lower back as you sink into this pose. Hold for one minute.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and bring them to your chest. Slowly and mindfully drop your left side while extending your arms outward in a “t” shape. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds while breathing mindfully. Bring your knees back to your chest, and then repeat on your right side.
Place a folded blanket parallel against a wall. Sit sideways in the middle of the blanket, and turn yourself toward the wall, lifting your legs up and propping them against the wall. Lay back comfortably, rest your head and neck on the floor, and fully straighten your legs. Spread your arms out to your sides with your palms facing up. Allow your chest, abdomen, and pelvis to completely relax. Breathe evenly and mindfully while holding this pose for 5-8 minutes.
Yogic breath work can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety, while giving you tools with which to manage pain. Try these breathing exercises to encourage a sense of calm and relaxation.
Exhale completely, and then place your right index finger onto your right nostril, and breathe deeply in through the left. Alternate and place your thumb over your left nostril, and exhale through your right. Continue alternating, repeating at least 10 times.
Start by breathing in through your mouth. As you exhale, pull in your chin in toward your body and so that your throat is partly constricted. Then, breathe in and out through your nose, making a slight sound that is similar to the ocean.
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