Yoga and Endometriosis

yoga for endometriosisEndometriosis can be a debilitating disorder. It affects more than 5.5 million females in the United States, and over 70 million worldwide. Endometriosis is a gynecological medical condition in which endometrial tissue (cells from the lining of the uterus) migrate outside of the uterus, most commonly to the peritoneum (the membrane lining the abdominal cavity).

The most common symptom of endometriosis is recurring mild to severe pelvic pain often worsening with the menstrual cycle. Painful sex, urinary urgency and painful voiding can also be symptoms as well as infertility. Other medical conditions can mimic endometriosis, so receiving a reliable diagnosis from a specialist is important.

Medical interventions including medication and surgery can beneficial treatment for endometriosis. Alternative treatments including yoga, acupuncture, and meditation are often used enhance and support standard medical treatment or, in lieu of it.

Yoga therapy is merely yoga with a specific therapeutic focus. Yoga brings balance and unites body, mind, and spirit. It supports healing of the whole person rather than simply addressing symptoms of a certain disorder. Yoga can provide an avenue for self-nurturance. The internal aspects of yoga provide emotional support and coping skills. Stress reduction and pain management through yoga can also bring back a sense of control over your life.

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

Certain yoga postures can provide relief from the symptoms and increase the quality of life for those suffering from endometriosis. It is important to practice under proper supervision from an experienced yoga instructor or yoga therapist. Endometriosis affects each woman’s body differently. Not all yoga poses will produce the same benefits for everyone. It is very important is to work gradually and carefully to find out what works best for you.

No matter what your body type fitness level, yoga may prove valuable. Explore your options. Take steps to connect with someone who can help.

Poses for Endometriosis (poses to avoid at bottom of page)

It is recommended to practice yoga under the supervision of a well experienced yoga instructor, especially if you are new to yoga. It is also recommended to advance into poses slowly and not try too much at once.

Thunderbolt Pose

Thunderbolt Pose

Thunderbolt or Rock Pose (Vajrasana) places pressure on reproductive organs and increases circulation in the pelvic area. Breathe long and deeply. If uncomfortable, try tucking a pillow between your legs or place a pillow under your feet or knees. Try different supports until you are comfortable.

Supported Butterfly Pose (Spta Baddha Konasana)

Supported Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Full Version

Full Version

Ease pain with relaxed abdominal breathing and poses like Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose), Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose). These poses gentlyopen and stretch the abdomen and pelvis. Use these poses during times of pain, or discomfort. Long Deep Breaths help to reduce stress and pain. Breathe long and deeply as long as is necessary. When exhaling, visualize the pain being released from your body.

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) and Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana) are seated poses that open and release the pelvis.

Squatting as in Garland Pose, opens up the pelvic area, increases flexibility, circulation and eases pain. If If you find it difficult to sit in this pose place a towel or folded blanket under your heels. You can also lean against a wall for support. Breathe Long Deep Breaths, relax your body. Sit in this pose as long as needed.

Backbends often feel good at the time, but may cause cramping the next day. Start with small backbends like Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Locust Pose (Salabhasana) and Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

then gradually work up to Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), Camel Pose (Ustrasana) and Upward Bow or Wheel Pose (Urdhva Danurasana) to test how much stretch the front body can tolerate.

Twists stretch tissues and stimulate the liver, which can be beneficial for endometriosis. Some twists may be uncomfortable at certain times during the monthly cycle. Try starting with gentle twists like Bharadvaja’s Twist (Bharadvajasana), Marichi’s Pose (Marichyasana I), or Revolved Head-To-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Srsasana). Gradually move into more intense twists like Marichyasana III (or C).

Poses that strengthen abdominal muscles are beneficial. Begin gently by lying on your back and focus on drawing the navel inward, toward the spine during exhalation. If there is no discomfort, try moving into poses that require abdominal strength like Plank Pose, Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), Half Boat Pose (Ardha Navasana) or Full Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana).

Shoulder Stand

Shoulder Stand

Shoulderstand (Salamba Srvangasana) is particularly beneficial to those with endometriosis since it helps balance the endocrine system. It is important not to practice this pose or any inverted poses when menstruating. One of the potential issues in endometriosis is a back up (retrograde flow) of menstrual blood backwards from the uterus. This could be brought on or exacerbated by inversion poses.

Poses to Avoid

Bound Angle Pose and Shoulder Stand should be avoided during menstruation. Also, Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal lock) and Mula Bandha (Pelvic Floor Lock) can change the pressure in the abdomen and pelvis, which can have an effect on the organs which may already be under stress from scar tissue. The effect of the bandhas is hard to predict and may cause harm. It is recommended to practice yoga under the supervision of a well experienced yoga instructor.