Yoga For The Management of Endometriosis
IntroductionEndometrium is the name of the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. Therefore endometriosis is a condition of the uterine tissue when it grows in or transports to sites out of the uterus. These sites are usually the fallopian tubes. Endometriosis may be very painful for some women. The abnormally grown tissues may obstruct or even block passages within the reproductive organs which can complicate its normal physiology.
External growth or endometrial tissue may or may not always be painful. Sometimes women discover endometriosis when they visit their doctor for getting treatment for infertility. However, the condition can produce some or many of the following symptoms in a woman:
- Painful menstruation, with intense cramping or stabbing pain
- Painful intercourse, where pain may occur during or after the intercourse
- Heavy menstruation, where bleeding is heavy and for more number of days
- Painful urination, which can feel like crunching pain inside the pelvis
- Difficulty conceiving, even with no use of birth control
- Weakness and fatigue, caused by heavy bleeding and disturbed hormones
- Bloating and changed bowel pattern, which may feel like prolonged premenstrual symptoms including simultaneous diarrhea and constipation
- Painful bowel movement, where the pain is only internal and bowel movement may feel like forced yet incomplete evacuation
Exact cause of endometriosis is not known. However, the following factors are thought to be responsible for development of the condition:
- Menstrual blood may have travelled upwards into the reproductive glands.
- Excess estrogen could cause endometriosis during the onset of puberty.
- Endometrial cells could have been transported to other places by circulation.
- The immune system could be faulty and contribute to endometriosis by not killing endometrial cells.
- During a surgery for delivery or removal of any reproductive organs the endometrial cells could have been attached to external sites.
Some women may be more likely to develop endometriosis than the others, this susceptibility is found more in:
- Those who have never delivered a child
- Those who have an early menarche and a late menopause
- Those whose period lasts for more than five days
- Those with a family history of endometriosis
- Those with birth defects in the reproductive tract
- High secretion of estrogen
- Those with restricted menstrual blood flow
DiagnosisEndometriosis is diagnosed by either a physical exam, where the doctor feels the inside of the reproductive tract with their hands; or a scan using ultrasonic waves, or endoscopy, where a small camera is used to view the inside of the reproductive organs.
Infertility: if the endometrial tissue has grown at such a place where it either: blocks the way of the ova, or prevents them from uniting with the sperms, or prevents the sperms from entering the uterus altogether, the chances of fertilization are very less. Ovarian cancer: cells or tissue dormant inside the reproductive tract at odd places can develop into malignant cysts and even cancer.
TreatmentConventional treatment includes pain relieving medications and sometimes hormone replacement therapy. However, endometriosis responds positively to yoga and dietary modification.
Yoga For Managing Endometriosis
A yoga routine can ease symptoms and even prevent worsening of the condition. It could also regulate bleeding since bleeding occurs at various sites in endometriosis. These exercises are recommended for individuals with any degree of endometriosis as these are safe. However, women who have other conditions should seek guidance from a yoga therapist as they may modify this routine as per the individual’s needs.
The forward seated bend: It is an excellent exercise for correcting the disorders of the reproductive system.
- Sit on the mat/ carpet with legs extended in front of you.
- Keep the spine straight and relaxed.
- Inhale while raising the arms upwards.
- Bend forwards until the arms touch the toes. If possible, hold the toes.
- Exhale while doing so.
- Keep the spine relaxed and touch the knees with your nose.
- This is the final position. Do not inhale in the final position.
- Release the toes. Start inhaling and bring your back to the initial position.
- This is one repetition. Perform twenty repetitions with at least 5 second stay in the final position.
The bridge pose: it is an excellent exercise, specially prescribed for all uterine disorders.
- Lie on your back with arms resting on the sides
- Keep the palms on the floor/ mat/ carpet.
- Bend both the knees and bring the heels close to the hips, the heels still resting on the mat.
- Raise the pelvis off the mat, pushing the mat with the heels and the palms.
- The line joining the neck and the knees should be straight.
- This is the final position.
- Exhale while reaching the final position.
- Resume normal breathing in the final position.
- Stay in the final position for upto 20 seconds.
- This is one round. Practice upto ten rounds.
3. Marjari Asana
Pose of the cat: it is a dynamic pose involving two movements, one where one’s back is curved up and then down. This exercise restores reproductive health by regulating hormone secretion. It is highly recommended for women of all ages.
- Stand on all fours, with the knees and the palms placed firmly on the floor/ mat/ carpet.
- Keep the elbows and the knees relaxed.
- Inhale and drop the back to make it a downward curve. Face should be forwards.
- Exhale and form an upward curve with the back. The face should be down and the chin should reach close to the chest.
- Repeat each position ten times at a fast pace.
- Relax the neck and the back.
- This is one round. Perform three rounds. If rest is required, lift the palms off the mat between rounds.
The pose of the hare: Shashankasana is a relaxation asana as well as a strengthening one. Hence it is safe as well as recommended to adapt this posture while on one’s period to assist uterine contractions and also ease pain generated by them.
- Sit on a mat/ carpet or your bed by kneeling. The hips should rest on the feet.
- Inhale while raising your arms straight up.
- Start bending forward with the arms still extended.
- Exhale, and keep leaning forward until your face touches the bed/mat.
- Let the arms rest on the floor/bed.
- This is the final position. Keep eyes closed and breathe normally in the final position. This is one repetition.
5. Surya Namaskara
The Sun salutation: this practice is great for regulating hormone imbalances of the whole body, especially in teenagers. Women can start surya Namaskara after 2-3 months of delivery. It can be practiced at the beginning or the end of this routine, as per the individual’s liking. Twelve rounds should be practiced.
- Stand with the feet default width apart, equally sharing the weight of the body.
- Namaskarasana: Join the palms in Namaste in front of the heart.
- Hastottanasana: Raise both the hands and stretch the arms backwards. The upper back and shoulders also tilt backwards with an inhalation.
- Bring the arms to the front.
- Hastapadasana: Bend forwards and place the palms on the ground. Touch the knees with the forehead with an exhalation. From this position the palms shall remain fixed at their places unless specified.
- Ashva Sanchalanasana: Glide the right foot backwards until the leg is completely stretched. The left leg remains perpendicular to the ground but bent at the knee. The spine is stretched back.
- Stretch the left leg backwards and place the feet together.
- Adho Mukha Shav asana: The torso and the legs should make an acute angle with each other, with the buttocks as the vertex. Do so with exhalation.
- Ashtanga Namaskara: Bring the chest and the head down to the ground with the buttocks still up. The breath remains suspended in this step. The body touches the ground at eight points: the palms, the forehead, the chest, the knees and the feet. Thus it is called Ashtanga Namaskara. It activates dormant energy in the navel.
- Bhujangasana: bring the buttocks down and place the abdomen on the ground. With a deep inhalation, stretch the spine backwards with the head bent at its maximum.
- Adhomukha Shvanasana: raise the midsection up again forming a triangle like shape with the upper body, the lower body and the ground as three sides.
- Ashva Sanchalanasana: bring the right leg forwards and put the foot in line with the palms.
- Hastapadasana: bringing the left foot forward, put both feet together with the face touching the knees.
- Hastottanasana: bring up the torso and stretch backwards with a deep inhalation, the arms reaching back.
- Namaskarasana: with an exhalation join both the palms in a Namaste. Surya Namaskara is complete.
The routine should be performed on an empty stomach in the morning or at a gap of at least three hours after a medium sized meal in the evening.
Adapting a lifestyle that cuts out the physical factors contributing to worsening of any condition multiplies the benefits of a yoga routine by several times. The following tips are extremely beneficial for everyone with any or all symptoms of a disorder relating to the reproductive system.
- Maintain a healthy body mass.
- Be aware of what ingredients your food has.
- Choose freshly cooked food over packaged one, and opt for minimum processing. Processed food hampers metabolism and endocrine function.
- Engage in satisfaction as well as relaxing activities. These shall be more beneficial in managing stress and ultimately build the required mindset for dealing with disorders, especially those which get worse with psychological disturbances.
- Also, make physical activity a lifestyle. The best form of activity is yoga practices which would not only keep one active and burn energy, but also targets specific organs of the body which require attention.
ConclusionEndometriosis may or may not be painful. Women who practice a balanced lifestyle in terms of diet and physical activity experience less severe symptoms and are unlikely to develop complications. Yoga exercises can be an excellent form of physical activity. The practices described here are safe for everyone. Since yoga heals an organ system as a whole and not just one symptom or disorder, these exercises can also be done as a regular program for maintaining reproductive health and preventing diseases in general. Women with multiple conditions should begin a yoga regime after due consultation with a competent yoga therapist.
Dr. Meenakshi Chauhan
MD (ALT. MEDICINE) View Profile