Endometriosis, and other disorders like it, are becoming increasingly common. With up to 10 percent of women worldwide now thought to be suffering and very little in terms of successful treatment available, it's easy for those with the condition to feel backed into a corner.
However, like other chronic illness sufferers, many have found significant relief through yoga.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition that refers to the abnormal growth of endometrium cells in different areas of the body. Parts of the womb lining that swells and bursts throughout the monthly cycle relocate to other regions. This process can cause cysts on the fallopian tubes and ovaries, as well as on the cervix and pelvic area. Extreme cases have even seen sufferers present with endometrial cells on their lungs.
The condition causes a significant amount of pain, alongside heavy bleeding, infertility and ongoing fatigue. As the symptoms are often recurring, it makes life incredibly unpredictable and can make a perfectly healthy person bedridden overnight.
Breath & Healing
Yoga has undoubtable healing power, and all forms of the practice can be incredibly restorative. The breathing techniques employed act as a grounding and calming tool, which subsequently allows the body’s natural healing processes to take control.
Breathing skills play an incredible role in chronic pain relief for endometriosis sufferers. Often, a large part of the agony comes from muscle cramping, akin to severe menstrual pain. By mindfully breathing, it’s possible to override this muscle tension and significantly reduce discomfort.
Another key way that deep yogic breath can be curative is through the hormones that release through relaxation. While stress chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are harmful, their calming counterparts, such as dopamine and oxytocin, have notable healing effects. The latter are particularly important when combatting inflammation, which is a large part of the problem caused by endometriosis.
Muscle Tension & Control
The trials and tribulations of daily life wreak havoc on our muscles. We hold our stresses as tensions and often end up straining in order to overcompensate. A tense upper back can lead to neck pain; tightness in your psoas muscles can injure your hips and lower back. For endometriosis sufferers, this tension is unavoidable. The intense abdominal cramping can cause so much discomfort and misalignment that pain in the legs and up the back are common.
A daily yoga practice is one of the most powerful tools available for correcting this. Developing mindfulness and yogic skills quickly allows you to observe the pain and gradually relax into the muscle adjustments that will help you find relief. Yoga helps our body to regain its natural state of being and release distressing tension and strain.
Asanas for Endometriosis
- Supta Baddha Konasana or Goddess Pose
Lie on your back with your knees bent, and then gently allow your legs to fall to each side into a butterfly position. Activate your lower stomach muscles to stop pulling at your back. This pose opens the hips, which stimulates flow and allows your pelvic area to soften.
- Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana or Pigeon Pose
If Goddess Pose does not provide you with an intense enough hip opening, this is your next best option. From Downward-facing Dog, bring one leg forward and place it on the mat so your shin is parallel to the top edge and sit into the stretch. If you need to modify, you can bring you ankle closer to your pelvis or lean over your front leg. Repeat on both sides.
- Pavanamuktasana or Wind-removing Pose
For a gentle release, this pose is an excellent choice. It can be done in bed if you're feeling particularly sick. Simply lie on your back and bring both knees into your body. You should feel a subtle softening in your lower back and outer hips.
- Malasana or Squatting Pose
For a vast but gentle pelvic opening, Malasana is the best choice. Stand with your feet mat-distance apart with toes pointing out, then squat all the way down. Place your hands in prayer position in front of your body, so your arms and elbows are pushing open your legs and creating space in the posture.
- Sufi Grind or Spinal Rotation
Taken from the Kundalini yoga practice, this gentle flow movement begins by sitting in Easy Pose or Sukhasana. With your hands on your knees, circle your spine, leading with midback, as if you pushing out your ribs in each direction. This movement decreases back and hip tension dramatically.
Tools for Practice
These poses are a good place to start, but if you want more yoga support for your endometriosis, there are plenty of resources available that can help you out. Endoyoga.com is a site specifically dedicated to helping those dealing with pelvic pain. It is run by a trained yoga therapist who suffers from the condition herself, so you are guaranteed to be in good hands.
Another great option is to use YouTube. There are numerous wonderful endometriosis-specific routines uploaded to the platform on a regular basis. Sarah Beth, for example, offers a complete playlist of videos based on women’s needs. This practice for chronic pain and illness can also help you put these principles into practice on a daily basis.
If you are an endometriosis sufferer and feel like the disease is controlling your life, then yoga could be the ideal solution! Always be gentle with yourself and consult a doctor if you're unsure, but don't be afraid to give yoga a try and see if it can provide you with the relief you need.
This is a guest post by Cassie. She writes about surfing the web in a safe way here.
About the Author: As a nurse, Cassie sympathizes with those who suffer from chronic illnesses. She promotes yoga as a supplement to traditional medicine for relief and blogs to share her knowledge with others.