Endometriosis is the hidden disease that causes millions of women across the world to suffer. “A gut-wrenching bomb that goes off in your insides,” is how one woman describes the disease to Goodrx.com. Not much seems to help relieve the pain. But fortunately, yoga can help, new research shows.
What exactly is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that has a significant negative impact on women’s lives. It is often misdiagnosed and also highly misunderstood, despite the fact that one in 10 women (15-44 years old) are affected. This is according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
Endometriosis means having tissue that resembles the lining of the uterus outside the uterus, for example in the ovaries, in the fallopian tube, on the bands that hold the uterus in place, in the bladder, in the intestines, in the area between the vagina and the rectum or in the peritoneum.
This tissue responds to the sex hormones in the same way as the lining of the uterus.
Thus, the tissue grows in line with the change in sex hormones throughout the menstrual cycle, and when the woman has her period, the endometriosis tissue also bleeds outside the uterus. This is extremely painful – both the cramping as well as the blood collecting.
What happens with the blood?
Because the blood cannot drain out of the body, it often turns into blood-filled nodules or blood-filled cysts. These vary from a few millimeters to 10-15 cm (6 in) in diameter, and some women may have menstrual-like blood flowing freely in the abdominal cavity.
The development of endometriosis irritates the tissues and often leads to inflammation, scar tissue formation and adhesions of the internal genital organs.
With all this going on inside, it’s no wonder that endometriosis causes pain, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life.
Yoga as a relief of endometriosis pain
Studies have shown that the practice of yoga provides relief from low back pain, menopausal symptoms, stress and depression related to endometriosis.
In July 2022, a research group from Israel aimed to examine the effects of practicing selected yoga exercises on stress and quality of life for women diagnosed with endometriosis.
52 women were invited and 42 participated in the pilot study and analysis.
They received an eight-week program of conventional therapy, followed by eight weeks of 90-minute endometriosis yoga classes held twice a week.
The women acted as their own control group.
Symptoms were assessed at three time points: before two months of conservative treatment, after two months of conservative treatment, and after two months of conservative treatment and yoga intervention.
The outcome measures were Endometriosis Health Profile (EHP-30), a numerical pain assessment scale (NPRS) and intensity of bleeding during the last menstrual period.
What is endometriosis yoga?
The abstract of the sited study doesn’t describe exactly what yoga poses or yoga styles that were used. But at Ekhart Yoga they recommend hatha yoga, yin yoga, and restorative yoga for people with endometriosis. These kinds of yoga will gently help create more room and space in the abdominal area as well as offer a calming effect on the mind.
What did the researchers find?
All outcome measures improved after the women completed the endometriosis yoga intervention. The EHP-30 and NPRS questionnaire scores were lower after the intervention program, as was the intensity of the bleeding.
The researchers conclude that endometriosis yoga is recommended for women with endometriosis. It can reduce levels of pain and stress and improve quality of life.