Some people living with endometriosis find that practicing mild forms of yoga can be an enjoyable way to stay active and reduce pain. Studies have indicated that yoga has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Add the positive effect yoga has on mental health, and it is a great way for someone with endometriosis to support their overall well-being and quality of life.
Here, we explore the possible benefits of yoga for those with endometriosis, as well as how to approach a new yoga practice. As always, talk to your gynecologist or another health care provider before starting a new exercise program. They will be able to advise you of any precautions you should take before, during, and after exercise.
Yoga unites physical poses with breathing exercises (known as pranayama) and mindfulness to promote strength and feelings of acceptance and peace. Research has identified two particular benefits that yoga may offer to those with endometriosis: reducing a person’s abdominal pain and increasing their quality of life.
One study by researchers in Brazil and published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that yoga improved quality of life and chronic pelvic pain in women with endometriosis. The 40 women participating in the trial were randomly split into two groups. One group was assigned to attend 90-minute yoga sessions two times a week for eight weeks, while the other did not practice yoga. At the end of the trial, the yoga group’s daily pain levels were significantly lower than the non-yoga group’s. The study concluded that this regular yoga practice was associated with improved quality of life and reduced chronic pelvic pain in those with endometriosis.
Another study published in the International Journal of Yoga worked with a group of 60 women with chronic pelvic pain. These women were randomly split into two groups: one was given nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief, while the other received NSAIDs alongside yoga therapy. After eight weeks, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in pain intensity and quality of life, including social, psychological, physical, and environmental scores.
Many MyEndometriosisTeam members have shared the benefits they’ve experienced from yoga. As one member noted, “I’m totally a wannabe yogi who has always seen the benefits yoga can have on women with endometriosis.” Another member wrote, “There are specific pelvic stretches found in certain yoga poses that help my pain.”
In response to a question about exercise that won’t make endometriosis pain worse, one member recommended yoga. “Yoga, yoga, yoga!” they wrote. “I used to kickbox regularly, but the pain started interfering. Yoga has kept me sane.”
While yoga may not work for everyone, it is a generally safe, non-costly practice that may bring many emotional and physical benefits.
People with endometriosis who practice yoga should do so safely. Finding the right type of yoga that works for you is the best way to get the most out of your practice.
Before you begin any kind of exercise regimen, talk to your doctor. Let them know about any symptoms you’re experiencing and ask what movements and positions might worsen them. Your doctor may be able to recommend yoga studios, practitioners, and asanas (yoga positions) that could be particularly helpful for you.
Don’t start practicing yoga until your gynecologist or health care professional has given you the go-ahead. Starting an exercise regimen against your doctor’s medical advice may worsen your endometriosis symptoms or have other negative effects.
Talk to your doctor about finding a yoga instructor or yoga therapist who works with people diagnosed with endometriosis and others who experience chronic pelvic pain and/or lower back pain. These practitioners have experience modifying yoga poses and movements that will work for your body and needs. You may need to call a few yoga teachers in your area to find someone with such specialized training. Some physical therapy experts may also be able to design a yoga or stretching program for you.
There are many different styles of yoga, including Iyengar yoga, yin yoga, hatha yoga, and more. Each one is slightly different, so you’ll want to find the one that works best for you.
The Brazilian study mentioned before focused on hatha yoga. This type of yoga aims to align the mind, body, and spirit using pranayama (breathing), asanas (poses), and more. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced form of yoga in the West. It is often offered as “gentle yoga” and usually suits first-timers.
Some MyEndometriosisTeam members prefer other types of yoga to help them deal with endometriosis. One member shared information about a cherished yoga DVD: “It’s amazing. There’s an energizing flow and a relaxation flow,” they posted. (Flow refers to poses done in a certain order, one leading, or flowing, into the other.) Another noted that they preferred a gentle, soothing option. “I really don’t feel well, so I’ll stick to doing relaxation yoga this week,” they wrote.
Another member recommended a form of yoga known as yin yoga. They summed it up when they wrote, “Yin yoga is the best!!” Yin yoga involves holding poses for long stretches. Drawing out the time you hold a pose allows you to deepen your stretch and get the most out of each position.
There are many types of yoga with different aims and levels of intensity. You may end up trying several types to find which ones help you the most.
Some people diagnosed with endometriosis find that yoga causes them discomfort. If you stretch too far or put too much pressure on parts of your body that already hurt, you may agree that yoga sometimes hurts rather than helps you.
While a certain level of discomfort is normal with any new exercise regimen, yoga should not be painful. Learn your limits and respect them. It’s OK if you experience some muscle fatigue while doing yoga, but stop if you notice that your pain is getting worse overall. Also, you may discover you need to avoid certain postures or even certain types of yoga.
If endometriosis pain interferes with your yoga practice, you can relieve the pain, then try a session. The following options may also be helpful if you accidentally stretch too much and overstrain your muscles in yoga. (As always, talk to your health care provider about which pain management techniques are right for you.)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed to manage mild to moderate endometriosis pain. Talk to your doctor about taking NSAIDs regularly before you practice yoga, so you can do so without pain.
Applying heat to your abdomen can soothe the pain. The heat helps by increasing the blood flow to your endometrial area, which may make you feel better. It can also reduce cramping and make you feel more relaxed overall.
Some people prefer ice therapy to heat therapy when it comes to addressing endometriosis pain. You can apply a cold pack or even a frozen water bottle to your belly. Be sure to wrap it in a cloth or dish towel.
Before you start a yoga session, warm up. Move gently for the first five to 10 minutes and stretch in the poses so you do not suddenly overstretch your muscles.
If you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis, you likely have questions about the condition. And you may also want to share your story with others who will understand. You can do both — and more — at MyEndometriosisTeam. On MyEndometriosisTeam, the social network for people with endometriosis and their loved ones, more than 125,000 members come together to connect about life with the condition. Join today, and you’ll have a worldwide support team of people ready to help you live well with endometriosis.
Have you practiced yoga? Share your experience or tips in the comments below or by posting on MyEndometriosisTeam.