Endometriosis is marked by tissue resembling what normally lines the uterus growing outside of the uterus, mostly around the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels, or bladder. In rare instances, this tissue may also appear in the lungs or be found elsewhere.
Chronic pelvic pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis. The disorder can also cause painful menstrual cramps, irregular periods, pain in the lower abdomen, pain during or after sex, difficult bowel movements and other digestive problems, and infertility. Chronic pain leads to fatigue and affects patients’ quality of life.
Yoga and endometriosis
Yoga focuses on breathing and body postures, using physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated in ancient India. Different poses and stretching routines can help relieve endometriosis-associated pain. It is an alternate form of therapy, and part of a multi-disciplinary approach thought to benefit endometriosis patients by easing pain and fatigue. Different types of yoga are used, depending on a person’s preference and needs. All involve a series of poses accompanied by rhythmic breathing.
A study conducted at the University of Campinas Medical School in Brazil assessed the effectiveness of yoga practice on alleviating chronic pelvic pain, menstrual cramps, and in improving quality of life in people with endometriosis. A total of 40 women were enrolled and randomly divided into two groups, one that practiced yoga (28 women) and a control group that did not (12 women). Yoga sessions were 90 minutes and practiced twice a week for eight weeks. Patients doing yoga reported a significant reduction in chronic pelvic pain and a marked improvement in emotional well-being, self-image, and overall life quality. No significant difference was noted in menstrual cramps between the two groups.
A clinical trial (NCT02761382) in Denmark evaluated the impact of mindfulness-based psychological treatment, including meditation and yoga, on patients’ ability to work, pain, and quality of life. The study enrolled 58 women, ages 18 to 47. They were randomly assigned either to yoga or to meditation-based treatment (a non-specific general psychological treatment), or were placed on a waiting list. Each treatment regimen was administered in group sessions of three hours per week for 10 weeks. The study recently ended, and its results have not been published.
A one-year study (NCT03784976) sponsored by the University of Illinois is evaluating the effectiveness of Iyengar yoga classes on women with menstrual disorders that include dysmenorrhea (painful periods) and endometriosis. It aims to enroll 90 girls and women, ages 12 to 65. Participants are being randomly divided into control and treatment groups. The treatment group will receive regular care for three months, followed by three months of biweekly yoga sessions. Control group participants will receive usual care. Data will be collected at baseline (study’s start), and at three, six, nine, and 12 months. Those in the control group who finish nine months with the study will then be given three months of yoga therapy. This study, which ends in July 2021, is currently enrolling eligible women at its sole site in Urbana, Illinois; information is available here.
Last updated: July 29, 2019
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