You don't need to be a dedicated yogi to reap the benefits of gentle hatha yoga, which may offer a real reprieve from pain for women suffering from reproductive conditions like premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Countless women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with symptoms that occur before a woman's period, and can include severe cramps and headaches. It turns out that hatha yoga may be able to help alleviate this as well as symptoms from other more severe (and less prevalant) conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Endemetriosis is a disorder that occurs when the endometrium, the tissue lining the uterus, develops outside of the uterus instead of inside, which can cause chronic pelvic pain, fertility problems, lesions on the pelvic organs, and cysts. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs when a woman's hormones are out of balance and often results in painful cysts.
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“Yoga supports us in a variety of ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually," she says, "It helps balance the nervous system; specifically, it dampens down the sympathetic nervous system, our fight-or-flight response, and elevates the parasympathetic, or rest-and-digest, system. It does this by teaching slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing and postures that create stability and ease in the body."
Sparrowe says yoga's ability to alleviate not just physical symptoms but emotional stress is "important to healing, not only because stress exacerbates such conditions as PCOS, PMS, and endometriosis, but because stress also separates our minds from our bodies. Once we’re on our way to calm, we can get to the root and the heart of the problem. Yoga quiets the nervous system so our minds and hearts can hear and feel what’s happening inside—and bring loving attention to the places that need it most.”
A recent paper in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine dug into the effects of a yoga practice on women with endometriosis, particularly. They found that the women who completed the yoga intervention reported notable improvements in their quality of life, feeling less pain and more control, better emotional wellbeing, and improved self-image, as opposed to the women who did not complete a hatha yoga practice.
These findings offer insight into yoga as an option for symptom management for women with endometriosis, as well as as a potentially viable option for conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome and premenstrual syndrome.
For women with endometriosis, PCOS, or PMS, Sparrowe recommends yoga poses that promote space and freedom in the belly and pelvic floor and allows those muscles to release and breath to enter. Some of her favorites include: