Learn about the symptoms, risk factors and management.
Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which endometrial-like tissue similar to that which normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can involve the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvis, and can spread beyond the pelvic organs. This tissue acts like endometrial tissue does — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. It can cause surrounding tissues to become irritated, and scar tissue and adhesions can develop.
The symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Painful periods
- Heavy periods
- Severe cramping
- Body aches
- Mood swings
- Mild to severe pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse
- Constipation and or diarrhoea
- Pain with bowel movements and or urination
- Sometimes, no symptoms at all
Unfortunately, it often takes years to be diagnosed and the average age for diagnosis is 32. It is often misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It affects 1 in 9 women worldwide. Its symptoms affect physical, mental and social wellbeing.
The gold standard for diagnosis of endometriosis is laparoscopic surgery. Scans alone usually do not pick up endometriosis.
Risk factors include:
- Insulin resistance
- Elevated oestrogen levels
- Immunological dysfunction
- Retrograde menstruation
- Genetic predisposition
Managing endometriosis is best done with a combined medical, and diet and lifestyle approach. Surgery is a much needed option if the pain is severe. Yoga can assist with recovery and with pain management. Studies show that yoga can help develop bodily and psychosocial mechanisms to control pain associated with Endometriosis . The mind and body integrative techniques of yoga — specific asana practices, pranayama (breathing) and mindfulness practices — taught by qualified yoga teachers and therapists can help those with endometriosis to learn to control their experience of pain.
Medical management of endometriosis includes hormone therapy to try to suppress the proliferation of the disease, and surgery, including hysterectomy. Hormone therapy can lead to weight gain, mood swings, and bone density loss. These medical options do not guarantee that the endometriosis will not return.
A 2016 study  determined that ‘Yoga practice was associated with a reduction in levels of chronic pelvic pain and an improvement in quality of life in women with endometriosis.’ These results were based on two 90 minute sessions of Hatha Yoga per week for 8 weeks.
Ongoing support and management of the disease with an integrative approach seems like a best practice approach. Experienced yoga teachers and qualified yoga therapists are well placed to work alongside medical care givers to support pain management in endometriosis.
What can yoga teachers and yoga therapists do about it?
- Spread awareness that yoga can assist with endometriosis
- Get informed about the symptoms of endometriosis
- Further study to be skilled in assisting students with this condition
- Refer to a qualified yoga therapist
- Encourage sufferers to get properly diagnosed and to prioritize their own care
- Visit https://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/