Endometriosis & shoulderstand

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pinkfrost
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2015 6:17 am
Location: New Zealand

Endometriosis & shoulderstand

Post by pinkfrost »

Hi, I am 53 years old with endometriosis. I also suffer from anxiety and have had chronic insomnia for 17 years.

The endometriosis had improved a lot in the last fortnight as I have been exercising more and my diet is now borderline excellent. My period ended about a week ago.

I had thought that shoulderstand would be the perfect pose as I had been told it would -

1. help with the insomnia

2. balance the endocrine system

3. dry blood from last period (and I thought perhaps it could also dry endometrial tissue)

However I did the asana mid evening last night, but at about midnight whilst in bed I had major pain in my pelvic region for about an hour, and I wonder if it was due to the shoulderstand.

What do others think? Thanks in advance for your advice
Bernie
Posts: 1206
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Endometriosis and inversions

Post by Bernie »

This is not really related to Yin Yoga as we rarely, with the exception of Snail Pose, do inversions, but here are a few thoughts on your question. First let's define our terms: here is the definition of endometriosis from the Mayo Clinic
  • Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus...the endometrium ... grows outside your uterus (endometrial implant). Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region. In endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would ... it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions ... abnormal tissue that binds organs together. Endometriosis can cause pain ... sometimes severe ... especially during your period. Fertility problems also may develop.
Commonly in yoga classes, women are requested to do no inversions during their periods if they suffer endometriosis because it can exacerbate the problem. One of the main causes of endometriosis is retrograde menstruation. Again, from the Mayo Clinic:
  • Retrograde menstruation is the most likely explanation for endometriosis. In retrograde menstruation, menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. These displaced endometrial cells stick to the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs, where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle.
Going upside down, as we do in Shoulder Stand or Snail Pose or other inversions are believed to cause this retrograde movement. Not everyone agrees with this, but consensus is not always possible when we deal human beings, because we are all so variable. Inverting for you may not be a good idea.

It would be interesting to hear other yoginis thoughts, but I will leave you with one other opinion, this time from the late Esther Myers:
  • Start with relaxed abdominal breathing and poses like Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) and Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) that gently open and stretch the abdomen and pelvis. Use these poses during times of pain, bloating, or discomfort. Then focus on seated poses that open and release the pelvis like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) or Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend). Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) is particularly beneficial to women with endometriosis when they're not menstruating, since it helps balance the endocrine system.
  • My experience with scar tissue in my abdomen from a hysterectomy is that backbends often feel wonderful at the time, but can cause cramping the next day. Start with small backbends like Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and Salabhasana (Locust Pose) and gradually work up to Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose) to see how much stretch the front body can tolerate.
  • In the case of endometriosis, the key is to work gradually. Work slowly and carefully to find out what works best.
Esther's advice seems very good to me, and her choice of postures seem very Yin-like! Saddle and Straddle Pose and Butterfly. These are great ways to work the Urinary Bladder meridians. Note, however, she only recommends Shoulder Stand when you are not menstruating. In your case, you may want to eliminate the pose entirely, for a while anyway.

Cheers, Bernie
pinkfrost
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2015 6:17 am
Location: New Zealand

Endometriosis & shoulderstand

Post by pinkfrost »

Hi Bernie, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

I have been careful not to do any inversions during my period, and I waited a week after it had finished as I thought that would be long enough. Whilst I take on board the theory about inversions and retrograde menstration I personally don't feel totally convinced by it. If it were true I would have thought by now it would have become evident that certain groups like yoga students, but gymnasts and dancers were getting endometriosis more frequently.

On one website, one poster said she believe that if we are regularly physically active it greatly helps the body in getting all the blood and tissue out, which sounds logical to me, although of course there clearly needs to be more research on it.

I have noted what you have said about the backbends, you have clearly become very good at observing your body and the effects that different poses are having, even to the next day.

I very much like the sound of the poses that you mention. I have always been very attracted to Supta Baddha Konasana in particular. In the Iyengar class I used to attend it was one of the preliminary poses we would all do whilst waiting for the class to begin.

I will also take on board Esther's advice to work gradually. I do need to restrain myself a bid, as I wasn't able to do any yoga for so long, and now I am keen to catch up, worrying about my age and the fact that things may be slipping away from me, etc. All ego driven of course, so I will take check and proceed more carefully and wisely.

Thank you for the wake up prod.

All the best
pinkfrost
Bernie
Posts: 1206
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Endometriosis, Menstruation and Inversions

Post by Bernie »

I would agree with your observation that many women, athletes and gymnasts seem to invert during their periods with no ill effects. It would seem strange that the human body was so poorly designed and constructed that a few moments of being upside down could be so dangerous. I have known many women who were dedicated Ashtangis and who would do the full practice, including Headstands and Shoulderstands, regardless of their periods. They too seem to suffer no problems.

However, human variation being a reality, what works for most people may not work for all people, and I have met a few women (certainly a minority of students) for whom inverting during their period really did cause problems. For them, the best approach is to avoid inversions at these times.

Dogmatic rules rarely work for every body: it is far preferable to use such instructions as "never invert during your period" as a guideline rather than an edict from on high. While yoga teachers can offer suggestions and instructions, every student, man or woman, has to determine for themselves what works and what doesn't. Again, that requires paying attention and knowing your intention.

Cheers
Bernie
dave
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:12 am

Post by dave »

link

Written by female medical doctor/yoga teacher and Geeta Iyengar

Hope that is helpful

Shoulder stands, to do them properly they have to be done as shoulder stands, not neck stands. In order to do that it takes a great deal of strength and energy flowing upward through the toes starting at pelvic floor, Mula Bandha. Maybe strong use of Mula Bandha muscles cause this pain. And some believe in strong flows of energy through the body which may have blockages or releases. Shoulder stand is a well known pose for that. This is yoga not modern science, use whatever works for you.
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