Endometriosis is a chronic gynecological condition that affects approximately 176 million women worldwide. Though it can occur at any age, it’s most common during a woman’s reproductive years, which are usually between ages 15 and 49 (1).
If you’ve experienced endometriosis, you know how painful it can be. Part of managing endometriosis is managing the pelvic pain that usually accompanies the condition. Recent research has shown that yoga might be one way to do just that (2, 3).
Yoga can ease endometriosis symptoms and improve your overall well-being. It helps reduce pain, relieve tension, and encourage relaxation. Yoga can also help you manage stress and develop mindfulness.
Read on to learn more about how yoga can help you manage symptoms of endometriosis, the best poses to try, and tips for your practice.
Share on PinterestFilippo Bacci/Getty Images
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis causes tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, endometrial-like tissue, to grow outside the uterus.
Endometrial-like tissue often grows on the ovaries, bladder, and bowel, or in the recto-vaginal septum, fallopian tubes, and tissues that line your pelvis. The tissue doesn’t usually grow outside the pelvic area, but it’s possible.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Symptoms of endometriosis range from mild to severe. It’s also possible to have endometriosis without any symptoms. Pain is the most common symptom.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
painful periods bleeding between periodsprolonged periods or periods at short intervals heavy menstrual flow (menorrhagia) with thick blood clotspain during ovulation pain during or after sexback, pelvic, and leg paincramping fatigueinfertilityuncomfortable bowel movements or urinationvomiting, nausea, or bloatingheadaches during periods Summary
Endometriosis is a relatively common condition that can cause pain of varying degrees.
Impact of yoga on endometriosis and pelvic pain
Living with endometriosis can affect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Yoga offers several healing benefits that may help reduce endometriosis symptoms such as stress, tension, and pain (4).
It encourages relaxation, which helps relieve discomfort and calm your mind.
Research suggests yoga and breathing techniques are beneficial in alleviating pelvic pain in women with endometriosis.
In a small 2018 study, women who practiced yoga twice weekly for 8 weeks improved their introspective ability and mind-body connection, which had a positive effect on pain management (2).
In another small study, women with endometriosis who did yoga twice per week for 8 weeks had reduced chronic pelvic pain and improved quality of life (3).
According to Kasia Gondek, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist, yoga helps manage endometriosis in several ways.
“A yoga and mindfulness practice can improve breathing patterns, improve posture, and decrease pain from everyday activities,” she says. “It also helps to decrease and manage symptom flare-ups.”
Gondek, who specializes in women’s health and pelvic floor rehabilitation, recommends yoga styles that emphasize mindfulness, slow and controlled movement, and longer holding times. This includes gentle styles of yoga such as Hatha, yin, and restorative.
Gentle, restful poses help soften and relax the muscles around your pelvis, which helps create space and release tension.
To alleviate endometriosis pain and discomfort, Gondek advises focusing on restorative poses to release tension and promote relaxation.
She explains, “Restorative positions encourage softening of the abdominals, low back muscles, inner thighs, pelvic floor muscles, and chest wall. These are the most common areas of the body to become tight and restricted.”
Research shows yoga is an effective method to alleviate pelvic pain.
Risks of doing yoga with endometriosis
For the most part, it’s safe to practice yoga with endometriosis. Avoid vigorous styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or hot yoga since they can make symptoms worse. Listen to your body and stay away from poses that cause or worsen symptoms.
If you’ve recently had abdominal surgery, Gondek advises talking with your surgeon before starting a yoga practice.
“To protect the healing tissues, avoid positions that place pressure on your abdomen or surgical site,” she says.
“This includes lying on your stomach in Sphinx Pose, bringing your thighs into contact with your abdomen during Child’s Pose, or compressing your abdomen in Happy Baby Pose.”
Gondek advises avoiding twisting poses until your surgeon clears you.
“Once you are healed and cleared for activity, these positions are very beneficial in improving scar tissue mobility, strength, flexibility, and posture,” she says.
Gentle yoga is generally safe for people with endometriosis. If you’ve recently had surgery or if your symptoms worsen, take time to rest before continuing your yoga practice.
8 yoga poses for endometriosis
Restorative Goddess Pose
This relaxing pose helps relieve pelvic pain, reduce abdominal tightness, and balance your nervous system.
Gondek recommends this pose, explaining, “Restorative Goddess Pose allows for deep relaxation and opens the chest wall, hips, and inner thighs. It also calms the dorsal vagus nerve, which is in charge of our fight-or-flight response.”
Place a bolster under your thighs, just below your sitting bones. Use yoga blocks and cushions to create an incline support. Lie down with your spine and head supported by the cushions. Relax your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. Focus on breathing deeply. Hold this pose for 3–10 minutes.Share on Pinterest
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
This twist improves spinal mobility and stretches your chest, back, and glutes.
“Supine Spinal Twist is a great way to release lumbosacral and abdominal myofascial restrictions that are common with endometriosis,” Gondek says.
“It also opens the chest and brings awareness to the breath through focused activation of the diaphragm and lateral rib cage expansion. It can even help with endometriosis-related digestive issues such as constipation or bloating.”
To support your low back and sacrum, place a pillow or yoga block between your knees. Place a pillow under your knees if they don’t reach the floor.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms straight out to the sides with palms down against the floor. As you inhale, breathe into your belly and lower ribs. As you exhale, lower your knees to the left side. Take 5 deep breaths. Pay attention to the stretch and lengthening sensations on the sides of your ribs. Return your knees to the starting position. Repeat on the right side. Share on Pinterest
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Happy Baby is a gentle hip opener that improves flexibility, reduces anxiety, and encourages peace of mind.
Gondek says, “This pose is great for releasing pelvic floor muscles, low back muscles, inner thighs, and hamstrings. Endometriosis can cause these muscles to become tender and restricted due to pain-related movement or posture compensations.”
If your hands don’t reach your feet, place them on your thighs or calves or use a strap over the arches of your feet.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees toward the outside of your chest.Face the soles of your feet toward the ceiling. Place your hands on the outsides of your feet. To create resistance, use your hands to press your feet down.At the same time, press your feet up into your hands. Focus on releasing tension in your hips and pelvic floor. Hold this position for up to 1 minute. Share on Pinterest
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This gentle forward fold promotes relaxation and inner awareness. It gently stretches your spine, hips, and glutes, helping to alleviate tension, cramping, and stress.
For more support, place a cushion under your forehead, torso, or legs.
Start on your hands and knees. Lower your hips and place them on your heels. Place your knees together or slightly wider than your hips. Hinge at your hips to fold forward. Extend your arms in front of or alongside your body. Hold this position for up to 5 minutes.Share on Pinterest
Legs-Up-the-Wall pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose has a calming effect and improves circulation, softens pelvic muscles, and alleviates cramping.
Sit on the floor with your right side against a wall. Lift your legs and place them against the wall as you lie on your back. Place your hips next to the wall or slightly away. Place your arms alongside your body or place your hands on your belly. Hold this position for up to 15 minutes. Share on Pinterest
Reclined Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)
This pose gently stretches your abdomen and pelvis and helps relieve pain, bloating, and discomfort.
To reduce the intensity, do this pose one leg at a time. To support your head and neck, create an incline support using blocks and cushions.
Start in a kneeling position with the insides of your knees together.Move your feet wider than your hips, with the tops of your feet touching the floor and your big toes turned in toward the center. Rest your buttocks on the floor between your feet. Lean back, using your forearms and elbows for support. Gently ease your way onto your back. Place your arms next to your body at a slight angle. Hold this position for up to 1 minute. Return to a seated position. Share on Pinterest
Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This relaxing pose calms your nervous system and relieves stress. It alleviates tightness in your hips, pelvis, and inner thighs. It also gently stretches your stomach, which can reduce pelvic discomfort.
For more support, use blocks or cushions under your knees. You can also use a block or cushion under your chest.
While seated, press the soles of your feet together with your knees out to the sides. Lie down on your back. Place your arms alongside your body or place your hands on your belly. Hold this position for up to 5 minutes. Share on Pinterest
Garland Pose (Malasana)
This squat strengthens your pelvic muscles and helps relieve pain, cramping, and digestive concerns. It gently stretches your low back, hips, and thighs, which increases flexibility and circulation.
For support, you can place a block or cushion under your heels or hips or do this pose with your back against a wall.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips.Press the palms of your hands together.Turn your toes out to the sides slightly. Bend your knees and slowly lower your hips into a low squat. Press your heels into the floor. Lift your pelvic floor and elongate your spine. To deepen the pose, press your elbows into your thighs. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute. Share on Pinterest
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that you do lying down. This relaxation practice alleviates anxiety, depression, and stress (5).
It can also help manage chronic pain, release tension, and improve sleep patterns.
You can download Yoga Nidra recordings here.
Tips for practicing yoga with endometriosis
To make the most of your yoga practice, pay attention to and honor how you’re feeling each day.
Notice your physical, mental, and emotional response to each pose. Use your breath to focus your awareness on any areas of discomfort or sensation. Avoid poses that put too much pressure on your abdominals, cause pain, or make symptoms worse.
Gondek recommends using props such as bolsters, blankets, and yoga blocks to modify poses and provide support.
She explains, “This helps to decrease muscle guarding, which can occur when we are experiencing pain. It gently supports the joints and muscles so that we can fully relax and release into a pose.”
Be sure to listen to your body and modify poses as needed.
The bottom line
If you have endometriosis, you can create a plan to manage your symptoms and prevent complications.
Offering a range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, yoga is an effective tool for managing and reducing the severity of endometriosis symptoms. Along with gentle yoga poses, you can learn breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques.
Talk with your doctor before starting a new yoga program, especially if you have severe symptoms. If possible, practice under the guidance of a yoga instructor.
4 Yoga Poses to Relieve Cramps