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Menstrual Problems: Can Yoga help?

Many studies have shown that regular yoga exercises provide significant health benefits. Here's how menstruation problems may be curbed through yoga.

Menstrual Problems: Can Yoga help?

Yoga can help reduce period cramps and may also cure other menstrual abnormalities

It's one of those days.  You are on a period –and it is heavy and painful.   You are not feeling one hundred percent and you don't want to go to work.  But you have an important meeting and cannot possibly miss it.  You drag yourself out of bed, down a few painkillers, and rush into work.  Minutes before the meeting you discover that you have stained your dress.  The day couldn't get worse.  No wonder the periods are called “the curse”. Sounds familiar?  Welcome to the world of over 355 million menstruating women in India.  

Why do Women have Periods?

Imagine a life without periods - no bleeding, no pain, no sanitary napkins, and no tampons.   Before you get too carried away with that utopian thought – have you ever wondered why the female species has menses?  Well, because we are special of course!  Every month the womb prepares for a possible pregnancy and when this does not happen it sheds the lining of the womb which results in a period or menses.  This usually happens once a month and a woman bleeds on an average for 5 days.  The normal cycle varies from 21 to 35 days and the bleeding can last from 2 to 7 days. So, having a regular period most often indicates that a woman is ovulating every month.  

Menstrual Abnormalities

Some women may experience variations in their cycles.  Bleeding may be heavy (changing 5 - 6 or more fully soaked pads/day), painful or irregular.  These variations may be a result of a hormone imbalance, growths (non-cancerous) in the uterus called fibroids or polyps, or occasionally in an older woman a sign of cancer.   Most commonly, heavy and prolonged periods can cause a low blood count otherwise known as anaemia.  This can cause tiredness, weakness, and an inability to perform day-to-day activities optimally. About 60% of the women who consult me, do so because they have a menstrual problem.  And about 40% of them have a low blood count.  So if you have problems with your periods don't just “put up with them” but go and see your gynaecologist.  You owe it to yourself to be healthy.

Menstruation through the Ages

Although women have always menstruated, there is only sporadic mention of this for thousands of years.  Through the ages, menstruation has never been discussed openly.  It has been associated in turn with witches, magic, shame, and taboo.  And it is not surprising that even today most women in our country do not talk freely about it. In some communities in India women, during a period, are not allowed to enter places of worship, cook food or participate in socio-cultural activities. All this and more perpetuates the myth that menstruation is impure and the body is cursed during this time.  This is rather contradictory given that if a girl does not have periods she would be considered infertile and therefore cursed!  

Yoga & Menstrual problems

Yoga is an ancient technique for improving health. The practice of yoga has increased in several countries for various ailments, particularly related to physiological and psychological problems. Yoga is believed to balance psychic and vital energies within the body.  Yoga is one of the methods of self-improvement and exercise that fully trains the soul, mind, and body and allows the individual to recognize him or herself. The yoga-based lifestyle includes positive behavioral changes (yamas and niyamas), physical posture practices (asanas), breathing regulation (pranayama), control of the senses (pratyahara), and meditative techniques (dharana, dhyana, and samadhi).

Healthy women can experience physical and psychological changes in the menstrual cycle.  These include heavy periods, painful periods, and premenstrual syndrome. 

Various treatments are recommended for these symptoms, and they include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment methods.  Pharmacological treatment methods include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along with pain relievers and oral contraceptives.  Non-pharmacological treatment methods are acupuncture, acupressure, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (tens), yoga, exercise programs, massage and relaxation methods, vitamin-mineral support, and herbal therapies. 

It has been determined that yoga exercises have positive effects on the emotions and physical condition of individuals. It has been shown that regular yoga training has positive effects on menstrual symptoms and psychological well-being by balancing the neuroendocrine axis.

Regular exercise is known to reduce the frequency and severity of menstrual symptoms. Studies have shown that symptoms and pain levels decrease in women who exercise regularly, and this decrease may be due to hormonal changes in the uterine epithelial tissues or an increase in endorphin levels. In the literature, yoga has been determined to reduce menstrual cramps, and it has also been reported that it can be used in menstrual problems because it is safe, has no side effects, is low in cost, easily accessible, and noninvasive.

Content by: Dr. Prathima Reddy, Director - SPARSH Hospital for Women and Children & Lead Consultant at Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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