Ms. Namita Nayyar
From your experience can you suggest a sound methodology for using yoga exercises in reducing pain felt in primary dysmenorrhea?
Ms. Fharzana Siraj
In yoga, it is advised that menstruating women practice a sequence-specific to their condition rather than do general yoga. This is because the body and mind are in a different states at this time. The body is directing its energy to shed the lining of the uterus. This causes many women to feel physically uncomfortable, suffer abdominal cramping, backache, breast swelling, and tenderness, and generally feel fatigued and depleted. The brain may feel as though it is vibrating or throbbing and the woman may feel irritable and emotional.
All inversions are contraindicated during menstruation – meaning, they should not be done until menstruation is over. This is because the lining of the uterus is meant to come out of the body as waste material and not be retained.
Inversions will check or slow down the flow of this waste material from the body. If inversions are done regularly during menstruation, particularly over the longer term, it could compromise menstruation and reproductive health possibly leading to conditions such as fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, or even cancer.
Similarly, any poses that tighten or constrict the abdomen should not be done during menstruation. This group of poses includes abdominal asanas, closed twists, ‘body knottings’ (leg behind the head poses), unsupported backends, and hand balancing pose. These poses will only harden the abdomen and the reproductive organs and bring heat into the body. The effect is to increase or worsen the symptoms such as cramping, aggravating the nervous system creating irritability, and increasing the duration of the menses.
During the first one or two days of the period cycle, the symptoms are usually worse. The practice sequence for these days should be restful; involving supported supine postures, supported forward bends, followed by savasana. ( Supta Baddhakonasana on the bolster, Adhomukha Virasana on the bolster. )When followed correctly and the asanas are held for the requisite time, this sequence can really relieve all of the symptoms. The groins are softened which reduces abdominal cramping. The legs are rested which quietens the brain. The nervous system is soothed and cooled. The poses are restful and the woman feels restored at the completion of the sequence.
As the menstruation flow lightens, usually from days three to five, the woman may wish to reintroduce supported standing poses against the wall. ( eg Ardhachandrasana) The purpose of using the wall is to give the woman support when doing the asanas and to ensure that the chest and abdomen are opened. Supported Adhomukasvanasana and Supta Virasana on bolster are also recommended during this period.
Ms. Namita Nayyar
Busting myths that Yoga does not help in digestive function?
Ms. Fharzana Siraj
The Mind-Body Link:
Ancient yogis understood that good digestion is key to radiant health. The digestive system is a very sensitive mirror of the mind, solely under the influence of the autonomic nervous system, governed by the limbic area of the brain. The digestive process is governed by the autonomic nervous system, largely under our subconscious control. Emotions and mental processes act directly on the limbic area of the brain and via the nervous system; they affect the stomach and digestive organs. The parasympathetic nervous system (dominant in a relaxed state) turns on digestive juices, speeds up peristalsis, and opens the sphincters. science has proven that yoga through asanas, pranayamas, bandhas, mudras, and dhyana activates the parasympathetic nervous system and in turn, regulates all the other systems of the body, especially the digestive system. There is also a lesser-known part of our body’s nervous system located in our gut. It’s called the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system’s network of nerves, neurons, and neurotransmitters extends along the entire digestive tract – from the esophagus, through the stomach and intestines, and down to the anus.
Because the enteric nervous system relies on the same type of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in the central nervous system, some medical experts call it our “second brain.” The “second brain” in our gut, in communication with the brain in our head, plays a key role in certain diseases in our bodies and in our overall physical and mental health.