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Just over two years ago, we talked about some of the wonderful ways yoga and pelvic floor PT complement one another. You can read “When Pelvic Floor Meets Yoga” here: https://hudsonvalleypt.com/2018/08/30/when-pelvic-floor-meets-yoga/.

 

In the blog, we talked about yoga for pelvic pain and strengthening and what exactly about yoga makes it a great adjunct to PT. 

 

Given the stress and craziness this holiday season (and this entire year to be honest), we thought it may be time to revisit “When Pelvic Floor Meets Yoga.”

 

Stress … and what it does to your pelvic floor

 

Have you ever gone through an extremely stressful week and noticed that your jaw starts to ache? 

 

While some people clench their jaw, many people also clench their pelvic floors without even knowing it

 

Ever notice that stress seems to trigger your pelvic pain symptoms 

 

Conditions like

 

-chronic prostatitis/ chronic pelvic pain syndrome

– endometriosis

– PGAD (persistent gentital arousal disorder)

– painful bladder syndrome/ interstitial cystitis 

– vulvodynia

– vaginismus

– coccydynia (tailbone pain)

– and the list goes on

 

Can really ramp up in stressful times

 

Then the solution is quite simple. Stress less….so easy, right?

 

The combination of movement, breathwork, and mindfulness in yoga can help decrease stress.

 

A large review of 35 studies in 2012 suggests that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety (Li and Goldsmith, 2012). In another 2017 analysis of 42 studies, yoga appeared to improve regulation of the sympathetic nervous system (Pascoe et. al, 2017).

 

From an evolutionary perspective, the sympathetic nervous system exists to help us escape from a tiger in the wild. The sympathetic nervous system puts us into survival mode. 

 

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any tigers running around New York. Yet, the body can’t always tell the difference and we live in a heightened sympathetic state. 

 

Finally, a small study put yoga to the test for women specifically suffering from pelvic pain. These women reported at least six months of moderate to severe pelvic pain. Following just two classes per week for a few months, the participants rated their decrease in pain by around 30% (Huang et. al, 2017). 

 

Stress and your gut

 

Without getting too technical (that may be for another blog), stress has a profound influence on your gut, and your gut can influence your stress.

 

It works both ways, but for now we will focus on the former.

 

Research has shifted focus to interaction of gut and brain. Stress hormones throw off the signals between the two and increase overall inflammation (Pascoe et. al, 2017).

 

A broad spectrum of gut disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease. GERD/ reflux appear to be linked to this phenomenon (Pascoe et.al, 2017)

 

In a randomized control trial, young adults suffering from IBS participated in yoga just twice a week for six weeks. Overall, the study suggests positive improvement in irritable bowel symptoms following the program (Evans et. al, 2014).

 

The mysterious vagus nerve

 

We talked about the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” system. The parasympathetic nervous system balances the sympathetic nervous system. 

 

The parasympathetic nervous system helps our bodies “rest and digest.”

 

One of our nerves called the vagus nerve links our gut to brain in simplest terms. 

 

Parasympathetic nerve fibers exclusively make up the vagus nerve. The job of this important nerve is to help the body chill out and take care of the processes that we need to live.

 

The vagus nerve helps regulate digestion. 

 

Breathwork and meditation (two components of yoga) help stimulate the vagus nerve (Breit et. al, 2018). 

 

Ready to add a little more namaste into your life?

 

While yoga cannot cure everything, it can be a great tool for stress reduction on your healing journey. 

 

Give these three poses from the Pelvic Floor Relaxation Yoga series a try.

 

Check out all our yoga offerings here: https://hudsonvalleypt.com/health-and-wellness/ and tune in for Self-Care Sunday on FB  live this Sunday, December 20th at 9:30am.

Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date on all things pelvic health and for next month’s blog on yoga for pelvic floor strengthening. 

References

Breit, S., Kupferberg, A., Rogler, G., & Hasler, G. (2018). Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 44. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044

Evans, S., Lung, K. C., Seidman, L. C., Sternlieb, B., Zeltzer, L. K., & Tsao, J. C. (2014). Iyengar yoga for adolescents and young adults with irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 59(2), 244–253. https://doi.org/10.1097/MPG.0000000000000366

Huang, A. J., Rowen, T. S., Abercrombie, P., Subak, L. L., Schembri, M., Plaut, T., & Chao, M. T. (2017). Development and Feasibility of a Group-Based Therapeutic Yoga Program for Women with Chronic Pelvic Pain. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.), 18(10), 1864–1872. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnw306

Konturek, P. C., Brzozowski, T., & Konturek, S. J. (2011). Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. Journal of physiology and pharmacology : an official journal of the Polish Physiological Society, 62(6), 591–599.

Li, A. W., & Goldsmith, C. A. (2012). The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic, 17(1), 21–35.