A study conducted by a trustee of Brighton Natural Health Centre, Jennifer Oates, has shown that yoga is helpful for various kinds of menstrual problems. The paper, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is a systematic review of 18 previous yoga studies.
The overall conclusion is that “All included studies reported some change in their outcome measures, suggesting reduced symptoms of menstrual distress following a yoga intervention.”
However, the paper recognises some challenging problems when researching yoga. Probably the main one is that yoga means different things to different people, and the researched studies included a range of practices and styles including asana, pranayama and other yogic relaxation and meditation techniques. Two studies focused solely on the yoga nidra practice (profound relaxation), while another only used three poses (cobra, cat and fish). The frequency, length and intensity of the studies also varied enormously. Sessions varied between 20 and 90 minutes and from daily for 16 weeks to 20 minutes for 14 days. To make things more complicated, there also wasn’t much consistency between the outcome measures used.
Despite this, it is good to focus on the positive findings – that all of the different practices resulted in improvements in factors such as menstrual distress, pain, mood, mental health or quality of life.
So we can pretty safely conclude that yoga benefits women’s menstrual disorders, and it will be interesting to see what continuing research shows about the most effective ways of practising yoga for these problems.
Jenny’s full paper is available here: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2016.0363