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pelvic organ prolapse and the role of yoga

Learn All About Pelvic Organ Prolapse and the Role of Yoga in Recovery

Yoga can help manage pelvic organ prolapse, but there are also some poses, movements and breathing methods that could make the condition worse.

What is a Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

"Prolapse" refers to a descending or drooping of organs. Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) refers to the prolapse or drooping of any of the pelvic floor organs, including: the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, or rectum. These organs are said to prolapse if they descend into or outside of the vaginal canal or anus.

Read our previous blog for more information on prolapse and how pelvic floor therapy can help.

Which yoga poses will help and which poses will make it worse?

Yoga has been found to help women with urinary incontinence, but will it help with prolapse?

There are hundreds of yoga poses as well as breathing exercises in the practice of yoga. Some of these poses can help manage or reduce the negative sensation felt with organ prolapse. Other poses and breathwork, however, may make the condition worse. This is due to the role of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) on the organs and the pelvic floor. Prolapse occurs when pressure in the abdomen is greater than the strength of the pelvic floor, the connective tissue, and deep core muscles that help keep organs in their place.

It is important to note that yoga by itself will not reverse a pelvic organ prolapse. There are many factors and behaviors that contribute to prolapse. It is best to be seen by a licensed pelvic floor physical therapist for a complete examination and treatment plan for your condition.

Yoga Poses That Will Help

Yoga poses that increase pelvic and abdominal stability without significant increases intra-abdominal pressure will help with prolapse.

Mula Bandha:

In a study published in 2018 by the International Journal of Yoga, the technique of Mula Bandha may be beneficial to mild pelvic organ prolapse. Mula bandha is a technique that engages the pelvic floor muscles, along with the deep core muscles. See a yoga therapist or pelvic floor physical therapist for more instruction on proper pelvic floor muscle engagement and how to incorporate it with this exercise.

Supported poses:

  • Legs up the Wall with a block or folded blanket under the pelvis.
  • Supported Bridge pose with a yoga block under the sacrum.
  • Reclined butterfly pose with blocks under the knees.

Breathing:

Do not hold your breath when you have a prolapse, whether you are lifting a bag of groceries or practicing yoga.

Holding your breath will create extra pressure in the abdomen, which will encourage your organs to migrate further south. Practice deep breathing on a regular basis and also exhale with movement.

Exhale with Movement - Do not hold your breath while you move. Try exhaling with the following activities:

  • Transitioning from lying down to sitting up
  • Transitioning from sitting to standing
  • While lifting anything (baby, groceries)
  • While pushing anything (strollers, trash can, shoveling)
  • While bending over to empty the dishwasher, take out laundry, weeding your garden, etc.
  • Putting on your socks, shoes and pants
  • Getting out of the car
  • During exercise
  • Reaching overhead

Poses that Help with Body Alignment

  • Stand in mountain pose and find a neutral pelvis and proper postural alignment.
  • Practice chair pose with a block between the thighs, focusing on maintaining a neutral pelvic position and activation of the deep core muscles (transverse abdominus and pelvic floor).

Yoga Poses to Avoid

  1. Avoid or modify intense core exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) until cleared by a pelvic floor physical therapist.
  • Double Leg Lift (Modification: raise one leg only)
  • Boat Poses (Modification: raise one leg only)
  • Plank Poses, including Chaturanga dandasana
  • Uddiyana bandha (“belly lock”) – this muscular “lock” increases pressure around the prolapse and forces the organs down towards the pelvic floor
  • Deep Squats without proper bracing will increase pressure on the pelvic floor
  • Forward bends with wide legs
  • Avoid jump-backs until you learn effective bracing from a pelvic floor therapist.
  • Do not hold your breath! Breathe with movement and transitions between poses.
  • Avoid heavy lifting, straining, or “pushing”

This applies to manual work and exercise (yardwork, heavy boxes), as well as having a bowel movement.

Read our previous article about body mechanics and prolapse on more tips on how to manage a prolapse.

When to See a Pelvic Floor physical therapist

It is important to note that yoga by itself will not reverse a pelvic organ prolapse. There are many factors and behaviors that contribute to prolapse. It is best to be seen by a pelvic floor therapist for a complete examination and treatment plan for your condition.

At Femina Physical Therapy, we offer personalized, one-on-one yoga therapy sessions that are geared towards your interests, body type, and condition. If you are in need of this therapy and have a little one at home that makes it difficult, many patients over the years have chosen to bring their babies with them to the session. We are proud to be a baby-friendly office and increase access to our services by making it easier for new moms to attend. Contact us to get started on your healing path.

 

Resources

Huang AJ, Jenny HE, Chesney MA, Schembri M, Subak LL. A Group-Based Yoga Therapy Intervention for Urinary Incontinence in Women: A Pilot Randomized Trial. Female pelvic medicine & reconstructive surgery. 2014;20(3):147-154. doi:10.1097/SPV.0000000000000072.

Prosko, S. Organ Prolapse and Yoga. https://www.yogauonline.com/yoga-for-pelvic-floor-health/organ-prolapse-and-yoga

Sweta K, Godbole A, Awasthi H, Pandey U. Effect of Mula Bandha Yoga in Mild Grade Pelvic Organ Prolapse: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Yoga. 2018;11(2):116-121. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_32_17.

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.

 

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by J.B.

My husband and I were having problems with painful intercourse. My therapist recommended that I go and get a pelvic floor evaluation from a physical therapist. Having never been treated by a physical therapist, I wondered how this really was going to help me. My husband who is a physician was very supportive and agreed that a PT evaluation would be a great idea. So i made the appointment and was blown away by what I learned. I had no idea that pelvic floor muscles could get tight and have trigger points just like any other muscle in the body. I'm a massage therapist and very familiar with tight muscles, and this new thought really amazed me. Heather's program to help relax and strengthen these muscles made such a difference. I can say that I am 100% pain free during intercourse now. Yippee! Going to the PT appointments and doing the at-home exercises was definitely a discipline, but it's 100% worth it! The rewards are amazing.

-- J.B.

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

Testimonial by Alexandra B.

Heather is without exaggerating AMAZING! After years of trouble with a certain part of my body, in no time, she made everything change back to equilibrium and to what would be considered normal. She explains everything in detail and therefore gives you a better understanding of why things are the way they are, and how you can work towards turning things around. I would highly recommend Heather for any type of Physical Therapy. She has created her own "Method/Therapy" through years of studying (with some of the greatest practitioners), practice and breaking down the issues of her past patients, enabling her to fine tune her own system. I'm so thankful to have found her, and I'm especially grateful for the quick recovery I've achieved, after years of distress. If you cannot afford her, I recommend you purchase her book. Although it may not be Heather in person, it can still help you to get on the right path to recovery!

-- Alexandra B., 5/20/2015 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

Testimonial by A.B.

Before I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat I was living in a nightmare. I had been married to my husband for three years and I was suffering from Vaginismus. That all changed when I visited my OBGYN and she said she knew of someone with a great success rate. To be honest I was hesitant at first because my first doctor had already told me that all I needed to do was order dilators from the internet and I should overcome my problem. She was wrong because I had followed the book on how to use the dilators with absolutely no advancements in my condition. However, that all changed when I went in for my first visit and Heather took the time to explain my condition and how we were going to work together to overcome it.

I remember leaving her office with a glimmer of hope that I could live a normal life. As my sessions continued I began to see immediate results. With only four sessions and a strict dedication to my home programs I was cured of Vaginismus. In the beginning of this process I was made aware that my health insurance company might not cover the costs, which was disappointing but today I can say one hundred percent that it was the best money I ever spent. Now thanks to Heather I am finally enjoying my life to the fullest with my husband. Thank you Heather, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all that you have done for me. I will never forget it. Those who are suffering from these types of conditions don’t be afraid because she makes you feel so comfortable and the end result is worth it. Good luck to you all and I hope you experience the success I have.
-- A.B.

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