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Menstrual Essentials

If you suffer from PMS, cramps, or other period problems, yoga can bring relief.

By Linda Sparrowe

Menstrual Problems

Amenorrhea is the technical term for no bleeding. It's quite common among teenagers who are just beginning their periods. They may have a light period one month and then no bleeding for several months. This can often happen because the pituitary gland, which produces the FSH and LH hormones necessary for ovulation, is underdeveloped. When everything is normal, estrogen builds up a thick, unstable lining in the uterus, and following ovulation, progesterone comes along to stabilize the uterus and prepare the nest for an egg to grow. If you don't ovulate, you can't produce progesterone. And if you're not making progesterone, estrogen gets no signal to stop thickening the uterine lining. After a while, some of this lining begins to slough off and scant bleeding will occur. Generally, according to Tierona Lowdog, M.D., a physician and medical herbalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the body will correct itself, and there's nothing a young woman needs to do but wait.

Because the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are so closely connected to the emotional center of the brain, the limbic region, it stands to reason that even after our periods are well-established, we may stop bleeding when we're under a lot of stress. Arabella Melville, author of Health Without Drugs, says stress commonly disrupts our cycles. Some women, she says, stop bleeding when their relationships fall apart; others find a demanding work schedule the culprit; still others are so frightened of getting pregnant that they miss their periods. Again, missing a period on occasion because of stress does not usually require medical intervention, but it should cause you to re-evaluate your lifestyle. Prolonged amenorrhea should be evaluated by a physician since suppressed menstruation could be a sign that severe medical conditions exist, such as diabetes, thyroid malfunction, extreme weight gain or loss, or acute emotional distress.

Geeta Iyengar, daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar and a specialist herself on women's health, recommends yoga to jump start a cycle or to get our periods back on track. She particularly likes inversions to increase blood circulation and balance the endocrine system, backbends to tone the liver, and twists to massage the internal organs. John Friend, a yoga teacher in Houston, Texas, agrees. He explains that blood circulation affects the glands of the endocrine system. Each gland pulsates just like every cell in our bodies pulsates; so as blood flow diminishes, the pulsation of the actual gland diminishes, too. In fact, if circulation to the particular gland is either excessive or restricted, he says, you won't get an optimal level of health for that gland.

Just as a woman can go a month or more without a period, she can also have bouts of heavy bleeding. For some women, according to Gladstar, such bleeding is normal, as long as their blood is bright red, they don't experience clotting or heavy cramps, and they aren't wiped out every time they get a period. When the bleeding becomes excessive, that is, when you continue to soak through pads or tampons every hour or two even on the second or third day of your period, something's wrong. According to Sharon Olson, an osteopath and women's health specialist in Northern California, if menorrhagia continues month after month, it can lead to anemia or an iron deficiency, so she recommends seeing your doctor for an evaluation. Dr. Northrup points out that chronic stress over what she terms "second chakra issues, including creativity, relationships, money, and control of others" may be the culprit. She encourages her patients to set aside time to be creative, to mourn the loss of old relationships, and learn to voice their joys and frustrations in new ones. When women heed the signals their bodies give them, their periods will often return to normal.

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Reader Comments

Lauren

Very helpful! Thank you

Jo

My next cycle will be perceived literally as a detoxing process, Im sure thsi will make me feel so much less anxious and as a knowck on effect less cramps.......power of the mind, roll on PMS! Great article, I really needed a refresh on what my body does..

lina

very informative and encouraging

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