—Mary N. Boyle, Cornish, New Hampshire
Jaki Nett's reply:
Uterine fibroids are the most common benign tumors in the female reproductive tract. They can be as small as a millet seed or large enough to fill the entire abdominal cavity. Symptoms of fibroids rarely appear before age 30 but may include painful menstruation, excessive bleeding, and abnormal mucous discharge. Tumors that press on the bladder can cause a need to urinate frequently.
Specific postures did not reduce the size of my own fibroid tumors. But working with my teachers—B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, and Manouso Manos—I learned how to use poses to help my body accommodate and adapt to their growth. Because fibroids can grow rapidly, your yoga practice should focus on softening and opening the abdominal area.
This does not mean letting the stomach hang out by tilting the pelvis forward or allowing the abdominals to become weak and flabby (see "Redefining Great Abs,"). Twists such as Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja's Twist) and Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose) can be beneficial, because they allow the abdominal area to be in an open position.
As fibroids grow, one's yoga practice should be changed to accommodate them. Women with large, heavy fibroids should approach yoga as if they were pregnant. For them, supported poses like Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose), Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), and Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose) can be of great benefit.
There are women who live with fibroids and are content, those who live with them but are not content, and those who choose surgery. Practice your yoga with the guidance of your inner teacher—she will lead you to your right path.
Jaki Nett is a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor in St. Helena, California, and a faculty member of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. She teaches public classes in the San Francisco Bay Area and leads workshops in the United States and Europe, including specialty workshops on female issues.