The AVIVA Method: Self-Help For Your Menstruation! by Stephanie Kraus
Have you ever wondered, right there and then when you are having those menstrual cramps, >>Just WHAT can I do!?<< Besides slipping a pain killer tablet into your mouth, withdrawing under your bed covers and calling it a day, it is great to have a simple tool that is effective. The AVIVA Method is such a tool.
AVIVA exercises for women
The AVIVA Method is a set of exercises to address the wellbeing and health of the female reproductive system. It is carried out to selected songs which catch the right rhythm for each movement and is also referred to as “Hormonal Dance”. Aviva Steiner, from Israel of Hungarian origin, developed this 32 minute sequence of 18 exercises specifically for women. The AVIVA Method is designed not only for difficulties with menstruation, but for a variety of complaints of the female reproductive system. The whole sequence of exercises addresses different anatomical structures and physiological functions, but single exercises can also be implemented for specific purposes or complaints. And, the AVIVA Method is not just a quick-help. If practiced regularly, it can possibly work on fixing the actual reasons for some of your complaints. There is reference that the method was registered by The World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Health Center of the United Nations.
What do the AVIVA exercises do?
The movements improve mobility and strength of pelvis joints and pelvic muscle condition. They stimulate blood and lymph flow around the reproductive organs and thus exchange of hormones, nutrients, oxygen, as well as discharge of toxins away from the area. The beneficial effects for the menstrual cycle, its rhythm, fertility, pregnancy, labour and menopause have been researched for 50 years. The programme can offer help for painful, long, irregular or absent menstrual periods, some causes of infertility, hormonal weight problems, hormonal imbalances, uterine fibroids, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), urinary infections, uterine malpositions, adhesions of the reproductive organs, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), mood, skin problems, osteoporosis and menopause difficulties.
What about the music for the AVIVA exercises?
The songs were chosen by Aviva Steiner while she developed this method in the 60’s – 80’s. While the original songs might feel a bit outdated to you, they have been legally approved for the AVIVA courses and classes. But more importantly Aviva Steiner chose the songs to match the right rhythm and length of each exercise. The exercises can be done without the music. However, the songs make it easier and more effective. Of course, once you have learnt the method, you could use whatever music you like, but likewise, once you have learnt the method, you will have reached understanding that these songs match perfectly to implement each exercise correctly.
Learning The AVIVA Method
This exercise sequence has to be learnt with an instructor to ensure it is correctly implemented in detail. This is usually done in a full day workshop. The facilitator will first guide you how to feel and understand what is the “working zone” in your own body. All exercises are done paying attention to the “working zone”. The instructor will explain each exercise, give some background knowledge of anatomy and physiology for what it does, practice each one and coach every participant to do the movements correctly to ensure the effect they are designed for. After understanding the exercises and why the nuances are important, the participants are ready for regular classes or to do them at home once or twice a week. It might sound complicated but actually the exercises are so very simple and once you have understood what you are doing, they are very easy to remember and do on your own. Here you can find more info on the AVIVA Method in India and books on the AVIVA exercises and contacts to AVIVA instructors all over the world
Exceptions from practicing The AVIVA Method
- Not for women using IUD (intra uterine contraceptive device). It can be displaced.
- Not taught during pregnancy. If it was learnt before, it can be done after 3rd month in an altered version for benefit during pregnancy and delivery. To benefit most, it should be learnt and practiced before pregnancy and then again after delivery.
- Not taught to girls under age 17. Aviva Steiner recommended the exercises be started only after puberty process is completed. All certified teachers are instructed to strictly adhere to this directive. This is also the reason why educational videos for the AVIVA Method are not available, to ensure it is not misused.
Your AVIVA instructor can let you know more detailed information.
But how exactly does The AVIVA Method work?
To understand how the AVIVA exercises work on the woman’s reproductive system, it is interesting to look into the anatomy and physiology of the female body.
Anatomy: the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes are embedded in the lower ring of the pelvic bone, surrounded by fascia, connective and muscle tissue. The bladder is in front, the big intestine and rectum behind, the small intestine above and the pelvic floor muscles below. Throughout these structures there are blood and lymphatic vessels.
Physiology: the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes receive and exchange oxygen, nutrients and hormones via the blood as well as discharge toxins via blood and lymph flow. Hormones from the brain and other hormonal glands reach the area and hormones from the ovaries are distributed throughout the body, back to the pituitary gland, the hormonal control station in the brain which is responsible for various hormones in the body. It is a cycle of communication. The menstrual cycle: hormones induce a building up of endometrium (uterus lining) to prepare for the possibility of receiving a fertilized egg. If this does not occur, again upon a hormonal cue, the endometrium is broken down and discharged from the body through the cervix and vagina. This is menstruation.
The movements of the AVIVA exercises support the anatomy and physiology process by stimulating circulation of all fluids, mobilizing joints, muscles and organs to release tensions and counteract adhesions, sticky fallopian tubes. During practice, blood circulation is increased in the lower pelvis from 5L to 17 L per minute.
Example 1 for how the AVIVA Method works:
For example one simple exercise provides a movement of the cervix. This can be helpful, if during menstruation ‘clots’ are formed. These can accumulate inside the uterus, not allowing the expelled blood to pass out freely through the cervix. This can be a reason for cramps. The mechanical movement can break down the ‘clots’ into a more liquid paste and the menstrual fluid is more easily discharged. The exercises’ rhythmic downward movements on the uterus can also help through using the force of gravity.
Example 2 for how the AVIVA Method works:
Another example of how the movements can benefit, is by stimulating blood and lymphatic fluid circulation throughout the month.
Before the endometrium is broken down and menstruation occurs, the body reabsorbs whatever is useful including two-thirds of the liquid before menstruation. For this, the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids needs to happen freely. But, it is possible that fluid movement stagnates and a vicious cycle can be the result: If fluids cannot move freely, toxins can accumulate, then reabsorption of endometrium can be reduced and it gets thicker and thicker leading to more ‘clots’. The wall of the intestine can swell, then bowel cannot move easily, blood and lymph flow in the whole pelvic area are slowed down even more and more toxins can accumulate. All this again increases stagnation of blood and lymph flow in the area, bowel movement and menstrual process. Then menstruation can be painful, long and heavy. Lifestyle and nutrition, especially during the days just before menstruation and toxin exposure (including from disposable menstrual products) can also add to the accumulation of toxins.
The stimulation of the AVIVA exercises can counteract such stagnation of fluid circulation. This can help to break this vicious cycle and move towards a healthier state, reduce swelling, letting blood, lymph and stool pass more easily, supporting reabsorption, reducing flow, cramps and pain.
Ongoing effect of practicing the AVIVA Method:
- Fertility: improving menstruation is positive for fertility. Fertility always starts with menstruation. African fertility dances are done at the beginning of cycle to have a healthy menstruation. The endometrium can get ready for a fresh bed for a fertilized egg to implant and start developing into a new human being.
- Pregnancy and birth: At the onset of pregnancy the AVIVA exercises are usually paused. But having been a regular practitioner before, hormone levels can be more balanced throughout these phases; leading to a reduction in mood swings and sickness, increased physical comfort and fitness during pregnancy, and an improved birth process.
- Postpartum and breastfeeding: strength of pelvic floor and abdominal muscles more easily regained after pregnancy, possibility of internal adhesions can reduce.
- Menopause: Balancing hormones can counteract a drop in estrogen and calcium level, bone fragility, thin skin, wrinkles, heat flushes and sudden weight changes. The exercises can have a positive effect on incontinence through improving mobility and strength of organs and pelvic floor muscles and reduce urinary inflammations.
The AVIVA Method workshop offers more than the exercises.
Taking an AVIVA course is not only about learning the movements. It also offers some education on understanding your body anatomy, physiology and the menstrual cycle, extending your knowledge that the period time is just one part of it. Also part of the learning is healthy lifestyle education on how your habits affect your wellbeing as a woman. For example paying attention to your stress level and diet particularly during the days before menstruation can make a positive difference to how your menstruation goes. You can help to reduce or release toxins, improve bowel movement, practice the art of letting go and relax your body muscles in general, so your period can be more pleasant. Hormonal balance is important for mood, skin and bone condition. The AVIVA instructor can give you some information about hormones in foods, the pill and other drugs, drinking water, industrially produced meat, milk, eggs, how to reduce acidity, and how to do a test for your body pH with a strip from the pharmacy, to empower your own capacity towards a pleasant menstruation.
AVIVA exercises for men
While AVIVA was initially a method only for women, there is also a AVIVA programme for men, that aims at stimulating pelvic blood and lymph flow around the reproductive organs, exchange of hormones, nutrients, oxygen, discharging of toxins and improvement of pelvic joint and muscle condition.
Healthy menstrual products can support a healthy menstruation. Along with the information that body detox processes are important for a healthy menstruation, think about this: If you are using disposable pantyliners and menstrual pads, they are made out of plastic chemicals! Convenience at what cost? Think about alternatives that are beneficial for yourself and the environment. Cloth washable pads and menstrual cups are safe, hygienic and environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable menstrual products. When cloth pads are washed well, dried in direct sunlight and stored properly, they are perfectly hygienic. Eco Femme cloth pads are made of cotton flannel with a thin layer of PUL on the bottom layer for leakproofing and are reusable for 3+ years.
My personal experience
When I first came across the AVIVA method, I did not quite understand how a set of exercises that looked so simple, could have such profound effect.
In my practice, female patients reported all kinds of different complaints of the reproductive system. I was hesitant, not to say the least, to credit the movements.
Many of these women had had their troubles ever since they could remember, some encountered them with the onset of puberty, some during or after a pregnancy or with the process of menopause. Often the women also immediately swiftly minimized the very complaints they had just expressed, with words like “Oh, but it’s normal.” or “Every women has that.” even conditioning their growing daughters to believe this just as they had been led to think. But through my studies of Osteopathic Medicine I had already learnt to not buy into the judgement of complaints being “normal-you-have-to-live-with-it” that easily. The human body is not designed in an imperfect way, but complaints can arise from troubling it’s functions that were perfectly designed by nature. A complaint is a symptom of a cause. And best is to understand what it is communicating to us so we can act upon it. I had already helped women through mobilising blocked, malpositioned joints, contracted muscles and visceral adhesions, and received feedback of unexpected improvement of complaints, conceived pregnancy, more pleasant labour, etc. So I was ready to explore what the AVIVA Method could do. I was eager to get to know about a possible tool which I could recommend to empower women to make a positive change for themselves.
Finally it was also my medical background and knowledge of anatomy and physiology, that served in making observations on how these AVIVA exercises work in the body – in my body. Through experiencing the movements in my own body and applying my medical training to observe what actually happens and what body structures move in what way, I began to understand: The details of how exactly to implement each exercise, putting attention on how to apply each movement, is what brings about the specific, well thought out function of the AVIVA Programme. It’s not just moving around arms and legs and jumping about. It is precisely coordinated to produce the intended effects. In the initial course the AVIVA instructor will pay attention that you learn to implement the method correctly. They are so simple! And yet effective!
While I do the exercises regularly, I now know some specific methods of what to do, when I feel discomfort during my menstruation, I can also recommend these self empowering tools to the patients who come for consultation in my practice.
disclaimer, that any health benefits from the AVIVA Method need to be verified by the reader.
[sources 1) Ann Intern Med. 1982 Jun; 96(6 Pt 2):921–3. “Vaginal physiology during menstruation.” 2) Strassmann BI (1996). “The evolution of endometrial cycles and menstruation”. The Quarterly Review of Biology. 71 (2): 181–220.doi:10.1086/419369. PMID 8693059. 3) Emera D, Romero R, Wagner G (2011) The evolution of menstruation: A new model for genetic assimilation: Explaining molecular origins of maternal responses to fetal invasiveness. Bioessays 34(1):26-35.]