Yoga for Period Cramps

4 Yoga Poses for Period Comfort

Menstruation isn’t merely a physiological event for individuals with a uterus; it’s a complex cycle that begins with premenstrual symptoms and often includes the discomfort of period cramps. These symptoms are not always a welcome announcement of Aunt Flo’s impending visit. Headaches, fatigue, bloating, mood swings, and other discomforts can make these days challenging.

While the idea of finding relief on a yoga mat might seem counterintuitive, yoga asana (physical postures) has consistently proven to be a valuable ally in alleviating the pain associated with period cramps and managing various premenstrual symptoms. Let’s explore the science behind how yoga can be a soothing practice during menstruation.

How Yoga Alleviates Period Cramps and PMS

Period cramps, scientifically known as dysmenorrhea, result from the uterus contracting. This contraction is triggered by the release of prostaglandin, a hormone-like chemical, or may be associated with uterine conditions like endometriosis or fibroids. The intensity and duration of period cramps vary among individuals and can fluctuate throughout different stages of life.

Exercise, including yoga, has long been recommended to alleviate back pain and aches related to PMS. The type of exercise matters, with higher-intensity workouts aiding inflammation reduction and lower-intensity exercises, like yoga, helping decrease cortisol and prostaglandin levels.

Research supports yoga’s effectiveness in managing PMS symptoms and period cramps. Specific yoga-based programs have shown significant improvement not only in pain but also in overall quality of life. Yoga’s impact on cortisol levels, reduction in prostaglandin synthesis, and improvement in quality of life make it a valuable practice for menstrual discomfort.

Sarah Garden, a seasoned yoga therapist specializing in chronic pain and pelvic health, emphasizes the broader benefits of yoga for dysmenorrhea. Yoga encourages relaxation, gentle stretching of cramping muscles, and a calming effect on the nervous system, addressing the broader body response to pain.

The Top 4 Yoga Poses for Period Comfort

While the effectiveness of yoga poses can be subjective, restorative yoga, characterized by the use of props for full-body support and longer hold times, is often recommended for menstrual discomfort. Here are four restorative poses that can provide relief when held for 5-20 minutes, ensuring you feel adequately supported.

1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Supported Cobblers Pose)

Props required: Bolster, blanket, strap, and two blocks

  1. Place a bolster vertically down the center of your mat or create a narrow pile of folded blankets.
  2. Sit in front of the bolster with your sit bones on the floor, facing away from it.
  3. Bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet together.
  4. Use a strap to weave around your hips, sacrum, inner thighs, and feet.
  5. Slowly lie back onto the bolster, ensuring your head is supported by a blanket if needed.
  6. If the groin stretch is intense, place a block beneath each outer thigh.

2. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

Props required: Bolster, strap, one block

  1. Place a bolster vertically down the center of your mat or create a narrow pile of folded blankets. Set up a block at the end of the bolster.
  2. Loop a strap around your ankles snugly.
  3. Sit on the end of the bolster, lie back, and slide your body backward off the bolster until your upper back is on the floor, shoulders off the top of the bolster.
  4. Release your arms by your sides and rest your heels on the block.

3. Paschimottanasana (Western Stretch/Forward Fold)

Props required: Bolster, blanket(s), block

  1. Sit on a folded blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Place the bolster perpendicular across your thighs and pile a block on top.
  3. Attempt to drape yourself over the props with your forehead on the block.
  4. If the props are too low, build them higher with more blankets and blocks.
  5. Let your arms relax by your sides.

4. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall)

Props required: One blanket or a thin bolster

  1. Bring the short end of your mat to a wall.
  2. Sit sideways next to the wall, lie down, and turn your body, taking your legs up the wall.
  3. Slide back until your sacrum is on the floor, ensuring your sit bones are grounded.
  4. Place a narrowly folded blanket or thin bolster underneath your sacrum.
  5. Let your arms rest in a comfortable position.

Are Yoga Inversions Safe During Menstruation?

The notion of avoiding inversions during menstruation has historical roots, possibly influenced by the male-dominated origins of yoga. Some traditions even ask practitioners to avoid inversions during the first three days of menstruation, citing energy management and, in some cases, outdated beliefs regarding cleanliness.

However, modern yoga therapists, like Sarah Garden, challenge these beliefs, emphasizing the importance of listening to one’s body. The idea that inverting during menstruation is dangerous lacks supporting evidence, and many practitioners adapt their practice based on their individual energy levels and comfort.

While inversions like Handstand, Headstand, Shoulderstand, and Forearm balance are often questioned during menstruation, it’s essential to remember that even poses with feet on the ground, like Downward Facing Dog, can be considered inversions. Ultimately, the decision to invert during menstruation should be guided by personal comfort and body signals.

Tips and Considerations

While certain yoga poses may provide relief, it’s crucial never to force physical movement when energy levels are low. Fatigue, a common PMS symptom, may compromise mindfulness during movement, making it advisable to prioritize rest on such days.

Individuals with conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis, which can intensify PMS and period cramps, should approach physical movement cautiously. Always consult with a medical provider before attempting new practices, especially if experiencing increased pain after exercising.

Sarah Garden underscores the need for an integrated approach, combining yoga with other treatment modalities and supports. While yoga proves beneficial, it works best as part of a holistic strategy to manage menstrual discomfort effectively.

The Final Word

Periods may be a recurring part of life for many, but thankfully, alternative therapies like yoga offer relief. Embracing the cyclical nature of the body and incorporating restorative practices during menstruation can create a more supportive and nurturing experience. Listen to your body, honor its signals, and explore the soothing world of yoga for menstrual comfort.

Category: Featured