Yoga is a great way to help find relief during your time of the month, not only for menstrual cramps but lots of other symptoms that come along with it, bloating, moodiness, fatigue and even cravings. As much as we want to curl up into the fetal position on the couch, with comfort food, that is actually the worst thing to do because not moving only exacerbates the symptoms. The best thing to do is move your body!
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods often associated with cramping. Menstrual cramps are often the cause of a lack of blood flow to the uterus, which causes contractions aka period cramps. Exercising your body with these 6 yoga poses can help to increase circulation and blood flow to the uterus which reduces the cramping.
Yoga also helps to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller and mood elevator. These hormones help reduce period cramps, pains and bloating not to mention improve your mood. Plus the more you move your body consistently it boosts your metabolism keeping you clear from unwanted cravings.
*Of course always listen to your body and do what feels right for you. There are some yoga poses to avoid during your period, especially inversions.
1. CAMEL POSE
Come to kneel with knees hip distance apart, toes tucked behind you, hands rest on the back of your pelvis with fingers pointing to the floor. Lengthen the tailbone towards the floor and begin to lean back with the chin tucked slightly leading with your chest going as far as is comfortable. If you can take it further start to reach back grabbing hold of each ankle keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor with your hips directly over your knees. Maintain the head in neutral position or begin to carefully drop it back without strain. Hold for 30-60 seconds. To release, bring your hands to your hips, inhale leading with your heart, lifting the torso and head comes up last.
Heart opening poses like Camel help to alleviate unwanted anxiety, stress, and fatigue that are all associated with PMS symptoms. This pose helps to stretch the groin, abdomen and opens the front of the body, which helps to relieve menstrual cramps, ease lower back pain and menstrual discomfort. By engaging your core throughout this pose you stimulate all of your abdominal organs which help to increase blood flow to the uterus and can fast track the healing of discomfort, bringing your body to feel overall more relaxed and at ease.
2. HALF MOON POSE – Variation A / Variation B
Standing at the top of your mat, place your hands on your hips, begin to pick up the left foot flexing the toes and start to hinge forward. Rotate the left foot horizontally so the toes are facing the left side wall and begin to reach down with the right hand either towards the floor or reaching for a block while keeping the right leg straight and the back toes flexed. Once you feel stable start to reach up with the left hand opening up through the chest, doing your best to stack the shoulders and hips. Gaze can be kept to the ground, to the left wall, or up towards the left hand. You can also work towards bending the left leg and using the left hand to reach towards the left foot. Hold for a few breaths, carefully release and switch sides.
Half moon pose tones and opens the the pelvic region, which helps to slow heavy bleeding, ease menstrual cramps, and is also great for women who suffer from endometriosis and fibroids. This pose also opens the hips and chest, helps to relieve the achy feeling during your period. It also increases blood flow through the body helping to gain a much-needed boost of energy during this time.
3. LOCUST POSE
Lye face down onto your mat resting your forehead down and arms at your side, palms facing down. Inhale and raise your head to look forward, lift your chest, legs, and arms keeping the palms facing down alongside your body. Use your inner thighs to lift your legs towards the ceiling reaching straight back through the balls of your feet. Your weight should rest on your lower ribs, and front pelvis. Keep your chest lifted as you widen across your collarbones and draw your shoulder blades into your back ribs and extend them away from each other, interlace the hands behind you, lengthening the arms.
Locust pose massages the abdomen and reproductive organs easing the discomfort with cramping. Digestion during menstruation can often become irregular and this pose helps to stimulate the digestive system alleviating bloating and constipation. By practicing this pose regularly, it can help balance the hormones, regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce PMS, menstrual discomfort, and emotional irritability.
4. WILD THING
Start in downward facing dog, inhale lift the right leg up towards the ceiling still grounding down through the left heel. Begin to bend the right knee, flexing the right foot, opening up the hip while keeping the shoulders and chest square to the mat. Carefully let your right foot fall all the way over crossing over the left leg, let your right hand release from the mat palm facing down and extended straight. Both feet are facing the back of the mat, lifting up through the hips, dropping the head back slightly. Stay for a few breaths, make your way back to down dog and repeat on the other side.
One of my favourite poses! The name says it all! This pose is great to help balance mood and hormones. It opens and stretches the abdominals helping to reduce pain, cramping, and increases overall energy. Wild thing also helps to reduce anxiety and depression.
5. TRICKY CAT ADVANCED VARIATION
Begin in table pose – hips over knees, shoulders over wrists. On an inhale extend the right arm and left leg out and begin to reach back with the right hand bending the left knee holding onto the inside of the left foot. Start to lift the left foot up while finding that stability through the grounding the opposite hand and leg. Exhale slowly release, and switch sides.
Tricky cat requires balance which allows the mind to focus helping to gain more mental clarity. This pose opens and stretches the abdominals to help reduce cramping and opens up the hips which help relieve back pain. It is also a great energy and mood booster.
6. ARCHING PIGEON
Start in downward facing dog pose, raise your right leg bend opening up the hip and bring your right knee to the outside of your right wrist, letting the left leg rest down onto the mat making sure it’s straight pressing all five toes into the mat. The right foot is flexed to prevent any knee injury. Bring your hands down by your side, sitting up nice and tall trying to maintain equal weight in both hips. When you feel comfortable, begin to arch back shining the chest forward and open. To release, slowly come back to neutral, tuck the back toes and bring the right foot to meet the left coming back to downward facing dog. Switch sides.
This pose is an amazing hip opener which can help reduce pain and menstrual cramps. This pose allows for you to slow down the mind and breath helping to calm the nervous system. Pigeon pose increases circulation to the urinary, digestive, and reproductive system by compressing and stimulating through light pressure to these organs. It is also a great pose to regulate blood flow and reduce back pain.