Yoga for Menstrual Cramps: Tips and Tricks to Practicing Yoga for PMS
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
Menstrual cramps and PMS affect many women worldwide, but yoga for menstrual cramps is an excellent way to address these symptoms and feel better in no time! Yoga for PMS and menstrual cramps is targeted at providing pain relief and getting to the root cause of imbalance to prevent the onset of these symptoms once and for all.
Through regular yoga practice for period pains, you can navigate your cycle with greater ease and get in synch with your body the way nature intended it. In this article, we will go over everything you need to know to use yoga for PMS, period pains, and menstrual cramps using yoga poses, essential oils, mudras, and more to holistically target your reproductive health. Now, let’s get started!
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is the uncomfortable symptoms you get right before your period starts. Contrary to popular belief, PMS is not what happens while you are menstruating. Instead, it is what occurs before menstruation. Some of the common symptoms of PMS include:
· Mood swings
· Tender breasts
PMS is surprisingly common, and many women struggle with these debilitating symptoms that can significantly impact their quality of life. PMS is linked to hormonal changes after ovulation when your estrogen levels drop, resulting in a change in your body chemistry. With a holistic approach through yoga for PMS, you can target these symptoms and find relief for a more easeful monthly cycle.
One way to begin understanding your PMS is to track your cycle and note down any symptoms that you feel throughout the month. Typically, these symptoms are a sign from your body to slow down and nurture yourself through restorative and nourishing yoga practices. The closer you get to the time of menstruation, the slower your yoga practice should become to support your body during this transitionary time.
In contrast to PMS, period pains are what you experience during menstruation through the uncomfortable menstrual cramps, bloating, and symptoms that accompany your period. Period pains can be debilitating for many women, resulting in the use of medications or heating pads just to survive those few days. But there are also many holistic options to address menstrual cramps, and yoga for period pains is one of the best ways to do that!
Period pains are often concentrated in the lower back or abdominal region. Some research suggests that period pains may be due to a heavy menstrual flow, fibroids, endometriosis, or excess clots in the menstrual blood. But it is crucial to get an assessment from your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your period pains.
The best way to support your body through period pains with yoga is to focus on gentle yoga poses that release or stimulate your lower back and abdominal region. But avoid putting too much pressure so as not to aggravate the area. There are some yoga teachers that also advise avoiding inversions during your period because the energy in your body is moving downward during that time, and it is best to support that movement with poses that keep your hips beneath your heart.
1. Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Badhha Konasana)
Reclined bound angle pose targets your lower back and abdomen to provide a deep opening from within and supports the downward flow of energy. Try placing a bolster underneath your back for a support variation that provides supportive relief from menstrual cramps.
2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is the standard restorative yoga pose to relax the lower back. During your period, you may find a wide-legged variation to be more supportive to give your abdomen more space. You might also use a bolster between your legs to support your body in this position.
3. Reclined Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Reclined spinal twist directly stimulates and releases tension from your lower back. This gentle twisting pose can help release tension from your spine and reduce the impact of menstrual cramps. But make sure not to twist too deeply and opt for a more restorative variation using props to support your body in gentle movement.
4. Wind Releasing Pose (Apanasana)
Wind releasing pose is considered the best yoga pose to support the downward flow of energy and release during your menstrual cycle. This yoga pose balances the vata dosha or air element that is often linked with menstrual cramps in Ayurveda. Try a flowing movement with this yoga pose to gently stimulate and release tension from your lower abdomen in tune with your breath.
5. Cat and Cow Pose (Bitilasana and Marjarisasna)
Cat and cow pose is a nourishing spinal release that targets your lower back and promotes the movement of stagnant energy in your body. Menstrual cramps are often related to blood clots and stuck energy in your body during menstruation, and a cat and cow flow can help bring circulation into this region and promote a gentle release.
6. Head to Knee Pose (Janu Shirshasana)
Head to knee pose is traditionally considered the best yoga pose to support your reproductive system. This is an excellent yoga pose to do at any stage of your menstrual cycle to promote balance in your body and support your reproductive health. This yoga pose can help with menstrual cramps as well by gently releasing tension from your lower back and stimulating your abdomen one side at a time.
During menstruation, your body is going through a natural cleansing and release process, which takes additional energy from other body systems. The time of menstruation is energetically a time for rest and nourishment to support your body in its natural cycles. Traditionally, menstruation was a time for women to take a break from daily life and care for themselves in community.
So, what yoga is safe to practice during your period? The best yoga styles during menstruation are restorative, yin, or hatha yoga. These slow and nourishing yoga flows will support your body during its natural process of release and cleansing. It is best to avoid power or intense vinyasa yoga classes during your period, but a slow flow can be very nourishing, particularly if you have a regular vinyasa yoga practice. But remember to take additional modifications and listen to your body to avoid pushing past your limits and causing harm.
Herbs and essential oils are a wonderful and natural way to support your body during your menstrual cycle. These natural remedies can relax your mind and may even provide relief from menstrual cramps. It is best to work with a trained aromatherapist or herbalist to determine which herbs and essential oils would be best for you. But there are some excellent essential oils that are generally recommended for menstrual cramps that are listed below:
· Lavender oil – supports stress relief and relaxation
· Cinnamon oil – brings warming energy to your body and relieves pain
· Clove oil – promotes the relief of menstrual cramps and chronic pain
· Ginger oil – considered a panacea for health and an excellent way to relieve menstrual cramps
· Rose oil – supports your emotions and mental health during menstruation
To use these essential oils for menstrual cramps, you can blend them together or one by one in a carrier oil to apply topically to your lower back or abdomen. But make sure to first test the oils on a small patch of skin for any allergic reactions. You can also make a blend of these oils or use a single oil in your essential oil diffuser to relax into a calming state from aromatherapy.
Mudras are hand and body gestures that tap into the energetic channels or nadis within you. These practices shift into a deeper level of your consciousness to promote healing for menstrual cramps from within. Using the power of your mind and energetic networks, mudras for menstrual cramps are an excellent and simple way to support your body during your period. See below for some of the best mudras for menstrual cramps:
· Yoni Mudra – targeted towards your reproductive system to promote balance and openness
· Shakti Mudra – promotes an energetic connection to the goddess and balances reproductive health
· Apana Mudra – stimulates the downward flow of energy and promotes the release of menstruation
· Maha Sacral Mudra – balances the sacral chakra and promotes an opening of the reproductive system
Every woman’s menstrual cycle is different, and learning how to adapt your yoga practice to meet your needs throughout the month is essential to staying in sync with your body. Practicing yoga for PMS and period pains can support your body through this challenging time and provide the relief that you have been seeking.
Beyond supporting your own body during menstruation, becoming a yoga teacher gives you the tools to support others as well! Learning how to teach yoga gives you the tools to support others in their healing process and provide these gifts of yoga for PMS and menstrual cramps. Reach out to us for more information on how you can join our online yoga teacher training courses and begin this exciting process today!