For many women, menstrual cramps are a regular part of life. Because of the discomfort, some opt to forgo their usual physical activities. For those that experience severe symptoms like headaches, abdominal cramping and sore muscles, it may seriously disrupt their life.
This doesn’t have to be the case and certain yoga poses can have therapeutic benefits that can help with period cramps. Try these yoga poses for menstrual pain and see if it changes your monthly experience.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps and What Can You Do
Each month during menstruation the uterus sheds its lining. To shed the lining, the uterus contracts. Because this muscle is contracting it can block, temporarily, the small blood vessels that feed the uterus. This cuts off blood flow and oxygen. Don’t worry, this is normal, but it is this blockage that is the primary cause of the pain and discomfort associated with menstruation.
Of course there are over the counter medications that can help with the pain associated with menstrual cramps. Heat, in the form of a heating pad or warm bath, also helps. But yoga can also help alleviate some of the discomfort.
If you are going to attend a yoga class, look for a class that is restorative. You can try the series below at home to support your body as it does the work it needs to do each month to help period cramps and discomfort.
Think about using props to support yourself in each posture and stay in each posture for 5-10 breaths. Breathing itself can be a powerful practice in itself.
7 Yoga Poses for Menstrual Cramps
These techniques are listed in no particular order and you can use any combination of these poses in any sequence to help with discomfort throughout the day.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a powerful pose for many reasons. It calms your mind, stretches your back and shoulders, and opens your hips.
When you are in pain, such as from your period, your body responds in a similar way as to when it is stressed. Pain and stress activates your sympathetic nervous system. Activation of your sympathetic nervous system also contributes to a negative mood.
When you lower your head below your heart you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the effect of the sympathetic nervous system. In child’s pose your head is below your heart. In this pose you begin to slow your stress response, which increases your overall feeling of well being.
To come into Child’s pose start in Table Top with your shoulders over your wrists and your knees under your hips. Widen your hips to the width of the mat and bring your toes together. Now push your hips back to your heels allowing your head to rest on the floor.
Your hands can stay towards the front of the mat, or come back towards your toes. If your head doesn’t reach the floor, make a fist with your hands and prop them under your forehead. Breathe into the posture and enjoy the release in your lower back and abdomen.
2. Supported Bridge Pose
Before you come into supported Bridge pose, grab a block or bolster. Then lie on your back and place your feet on the floor with your knees in the air. Pull your shoulders under your back and allow your fingers to brush the back of your heels.
Exhale and press your knees away from your body as you lift your hips up. Grab the block or bolder and move it under the sacral joint. The sacral joint is the point on your back where your pelvis meets, just above your tailbone.
Find a position that is comfortable so that you can allow the block or bolster to support your entire weight.
Now, if it is comfortable, extend your legs. If it is not, then simply keep your feet on the floor. Relax and breathe into the posture. Stay here for as long as 10 breaths.
3. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Stretching the front half of your body during your period also feels great.
Start in table top and sit up on your knees. As a first step, place your hands on your back as if you were placing your hands in your back pockets. Open your chest and pull your elbows together. If this feels good, you can choose to stop here.
To experience the full expression of the pose, drop your hands down to your heels. Focus on pushing your hips forward and lifting out of your lower back. Open your chest and drop your head back.
After you have stayed in this posture for approximately 10 breaths, come forward into Child’s pose while keeping your knees in the same location. Camel pose can be an intense stretch so be cautious and honor your own limits.
4. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Lie on your belly while pressing your forehead into the ground. Bend one knee at a time and reach back and grab your ankles and flex your feet. Before you pull into full Bow pose, engage your core and tilt your pelvis forward.
As you exhale, press your legs into your hands. Your chest will lift off the ground. Breathe — it is common to rock forward and back with your breath offering your abdomen a powerful message.
If this pose is too intense, consider doing one leg at a time. Take your right arm and grab your right ankle, then roll onto your left side and press your right ankle into your hand. This will provide you the same expression as full bow pose but is gentler.
5. Knees to Chest Pose
After you finish opening the front of your body with Camel and Bow pose, try these counter poses. Lie on your back, reach your arms and legs in opposite directions. Feel your spine lengthening. As you inhale, bring your arms around your knees and give yourself a hug.
You can breathe and rock forward and backward giving the back of your body a powerful massage.
You can modify this pose by doing one leg at a time, or by lying on your back and placing your feet in the air for Feet Up the Wall pose or Happy Baby.
6. Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
From a seated position, extend one leg, bringing the other foot to the inside of your thigh. Sit up straight and tall, extending your spine through the top of your head. Raise your hands above your head. As you prepare for this posture, focus on length.
From an extended position, hinge at your hips and lean forward over your straight leg. Work your belly, chest, and then your head to your leg, in that order.
After doing 10 breaths on one side, switch your legs and do the same thing on the other side. On the second side, take time to set your self up before you fold as you did on the first side.
You may also enjoy seated forward fold or Paschimottanasana. In this pose both legs are extended out in front of you and you fold forward evenly. The importance of this pose is to also focus on extending upward before you bend forward.
7. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Lie on your back, pull your shoulders under your back, and put the back of your head on the floor. Now bring the soles of your feet together. Your knees will be out to the side as if you were doing butterfly pose.
Because this is an intense stretch on the hips, puff your belly up and flatten in down to find a natural, neutral position for this posture. If this puts too much strain on your lower back, you can simply sit up and place your legs in the same position.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose can be a great post to practice Shavasana.
While this series of poses is a short practice, it is something that you can do regardless of how you feel during your menstruation period. While you may lack some of the motivation to move, you will feel better if you do.
You are not limited by these postures and there are many others that you could try as well including the dolphin pose, downward-facing dog, fish pose, extended side angle, half moon, the lotus pose and many others.
Are You Ready to Try a Yoga Class?
There are many therapeutic benefits associated with yoga. If you are new to yoga or have questions about which yoga poses are best for alleviating menstrual pain and discomfort during your period, drop by our studio.
We are centrally located and easy to access from your home or office. Our instructors and staff are knowledgeable and would love to help you experience the benefits of yoga.
Stop by and try one of our classes, you will be glad you did.