Yoga and Menstrual Pain
It’s that time of the month again and you are spending couple of days in bed with a hot water bottle on your lower abdomen trying to move as little as possible to avoid the cramps coming and the pain spreading in your body…
This was me many many years ago. I had horrible menstrual cramps, bloating, and sometimes even diarrhoea and vomiting during the first couple of days of my periods. The pain would spread to my lower back, buttocks and backs of my thighs. I often had to skip school and in later years work because of the pain. I was popping painkillers, but they did not help, not really.
Then I found yoga. Many yoga teachers told me that it is better not to practice yogasana during my periods. These teacher were all men. Once, a fellow yoga practitioner heard my conversation with a male yoga teacher and came to me afterwards. She said that she had found relief for her endometriosis and for all its symptoms during her periods through yoagasana. She did not tell me which asana to practice, but just to give it a try. Maybe yoga would help me too.
So I did. And, so did yoga. I did not feel like doing a strong asana practice with handstands, armbalancing or intense backbending. Instead I practiced calming yoga postures and took it slow. Immediately after the first practice during the painful days of my periods I noticed that the cramps were not so intense. I felt calmer, the body was more relaxed. I was in awe: Yoga really does help!
In fact there are even researches that suggest that yoga can help women with endometriosis and menstrual discomfort (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2015.0343).
So, I continued. Even when the cramps were really bad, I stepped on my yoga mat and did a soft asana practice. Sometimes it was an hour, sometimes 30 minutes and very often only 10 minutes, but it did help. Nowadays I don’t have any menstrual pain at all. I don’t know, if it is the fact that I am getting older, apparently menstrual discomfort gets less with age, or that I have practiced asana regularly over 20 years. Anyhow, yoga helped me to become functional during my periods.
So, what did I do? Which asana did I practice? It is important to remember that every body is different and that things that helped me, might not help you. You need to try different things out. Explore.
Below are four yoga postures I did every time, and still practice to calm myself and to relax.
(Supported) Child’s Pose – Balasana
You can do this posture without support. Come to your knees. Open them wider than your hips and bring the big toes together. If you wish to support your body, place a bolster or several folded blankets between your legs, very close to your groins and lower yourself on them. Rest your cheek, chest and belly on the prop. Relax your arms forward next to the bolster on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe. Stay at least for three minutes in this posture to relieve menstrual cramps.
Supine Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana
Lay on your back. Bend your left knee and draw it closer to your torso with your hands. Then, shift your pelvis slightly to the left and bring your left knee over to the right. If the knee does not come to the floor, you can place a bolster or a yoga block under for support. Turn your chest to the left and check that your shoulders are relaxed on the floor. You can turn you head to the left. Breathe. Stay in the pose at least for three minutes to detox and stimulate your abdominal organs. The pose also stretches your back and hips softly which soothes the menstrual pain. Remember to practice the other side.
Wide Angle Forward Bend – Upavishtakonasana
Sit on your mat and open your legs wide apart. Place your hands in front of your pelvis and slowly walk them forward lowering your torso between the legs. You don’t have to go deep into this pose. Keep your back as neutral as possible and just lean forward. Stay at least for three minutes here and breathe into your belly to calm your mind and body, to stretch your back body and to stimulate your abdominal organs and to relieve the discomfort in your belly and pelvis.
Legs Up The Wall – Viparita Karani
Bring your mat to the wall. Sit sideways, very close to the wall on the mat. Place your hands behind you and lean back swinging your legs up the wall and turning your buttock to the wall. Your buttocks do not have to touch the wall, but they are very close to the wall. Lower yours torso on the floor and rest here as long as you wish to improve circulation and digestion, to lower blood pressure, to boost your energy levels, and to soothe the nervous system. All this will relieve the menstrual discomfort.
These are some of “my” poses. Maybe they will help you too. Maybe you want to find “your” poses. There are no rules. Let yoga help you to ease your menstrual discomfort and to fully enjoy every single day of your life.
Anu Visuri, yoga teacher and co-founder of Gotta Joga
Certified Anusara® yoga teacher, Yoga Alliance (E-RYT 500 & YACEP).