I feel bloated and grumpy, but I still haven’t gotten out of bed. I’m not motivated to do anything when my period comes. But I still roll out my mat because I know I will feel better after practicing yoga. Scientific evidence supports my experience. Several medical studies have shown how yoga can relieve symptoms of menstrual disorders.
Women of reproductive age are more likely to experience menstrual cramps than women in their teens. Yoga can help relieve menstrual cramps, but they are not the only unpleasant side effects of periods. The range of menstrual disorders is broad, from Dysmenorrhea (painful cramping) to emotional issues, fatigue, headaches, and breast pain.
In 2017, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine released a review paper that compiled various studies on yoga and its benefits in treating menstrual disorders. Review papers differ from studies in combining data from several previous studies to conclude.
Each of the 15 studies included had a unique combination of symptoms and treatment approaches. The original studies examined multiple disorders, including Dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, and premenstrual symptoms (PMS). They treated them using relaxation techniques, meditation, pranayama, and other yoga practices. It’s impossible to determine which yoga styles, practices, and intensities are best for the public due to the wide range of options. Despite the various symptoms, each study found that yoga was effective in treating menstrual disorders.
Yoga poses for menstrual cramps
In 2011, an Iranian study found that three asanas — Cobra, Cat, and Fish — can reduce menstrual cramps among adolescents with primary Dysmenorrhea. Researchers randomly assigned 92 girls, aged 18-22, into an experimental and control group. The experimental group performed the prescribed yoga poses, while the controls received no intervention. The girls’ period pain intensity and duration were measured using the Visual Analog Scale of Pain. They were then studied over three menstrual cycles. Both groups were given no treatment during the first cycle (to establish baseline characteristics). The experimental subjects were instructed to perform the three yoga asanas during the luteal phase in the following two cycles.
Researchers found that the yoga group had significantly reduced pain intensity and duration compared to the controls. Researchers conclude that “these findings suggest that yoga is a safe and simple way to treat primary dysmenorrhea.”
These poses can be effective in alleviating Dysmenorrhea for several reasons. The Cat Pose helps to relieve cramps by stretching out the lower and upper back. The Cobra Pose creates gentle pressure and stretches the belly. Camel, Hero, Pigeon pose, forward bends, and twists are also recommended for menstruation. In certain cultures, menstruating women are advised to avoid inversions, backbends, and other poses.
Yoga poses for menstrual disorders
There are many other poses that I have found to be beneficial for women with menstrual problems.
Start in the child’s Pose to relieve headaches, moodiness, and menstrual cramps. Child’s Pose can help to relieve tension and headaches by gently stretching your back. Try Warrior 2 for a more energizing pose. This Pose helps to open the hips and abdomen and increase mental focus. It also helps ground emotions.
Constipation and bloating are common symptoms associated with menstruation. Supine bound angle is a gentle pose that opens the hips and helps relieve constipation. Wind-Relieving and gentle twisting postures such as Belly Twists also benefit digestion.
To stretch your muscles further, you can bring your body from a supine posture into the bridge. This gentle Pose can be used to energize your body and may help with hormonal problems during menstruation. Standing backbend can help with hormonal problems and be performed from the mountain.
End your practice in an extended savasana to help calm and balance your nervous system. To bring your low back and tailbone into a neutral position, you may want to bend your knees with the soles of the feet on the floor or support your legs using bolsters or blankets. During practice, focusing on breathing will help calm your nervous system.
YogaBasics also has a list of poses to help reduce PMS. Or, you can follow this sequence of 28 yoga postures.
Menstruation can affect various body systems and cause mental, emotional, and physical discomfort. Yoga has a variety of practices that can be used to create inner and external balance and ease. Listen to your body, and be gentle to yourself and with your practice.
What yoga poses do you practice for menstruation relief? What yoga poses do your practice to relieve menstrual pain?