Period cramps, medically termed dysmenorrhea, are felt by over 80% of women during menstruation. These cramps (pain in your lower abdomen) occur just before or when your period starts, and it can last for about three days. If you're tired of relying on over-the-counter painkillers, there's a natural solution that has helped many women—yoga. Grab your mat, and follow along as we describe five yoga positions that can help reduce those painful period cramps.
Understanding Period Cramps
Period cramps are a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). They result from uterine contractions triggered by prostaglandin release, or underlying uterine conditions. The severity and duration of cramps vary from person to person. Period cramps are influenced by factors such as age, reproductive stage, and lifestyle habits. Cramps aren’t just confined to the lower abdomen area—they can also cause discomfort in areas like the lower back, hips, and thighs.
- Feeling tired and/or not sleeping well
- Breast tenderness
- Pain in different parts of your body
- Changes in your appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Benefits of Yoga for Period Cramps
Exercise, especially yoga, is great at alleviating PMS-related pain and aches. Higher-intensity exercise can reduce inflammation, and lower-intensity exercise like yoga can decrease cortisol and prostaglandin levels. Research has shown that consistent yoga can significantly improve both pain and overall quality of life for women experiencing menstrual cramps. One study even suggested that yoga may be more effective in alleviating PMS symptoms than aerobic exercise.
Yoga Poses to Relieve Period Cramps
Let’s look at 5 different yoga positions that will bring a sigh of relief to your achiness. Remember to always listen to your body, and make adjustments as needed.
Child's Pose (Balasana)
- Start on your knees, big toes touching.
- Spread knees apart.
- Exhale and lower torso forward.
- Rest your forehead on the floor (use a block if needed).
- Arms can be relaxed by your sides or extended forward.
- Breathe deeply, focusing on inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Stay as long as comfortable, typically 30 seconds to a few minutes.
- To release, push into the floor and sit back on your heels.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
- Start on your hands and knees (all fours).
- Inhale, arch your back and lift your head (Cow Pose).
- Exhale, round your back, and tuck your chin (Cat Pose).
- Repeat, flowing smoothly between Cat and Cow.
- Do this for several breaths, syncing movement with breath.
- Feel the gentle stretch and release in your spine.
Knees-to-Chest Pose (Apanasana)
- Lie on your back with your legs extended.
- Inhale, bring both knees to your chest.
- Wrap your arms around your knees or shins.
- Exhale, gently hug your knees closer.
- Relax your shoulders, neck, and head on the mat.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, breathing deeply.
- Feel the gentle stretch in your lower back.
- Release and return legs to the floor.
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
- Lie on your back with arms extended to the sides.
- Bend your right knee, hugging it to your chest.
- Exhale, gently guide the right knee across your body to the left side.
- Turn your head to the right for a twist.
- Keep both shoulders on the ground.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, breathing deeply.
- Feel the stretch along your spine.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
- Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended.
- Bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet together.
- Let your knees fall out to the sides.
- Inhale as you slide your feet closer to your pelvis.
- Exhale, allowing your knees to relax towards the floor.
- Rest your arms at your sides or place them on your belly.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, taking deep breaths.
- Feel the gentle hip and groin stretch.
- To release, use your hands to bring your knees together.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
In addition to yoga poses, practicing breathwork and meditation can help reduce stress and invoke relaxation. These practices may feel a bit intimidating to non-yogis, but they can be as simple or complex as you want them to be.
A simple breathing exercise to relieve period cramps can look like:
- Close your eyes and focus your mind on your breath.
- Take a slow, deep inhale into your belly for 6 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 6 seconds.
- Slowly exhale for 8 seconds.
- Repeat this 5 times (at least).
If you are looking for other ways to support your body as it menstruates, try FLO PMS Gummy Vitamins. FLO’s formula includes chasteberry, vitamin B6, lemon balm & dong quai to combat bloating, cramping, mood swings and breakouts.*
Incorporating yoga and key nutrients into your routine can be a game-changer when it comes to managing menstrual cramps naturally. Not only does yoga provide physical relief, but it also enhances your mental well-being. Consider it added to your arsenal of PMS-relieving practices, and always share with a friend in need.