There are a lot of rumors out there that you shouldn’t practice yoga during your period.
But, many of these are rooted in the Indian traditional belief that during menstruation, women are in a cleansing period and should refrain from participating in spiritual practices.
Today, a huge amount of scientific research supports that practicing yoga during your period can have many benefits.
So, we’re here to give you some yogi-shaped tools to help with those pesky cramps.
In this article we’re going to discuss:
- What causes period cramps?
- The benefits of using yoga positions to help period cramps.
- The safety precautions of using yoga positions to help period cramps.
- The 6 best yoga positions to help period cramps.
Let’s beat those cramps!
What causes period cramps?
For those of us who have periods, most will have experienced some form of cramping or discomfort. Yet, not all of us know, what really causes them?
In order to understand how yoga positions can alleviate period cramps, it’s useful to understand what they are and what causes them.
When you are on your period, your uterus muscles contract in order to help expel the lining it’s been building since your last period.
This is caused by the production of prostaglandins – hormone-like substances that trigger uterine contractions.
These prostaglandins can cause pain and inflammation to the uterus, abdomen, lower back and even surrounding muscles such as those in your thighs, with higher levels of prostaglandins being linked to more intense and painful menstrual cramps.
So … how can yoga help?
3 Benefits of Using Yoga Positions to Help Period Cramps
There are oh so many physical, mental, and psychological benefits of using yoga positions to help period cramps. Here are our favorite three:
#1: Calms cramping and eases pain.
Numerous yoga positions can do wonders to alleviate the pain and cramping experienced when on your period.
By stimulating blood flow and circulation, these yoga poses can assist in improving oxygen supply to our cells, removing waste products such as lactic acid that also cause cramping, aaaand preventing prostaglandins from building up in any particular part of our uterus.
Yoga poses that open your hips, and stretch your lower back and abdomen relieve pain that can many women experience in these areas. Elongating the muscles in these areas helps to relax them and prevent them from cramping. Perfect!
#2: Promotes emotional balance.
Many yoga poses can not only make you feel better physically but also improve your mood.
Women tend to store a lot of emotional stress in their hips, shoulders, and lower back – and if you’re anything like me, emotional stress is often peaking during your period…
…by opening up your hips and stretching your lower back, these menstruation-tailored poses do wonders to relieve this stress and the emotions that cause it.
Even better, most poses stimulate the release of dopamine, oxytocin, and other feel-good endorphins that act as your body’s natural painkillers and help boost your mood.
#3: Chemical-free pain relief.
Unlike painkillers, using yoga positions to help period cramps is a great chemical-free way to ease menstrual cramps and pains.
This is great for those of us who:
- Prefer natural remedies,
- suffer from allergies to various pain medications,
- have lighter cramps for which painkillers are overkill,
- … and those of us who’ve already used our daily recommended limit of ibuprofen, paracetamol etc but are still plagued by menstrual cramps.
The Safety Precautions of Yoga for Period Cramps
While using yoga positions to help period cramps has many benefits, there are also some safety precautions to be mindful of before beginning your practice.
Many women feel fatigued and less energetic during their periods, and as such are recommended to perform less physically demanding yoga poses to avoid placing extra strain on your body during an already stressful time.
Additionally, many people during their period recommend against performing anything above mild inversions.
This is because having your head much lower than your heart and hips can contribute to nausea and dizziness which many people experience while menstruating, and it can make it harder for gravity to help your uterine lining exit your uterus, meaning those pesky prostaglandins and cramps have to work even harder.
Yoga can only do so much, and in the case that you experienced any of the below, seek professional medical advice:
- Your periods have stopped (although this is normal if you are pregnant or experiencing menopause).
- If you experience fevers, intense nausea, dizziness, or intense migraine-like headaches.
- Your periods are irregular, very short, or last very long.
- You have any bleeding in between your cycles.
- You have severe period pains / cramps that remain intense after over-the-counter pain medications.
The list above is informative, but by no means exhaustive. You know your body better than anyone, so if something doesn’t seem right with your periods, seek medical advice.
The 6 Best Yoga Positions To Help Period Cramps
There are many yoga positions to help with period cramps. Here are our favourites:
#1: Child’s Pose.
- Begin on all fours in the center of your mat. Your wrists should be stacked directly under your shoulders, knees stacked directly under your hips (this is known as table pose).
- From here, exhale and lower your hips so that they are resting on your heels, toes untucked so that the tops of the feet are flat against the floor.
- Gently bend your torso forward, hinging at the hips and bringing your forehead to rest on the floor. Your sit bones should still be resting on your heels, and your arms relaxed alongside your torso.
- Experiment here to find what is most comfortable or what provides the greatest stretch. Maybe this means spreading your knees apart and having your chest closer to the mat, or maybe it means resting your head on your palms.
- Stay here for 5 minutes or more, breathing deeply and actively pressing your belly down towards the floor. Relax the muscles in your face, especially the jaw and forehead, where we tend to tense up when stressed or in pain.
- For a variation that deepens the stretch and opens up your shoulders and chest: try extending your arms to the top of your mat, hands shoulder width apart, palms on the floor and fingers stretched. (This is known as extended child’s pose)
- Position the short end of your mat straight against the wall, placing a thick bolster (a yoga block, folded blanket, or towel will do!) at the same short end.
- With your head furthest from the wall, lie on your back with arms spread comfortably at your side, knees hugging into your chest, and feet flat against the wall. Stay here for 10 breaths.
- Release your legs and gently walk your feet up the wall in front of you, until they are completely straight and flat against the wall. Make sure your sit bones are also against the wall. Stay here for 10 deep breaths.
- Alternate between the feet / legs on the wall positions as described above, repeating 4-6 times. As you breathe during this practice, try to draw the air deep into all four sides of your torso.
- If needed, reposition the bolster so that it’s supporting the area from your hips to the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, while the shoulders themselves rest on the floor.
• For a variation, try crossing your legs while they are elevated against the wall.
#3: Cat-Cow Pose.
- Begin on all fours in the center of your mat. Your wrists should be stacked directly under your shoulders, back flat and knees stacked directly under your hips. (This is known as table pose)
- Both palms should be flat on the floor, core engaged and tops of your feet resting on the floor with toes untucked.
- With a deep in-breath arch your spine lifting your sit bones to the sky and eyes up to the ceiling, bringing your shoulder blades together as you roll your shoulders back and down.
- This is Cow Pose – stay here for 2-3 breaths.
- As you breathe out, slowly round your spine tucking your sit bones under. Here, your shoulders roll in towards your heart, your chin falls to your chest and your gaze falls on your navel.
- This is Cat Pose – stay here for another 2-3 breaths.
- Repeat alternating between these Cat and Cow positions 4 to 5 times.
#4: Butterfly Pose.
- Begin seated with legs outstretched in front of you, spine long with shoulders back and down away from your ears.
- Gently bend your right leg so that your sole is flat against the ground and your right heal is close to your right buttock.
- Repeat with other leg, bringing the left heel towards the left buttock.
- From here, allow your legs to gently fall to the side, knees still bent, so that you can press the soles of your feet together.
- Hook your left index finger around your left big toe, and your right around your right. Make sure your back is straight and spine long, shoulders back and down, and chest broad.
- Hold this pose for 10 or more deep breaths, trying to move your knees closer to the floor on each exhale.
- Tip: The closer your feet are to your hips, the greater the intensity of the stretch. Also, if you’re finding it hard to keep a straight back, try sitting slightly raised on a folded blanket or cushion.
#5: Seated Wide-Leg Forward Bend.
- Begin sitting in the center of your mat, legs outstretched in front of you, toes pointed up towards the sky.
- From here, slowly bring your legs wide apart. You should feel a good stretch in your inner thighs, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable to hold the pose or causes your spine to curve.
- Keeping your spine long with shoulders back and down, exhale, place your hands between your legs and gently bend from your hips as you slowly start to walk your hands forward.
- Be mindful here not to curve your back or compress your chest. Focus on keeping your back straight and chest open as you bend. If you need to, bend your knees slightly to maintain a straight posture.
- When you reach the point where you can’t bend further without rounding your back, stop and hold this pose for up to ten deep breaths.
Period leaving you crampy and cranky? Try this!
Now you know the best yoga positions to help period cramps, but what about the emotional discomfort that periods can bring?
Why not try yoga’s happiest pose? Read this: The Happy Baby Yoga Pose Guide (Ananda Balasana) (You’re welcome!)