At that time of the month, many women suffer from menstrual pain – or to give it its medical name, dysmenorrhea (pronounced dis–men–o–ree–a). The pain can be a dull throbbing or cramping in the lower abdomen that occur just before and during your periods.
Pain relief medication can relieve the pain of cramps, but there are more natural solutions. Contrary to the general period myth, exercise is actually recommended during your period as it helps to release endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller – meaning light workouts can reduce period cramps and pains. Try these 3 yoga techniques to relieve your cramps, ranging from easy to advanced poses.
Child’s Pose is great for lower back pain and super easy to do.
How to do this pose: Begin in a kneeling position. Lower your buttocks towards your heels. Sit up straight, then exhale and stretch your body down and forward, so that your stomach rests on top of your thighs. Extend your arms above your head, and rest them along the floor, and rest your forehead on the mat. Keep your gaze drawn inward with your eyes closed. You should feel a light stretch in your shoulders and buttocks, and down the length of your spine and arms. Hold for up to a minute or longer, breathing softly. To release, use your hands to gently walk your body upright and sit back on your heels.
Tip: If you have difficulty resting your buttocks on your heels, place a thickly folded blanket between the backs of your thighs and your calves.
Bow Pose stretches the whole front of your body easing cramps and bloating.
How to do this pose: Begin by lying on your stomach with your feet hip width apart and your arms by your side. While exhaling, bend your knees and stretch out your hands to hold your outer ankles. Breathe in and lift your heels up towards the ceiling, raising your thighs up and off the mat. Your head and chest will also lift up off the mat. Draw your heels and thighs up higher and bring your shoulder blades into your upper back. Look forward while breathing softly. Hold the pose for fifteen to twenty seconds. To release, exhale and slowly lower your thighs before letting go of your ankles and lowering your legs and feet to the floor. Return to your starting position and relax.
Tip: Do not practice this pose if you have a low-back or neck injury, or have low or high blood pressure.
Camel pose stretches both abdominal muscles and hip flexors, relieving pain and discomfort.
How to do this pose: Kneel on the mat, with your knees hip width apart. Place your hands on your hips. The tops of your feet should be resting on the mat. Lengthen your spine and lean backwards, placing your hands on your heels. If it is difficult for you to touch your hands to your feet, tuck your toes in to elevate your heels. Elongate your neck and let your head curl backwards. For a deeper stretch, raise one arm alongside your ear while holding your heel with the other. Hold for 2 breaths, and then change arms. Hold this pose for around 5 breaths.
Tip: Be careful not to bring your head so far back that you strain your neck. Keep your neck extended and in a comfortable position throughout the pose.
Yoga poses like the three above help to relieve period pain through gentle stretching. However, it should be noted that yoga poses that involve inversion (where the pelvis is raised above the head) are often discouraged for women during their period. Take it easy when you are doing yoga for period pains, and focus on soothing breathing and relaxation. If you go to yoga class, don’t feel pressured to keep up with the rest of the class – go at your pace and consider talking to your teacher before class. They’ll tell you the poses you should avoid.
After yoga practice, you can try a relaxing bath to help further soothe away aches or pains and help you feel like yourself again.