Yoga exercises for menstrual pain relief

Yoga exercises for menstrual pain relief

17 Mar 2022

Yoga is a holistic practice that can be performed through all days of one’s life. The deep breathing advocated particularly helps muscle tension and encourages blood flow in the body, helping to ease muscle cramps. Light stretches and mindfulness in yoga can help alleviate both physical and mental weariness of menstruation (7). The menstrual cycle is a normal part of the adult woman’s life and is understood as the bodily function that prepares a woman for potential pregnancy. It typically begins with menarche (the first period) occurring at puberty, then continues up to a woman’s 40s until she reaches menopause (1).

Understanding the menstrual cycle

On average, each menstrual cycle lasts for about 28 days, but anywhere from 21 to 35 days is still considered a normal cycle length. There are four stages in the menstrual cycle, all of which are dependent on changes in hormones during menstruation. For instance, sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone rise and fall at different stages, prompting several physiological processes like ovulation and menstruation to start and end (1).

The most common physiological process attributed with the menstrual cycle is menstruation, or simply put, getting a period. A period happens when the uterus sheds its lining; the uterus has no need to keep this lining intact when there is no pregnancy. This causes bleeding through the vagina, one of the most recognisable signs of menstruation. This stage can also vary in length, with periods lasting anywhere from three to seven days (2).

This can often cause a sensation of abdominal cramping—the most common form of period-related pain. Time and time again, women have sought menstruation pain remedies, and in recent years, yoga for menstruation has become an increasingly popular choice.

If period discomfort is an issue you can relate to, this article explains how yoga for menstruation could just be the key to soothing your body during this time of the month.

Yoga for menstruation

Addressing menstruation problems with exercise

Most period pain does not have underlying medical causes. The culprit of painful menstruation is often a rise in the hormone prostaglandin, which can cause cramping (3). Aside from cramping, menstruation pains can extend to  having lower energy levels than average, increased emotional sensitivity, nausea, dull body aches especially in the lower back, and even a change in bowel movement (3, 4).

Sticking to a well-balanced diet and getting regular sleep can lessen the intensity of menstruation problems, but additional studies also state that regular exercise can do the same, if not more, for women that have painful periods (4).

Yoga for menstruation

Though it may seem counterintuitive, exercising during menstruation, more specifically doing yoga for menstruation, can be effective. This is because this kind of physical activity is gentle, slow, and suitable for all women regardless of fitness level.

Generally speaking, yoga is a combination of physical and mental exercises initially developed in India as a means to achieve spiritual enlightenment. With the practice reaching many corners of the globe over the years, it has evolved into a form of low-intensity workout that affords people with a vast array of health benefits (5).

Yoga is performed by doing different kinds of sitting, standing, and floor poses. These poses target different muscle groups and do require some degree of flexibility and stability, with some poses being more basic, and others more challenging. Yoga for menstruation requires you to perform only basic poses, and you need not have extensive experience in yoga to do them properly (5).

The basics of yoga asanas

Did you know that there are at least 80 asanas—yoga poses—that you can do? Even so, not all asanas are suitable at all times, especially when done for menstrual pain remedies.

Regular yoga practitioners master different kinds of asanas to improve flexibility and muscle tone, but those who choose yoga for menstruation most frequently want to address painful cramping. Fortunately, there are specific yoga poses that target abdominal and lower back muscles to help with this issue (6).

Appropriate poses performed during yoga for menstruation

Cobra pose

The cobra pose is done by lying on the stomach with legs and feet together, and stretched straight behind you. Your hands lie on the floor (or your yoga mat) palms flat, and are aligned next to the shoulders. The hands are used to push and lift your head and shoulders in one fluid motion while inhaling deeply (6).

Cat pose

The cat pose is performed by getting on your hands and knees, making sure to place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Gently stretch your neck downwards as you move your gaze towards your chest while curling your spine upwards at the same time. Think of this as your back essentially forming a gently sloped letter C, the same way a cat would when it stretches out its body (6).

Fish pose

Do the fish pose by lying on your back, head, and legs outstretched flat on the floor or your mat. Your arms should be at your sides with your palms facing up. Slowly move your hands under the buttocks until your hips and buttocks are supported by your hands. Push up with your elbows and feel the stretch in your throat, neck, and midsection. Hold the pose for an inhale, release, and repeat for a few more times (6).

Final notes on the benefits of yoga for menstruation

These yoga poses are designed to stimulate the endocrine system that is responsible for regulating hormones. With the menstrual cycle being a direct result of hormonal changes, and common menstruation symptoms similarly resulting from hormonal fluctuations, regular yoga can help regulate unpleasant sensations during this cycle (6).

It’s best to seek the help of experienced yogis to make sure you do yoga exercises properly. You can also support your yoga experience with suitable vitamin and mineral supplements that can provide the body with the nutrients it needs to perform this exercise.

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*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

  1. Nemour’s Children’s Health Content Team. “All About Periods”. Nemour’s Children’s Health: Kidshealth.Org. Published October 2018 on https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/menstruation.html. Accessed January 23, 2022.
  2. Mayo Clinic Content Team. “Menstrual cycle: What's normal, what's not”. Mayo Clinic: Mayoclinic.Org. Published April 29, 2021 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186. Accessed January 23, 2022.
  3. Mayo Clinic Health System Content Team. “When periods are painful”. Mayo Clinic Health System: Mayoclinichealthsystem.Org. Published May 24, 2016 on https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/when-periods-are-painful. Accessed January 23, 2021.
  4. The Royal Women’s Hospital Content Team. “Exercise, diet, and periods”. Clevelandclinic: Health.Clevelandclinic.Org. Published October 2, 2020 on https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/periods/healthy-periods/exercise-diet-periods. Accessed January 23, 2021.
  5. Better Health Content Team. “Pilates and yoga - health benefits”. Better Health: Betterhealth.Vic.Gov.Au. Published July 31, 2013 on https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pilates-and-yoga-health-benefits. Accessed January 23, 2021.
  6. Nationwide Children’s Content Team. “Yoga exercises and menstrual cramps”. Nationwide Children’s: Nationwidechildrens.Org. Published May 23, 2017 on https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/health-wellness-and-safety-resources/helping-hands/yoga-exercises-and-menstrual-cramps. Accessed January 23, 2021.
  7. https://gynsurgicalsolutions.com/change-the-cycle-blog/health-wellness/benefits-of-yoga-on-your-period/. Sep 2018