Yoga is a pathway to connecting with our bodies and better understanding our selves, especially for women grappling with the ebb and flow of their monthly cycles. For many women, periods can represent a monthly disruption to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
The thought of moving our bodies at this sensitive time might seem counterintuitive, but gently embracing yoga through carefully-guided asanas can be one of the best ways to support and nurture your body when it needs it the most.
How Yoga Can Help Menstrual Cramps and Other Symptoms of PMS
Catherine Fisher, yoga teacher and visionary behind Ambrosial Yoga, has studied the benefits of yoga for women's health for nearly two decades.
She's a firm believer in the power of specific yoga poses to ease menstrual cramps and other PMS symptoms, and shares with ZONE five poses to help alleviate menstrual pain and support women’s cycles.
Five Yoga Poses for PMS and Relief from Period Pains
These five gentle poses can be practiced for 1-5 minutes each, depending on what feels comfortable for you. Remember, the key is to listen to your body and use yoga props such as straps, blocks and bolsters to support your body during menstruation. Catherine advises, "If a pose starts to feel uncomfortable, it's time to gently transition to the next one."
Utthita Ardha Chandrasana (Extended Half Moon Pose)
This powerful pose offers respite and relief from period cramps and aids in regulating heavy flow. You can use yoga props such as stools, bolsters or cork yoga blocks where you feel you need the support.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
A pose that creates abdominal space, easing cramping and bloating while calming the emotional fluctuations of PMS. It supports and nurtures the liver and spleen, especially taxed during menstruation. You will need a bolster or cushions plus a yoga strap.
Adho Mukha Upavistha Konasana & Parsva Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)
Ideal for pelvic circulation, these poses stimulate the ovaries and strengthen the uterus. Catherine highlights their role in stabilising the Apana Vayu - one of the five energy subdivisions of prana, and is considered one of the most important and crucial during menstruation. You can use cushions, bolsters or rest your forehead on a natural cork yoga block during this pose.
Supta Parsva Padangusthasana (Reclining Side Stretch Pose)
This pose is a gentle reprieve, targeting lower back pain, menstrual cramps and pelvic discomfort. You can use a yoga strap to assist you in this pose.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Beyond physical relief, this gentle inversion revitalises the body, countering menstrual fatigue and easing irritability. It also helps to regulate your cycle by improving circulation to the kidneys and adrenal glands.
When To Use Props
Each of these poses can be performed without yoga props before menstruation and with yoga props during menstruation. It's important to listen to your body and practice within your limitations. The use of restorative yoga props such bolsters, cushions, yoga straps and cork yoga blocks are helpful in supporting your body safely and allowing you access to these poses.
Yoga Poses to Avoid During Menstruation
Navigating yoga during menstruation requires mindfulness and gentle movements. Certain poses should be avoided:
Inversions: Avoid most inversions, except Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), with props.
Standing Poses: Most standing poses other than Utthita Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) should be avoided due to their high energy demands.
Closed Twists: These can put undue pressure on the abdomen. Open twists are preferable.
Abdominal Work: Avoid poses that strain the abdominal muscles or place tension in the legs.
Opt for gentle breath work only: Avoid Uddiyana Bandha, Mula Bandha or squeezing the navel towards the spine during menstruation. It is best to practice gentle Ujjayi breath when menstruating.
Yoga as a Tool for Emotional and Mental Health During Menstruation
Yoga can be a powerful tool and have a positive impact on emotional and mental wellbeing, especially during menstruation. "Yoga is a tool that can be used to cultivate stability in relation to emotional and mental health not just during the menstrual cycle, but everyday," says Catherine.
The synergy of movement and breath in hatha yoga creates harmony. "When bodily movement and the breath are coordinated, ease is felt by the body, the mind and emotions," says Catherine.
Self-Care and Body Awareness During Your Period
Yoga creates a nurturing relationship with the body, encouraging self-compassion and awareness during menstruation. This practice allows for a kind and understanding approach to your physical and emotional needs during this sensitive time.
Yoga for Hormonal Balance and Overall Women's Health
Regular yoga practice significantly contributes to hormonal balance and overall women's health. "Yoga relaxes and nurtures the nervous system and helps to balance the endocrine system (the bodily system response for menstruation)," says Catherine.
"Yoga also increases the prana, oxygen and blood flow to the reproductive organs. The muscles that surround and support the reproductive organs are strengthened," she adds.
Regulating Hormones Through Regular Practice
Regular yoga practice is transformative for hormonal health. "Regular yoga practice has many long-term benefits for hormonal balance and menstrual health," says Catherine. "A regular yoga practice will, overtime, cause all the systems of the physical body to regulate and function efficiently."
The Lunar Connection
Our menstrual cycle mirrors the natural phases of the moon. "The female reproductive organs wax and wane in a similar fashion to the moon, says Catherine. "Typically, ovulation, a time of coming to fullness, energetically mirrors the full moon. Menstruation, a time of release and renewal, energetically mirrors the new moon," she explains.
This natural rhythm is often disrupted due to our hectic, modern lives. Aside from practising yoga regularly, Catherine suggests moon bathing to realign our cycles with the lunar phases.
Choosing the Right Yoga Props
Catherine says that it is best to avoid yoga props that contain phthalates and other hormone-disrupting chemicals and toxins. "If we use yoga props that contain hormone-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates, our own yoga mat will undo all the hard work we are doing!" says Catherine.
Yoga mats made from cork and/ or natural rubber do not contain any phthalates, PVAs or EVAs. If you’re looking for a non-toxic yoga mat or yoga block made from natural materials like cork, browse the ZONE collection of sustainable cork yoga mats and restorative yoga props.
Wear Breathable, Natural Fibres when Practising
The right clothing can completely transform a yoga practice. Comfortable clothing made from natural fibres are recommended for their breathability, particularly during menstruation. "Natural fibres such as hemp and organic cotton vibrate at a higher frequency than synthetic clothes. If my clothes vibrate at a higher frequency, it will naturally lift my own personal vibration to a higher level. Natural fibres also conduct the natural life energy (prana) easily," says Catherine.
Catherine's Personal Journey with Yoga and Menstrual Health
Catherine Fisher's commitment to yoga and women's health is rooted in her personal journey. Her own experiences with menstrual health challenges led her to study the connection between yoga and women's health. “I developed a growing awareness that female yoga practitioners require a monthly program specifically tailored to honour and serve their monthly cycle,” Catherine says.
"This takes into account all the various changes that occur in the body's systems over the entire monthly cycle, not just during menses," she says. Catherine's research inspired her to establish Ambrosial Yoga, a holistic approach to yoga that addresses the unique needs of women. Through her teachings, she empowers women to find comfort and strength in their bodies, using yoga as a tool for holistic health.
To cultivate yoga into your daily routine try our Free Online Yoga Library.
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