When period pain strikes, exercise might be the last thing on your mind - but yoga for period cramps can help. But rather than just reaching for a hot water bottle and painkillers, a gentle restorative yoga sequence can help to relieve cramps and relax your nervous system.
"Certain yoga poses can help settle the feelings of tightness in the tummy that you get with period pain, and may ease feelings of anxiety. What's more, they can be done easily in your home," says vinyasa flow yoga instructor Flo Lefebvre, who is working with the intimate health brand Intimina.
When you’re feeling crampy, bloated or sluggish, try Flo’s poses as an alternative way to manage period pain.
Yoga moves for period pain
1. Breathing exercise
Start by deepening the breath. In yoga, most breathing exercises are done with the mouth closed but don’t feel that you need to stick with that. Inhale through the nose and feel free to exhale through the mouth if it comes more naturally to you. Make your exhalations longer than your inhalations. You can count five on the inhale and eight on the exhale. Do a minimum of ten cycles, and as many as you wish.
2. Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani)
This will relieve heavy legs that often accompany period pain. Sit with your right hip to the wall and then swivel your legs up and lie down on your back. Your body will be in a L-shape. You can raise the back of your pelvis with a folded blanket. Feel free to bend your knees if your hamstrings feel tight.
3. Full forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
A well-known yoga pose that can alleviate period pain by stretching the back and encouraging flow with gentle pressure of the abdomen against the thighs. Start by sitting with your legs out in front. Raise your seat with a folded blanket for added comfort and lean forward over your legs. Modify this pose by bending your knees if you need to. You can also place a bolster or folded blanket across the back of your knees. Rest your forehead on a cushion and let yourself melt into the pose. This can have a calming and re-energising effect on the body.
4. Supported butterfly pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
A very nurturing way of opening the hips – another area that can feel restricted and tight when you have period pain. Lie on your back either on the floor or with a bolster along the spine. Place the soles of the feet together to form a diamond shape. Use blocks under your outer thighs to support the legs. Remember, you're not looking for a strong stretch but a sense of release instead.
5. Knees to chest pose (Apanasana)
Lie on your back with your knees to your chest. We often feel like curling up into a little ball when period pain kicks in. It's a nice way to apply gentle pressure to your abdominal area, acting as a massage as you breathe deeply in and out. You can also roll from side to side to massage your back. Follow up with drawing circles with your knees still together to really target the lower back – a sensitive area when you have period pain. This is due to contractions in the uterus which ripple through the pelvic region via a web of nerves.
6. Revolved abdomen pose (Jathara Parivartanāsana)
From Apanasana, open your arms to the sides at shoulder-height and roll over to your right. After ten breaths, switch side. This gently stretches the lower back.
7. Child pose (Balasana)
Sit on your heels and lean forward, placing you forehead on the floor or a folded blanket. Have your arms by your sides with your palms up. The pose stretches the back and again you get that lovely feeling of being all curled up, warm and safe while massaging your abdominal area through the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe in and out deeply.
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Senior writer Ali Horsfall has almost 15 years of experience as a journalist and has written for national print titles and women’s lifestyle brands including Woman & Home, Woman, Woman's Own, BBC magazines, Mothercare, Grazia and The Independent.
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