In this post I want to share how to practice yoga for period cramp relief. Practicing yoga can be very supportive for women during menstruation. Gentle movement relaxes the body reducing tension which can cause pelvic and lower back pain during your period. However, it’s better to allow your body a break from intense exercise for a few days during your period. This includes some yoga postures and styles.
Active forms of yoga such as vinyasa or ashtanga can be depleting during your period. Instead, choose a more gentle, restorative yoga for period cramp relief. This is recommended at least during your first couple of bleeding days or until your flow is less heavy. A gentle yoga sequence is a much better way to support your body if you experience painful periods. Instead of depleting your energy further, this will help to to relieve period cramps and help you to feel better.
Yoga poses to avoid during your period
Ana Davis, author of moving with the moon, recommends to avoid strong standing poses, inversions and backbends during menstruation. These yoga poses can make menstrual cramps worse and lead to fatigue. The best yoga for period cramp relief includes lot’s of restful, supported postures, hip openers and forward folds. This will support your body’s natural rhythms and energy flows. Why?
- Standing poses can be strenuous on the body. They may leave you feeling more fatigued during this natural time of rest and rejuvenation
- Backbends require a lot of core activation and tension in the abdomen. This can increase period cramps and pelvic pain during your period
- Inversions such as headstands, shoulder stand and handstands can also interfere with the downward flow or apana associated with elimination of period blood
It’s better to avoid these poses for a few days and practice a gentle restorative yoga sequence such as the one below instead. This sequence of yoga for period cramps will help you to feel your best during your period and throughout the rest of your menstrual cycle.
Yoga poses for painful periods
There are certain yoga poses which help to relieve pain in the pelvis and lower back during menstruation. Excellent yoga poses for period pain include forward bends, hip openers and supported reclining postures. These all help to relax and open up muscles which hold tension in your pelvic area causing pain.
A menstrual yoga sequence includes a combination of supported standing and seated forward folds, hip openers and reclined back bends. These yoga postures help to relieve period cramps and lower back pain. Combined with slow, deep breathing they will encourage your nervous system to relax and let go. This way you will be able to feel a sense of calm and wellbeing during your period rather than tension and struggle.
Menstruation is a natural time to reflect and turn inwards and yoga can really help to experience this effect.
Practicing yoga for period cramps regularly during menstruation can help to reduce pain and discomfort. Consistent practice will help you on your way to pain-free periods in future cycles. If you have problems such as irregular menstrual cycles or heavy menstrual blood flow, these menstruation friendly yoga poses can also help to regulate your menstrual cycle over time. They tone the muscles within your pelvic bowl and improve blood flow to your reproductive organs.
Yoga sequence for painful periods
The menstrual yoga sequence below includes the poses listed above. In total the practice should take around 20-30 minutes.
What you will need:
- Yoga mat, towel or blanket
- Bolster or dense cushion (see here for how to make a DIY bolster out of rolled up towels)
- Folded blanket or towel (optional)
- Yoga blocks (optional)
- A quiet space to practice where you won’t be disturbed
Explore the poses using the descriptions and photos below. Once you are familiar with the poses your can practice this yoga sequence for painful periods in your own time. Hold each posture for between 1 and 5 minutes, depending on how much time you have for your yoga practice.
If you also want to improve flexibility, longer holds are better. This way you can relax deeper into the poses and allow your muscles to open up in their own time. I suggest a longer hold of 5 to 10 minutes for the final reclining pose with your eyes closed.
Standing forward fold (Uttasana)
Standing forward folds help to relieve tension in the lower back, reduce period cramps and calm the nervous system. During your period, practice forward folds with the knees bent deeply. Rest your chest on your knees or support yourself with hands or head on a block for a more restorative posture. Focus on a long straight lower back as much as possible to avoid straining. Focus on long exhales and feel the extension along the back of your legs, spine and neck.
Hip opening with butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana)
Tight hips can create tension in the abdomen leading to pain in the pelvis and lower back. Baddha konasana pose is one of my favourite yoga poses for period cramps as it helps to release both the inner thighs and outer hip muscles. This is where you bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open, creating a diamond shape between your legs.
Practice with your hips raised by sitting on a folded blanket. You can also rest your upper body back over a bolster or dense cushion to open the whole front body. In either variation, relax your pelvic floor and take slow breaths focusing on softening your lower belly.
Yogi squat (Malasana)
Yogi squat is another great pose for increasing hip flexibility and easing painful periods. Sit on a block or two in this pose to take pressure off your knees and thigh muscles. You can also lift the heels off the ground if it feels better in your body. In this pose I like to add small, swaying action side to side to release remaining tension from the hips and lower back.
Seated wide angle pose (Upavistha Konasana)
Another great yoga pose for period pain is seated wide angle pose or seated wide leg forward fold. This pose opens and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles, supports a healthy menstrual flow and helps to relieve period cramps. To practice this pose, open your legs in a straddle position, as wide as comfortable to stretch the inner thigh muscles gently. Again, during your period I recommend using a bolster or cushion for support. Focus on relaxing into the pose rather than trying to force a deeper stretch.
Adding a side bend and forward fold over each leg helps to lengthen and release tension in the lower back. Focus on keeping both hips grounded on the mat and feel the stretch all the way from your hip, through your side body to the tips of your fingers in one long line of energy. Again, use the cushion or bolster for support. Take the weight off your upper body so that you can relax and let go.
Supine bound angle pose (Supta baddha konasana)
My favourite restorative yoga for period cramps is supine bound angle pose. Practice this pose leaning back on a bolster for the ultimate relaxation experience! This gentle heart opener replaces back bends in a mestrual yoga practice. It also acts as a counter pose to all of the forward folds in this sequence.
In this pose your legs are in the same diamond shape as in the seated version of the baddha konasana above. The bolster should be touching your sacrum so that your spine is fully supported. Play around with different heights of your bolster to find the most comfortable spot. You want to be able to relax for 5 to 10 minutes at the end of your practice.
You can experiment with different arm variations to find what feels good. Try this pose with your arms outstretched at shoulder height or resting on your lower belly. You can even try out variations of yoni mudra in this position as a gesture of connection with your womb and creative center, as demonstrated in the video below by Ancient Yoga.
If you live in Athens and want to join me for yoga in Holargos or Filothei, you can check the schedule and book your space HERE.
Until next time, Namaste…
The Women’s Yoga Book (2011) by Bobby Clennell
Yoni Shatki (2014) by Uma Dinsmore Tuli
Moving with the Moon by Ana Davies
My teacher training instructor the lovely Emma Lloyd
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.
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