Did you know there is quite a bit of research on yoga for period pain? This is really encouraging as we can start to incorporate certain poses into our yoga sequences to avoid or at least reduce painful menstruation (also called dysmenorrhea). And it is certainly a good incentive to start (or re-start) our yoga practice and perhaps encourage people we know to start yoga if they experience cramps or period pain.
When I was writing my book (Teaching Yoga For The Menstrual Cycle: An Ayurvedic Approach) much of the research showed that abdominal stretching is effective in decreasing pain during menstruation. The sequences generally included poses such as bridge, cobra and locust pose.
It is important to be regular in the practice including these poses perhaps 3-4 times a week throughout the month to prevent or reduce painful periods. You can also enjoy this sequence during menstruation or simply take a break if that feels more appropriate.
Sit cross-legged or on your heels with your hands in yoni mudra on your lower abdomen. Place the palms of the hands against the lower belly. Thumbs touching near the navel and index fingers near the pubic bone forming a downward-facing triangle. Bring your awareness to your womb space and simply breathe.
Child’s Pose (bālāsana)
Come onto the hands and knees. Exhale and start to round your back up towards the ceiling stretching the back. Then inhale, keeping the arms straight, and arch the back. Move between these two poses 5-8 times slowly. Focus on the movement of the pelvis. Rocking the pelvis in this way mobilises and supports the muscles around the pelvis, the pelvic floor, lower back, as well as the fascia and ligaments connecting to the womb and ovaries. Take a moment’s rest in Child’s Pose
Cobra Pose (bhujangāsana)
Lie down on the abdomen. Place the hands next to the chest, elbows off the floor pointing back. Lift the chest. Stay for three breaths, rest and repeat three times. Enjoy the opening of the front of the abdomen and pelvis as you strengthen the back of the body. Rest for a few moments on the abdomen or in Child’s Pose.
Locust Pose (salabāsana)
If Cobra Pose felt good in the body you can incorporate Locust Pose where you extend and lift through both the chest and the legs. Imagine reaching forward through the chest and extending in the opposite direction through the toes. Rise on the inhale and relax back onto the floor on the exhale. Repeat three times and rest in Child’s Pose.
Bridge Pose (setubandhāsana)
Bridge Pose is an excellent pose to find openness in the front of the pelvis and hip flexors. Lying on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor lift the pelvis off the ground and breathe here. It’s a pose where you can enjoy some creativity and flow to ease any tension around the sacrum, lower back, and sacroiliac joints. Stay for a few breaths, release and relax. Repeat two more times. Another option is to add support under the sacrum, as in a supported Bridge Pose.
Forward Bend (paschimottanāsana)
After all the back-bends take a gentle and relaxed forward bend. Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Then bend the knees a bit as you hinge from the hips to fold over the legs. You can also prop a bolster or cushions underneath your knees for a supported and restorative variation. Conclude with your seated meditation or in savāsana or relaxation pose. Remember you can be creative and simply include some of these poses into your regular yoga practice too.
Transition (not pictured)
Hug the knees to the chest and gently circle the knees or rock the lower back and legs from side to side. Drop both knees to your left side and extend the right arm to your right side, coming into a spinal twist. Stay for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.