Ladies Only: Yoga for PMS

Alright chicas, we've all been there: irritability, bloat, anxiety, depression, cramps, body aches, food cravings, discombobulation, discomfort, etc. PMS is a condition many of us deal with and it's never fun. It can be especially unpleasant because unfortunately, life doesn't stop when PMS hits: many of us (okay, most of us) still have to go to work, care for our families, and keep up with whatever day-to-day tasks we've taken on. It feels like we can't skip a beat even when our bodies are begging for R&R. One of the toughest parts about having PMS is that no one else can see it - other ladies can empathize, but it's an invisible condition that continues to plague us every month. Unless we verbalize our discomfort (which ends up making our friends and loved ones also miserable), we suffer in silence.

Well - I'm not here to tell you that the suffering is over; rather, I can offer some basic yoga postures that can help alleviate symptoms and provide relief when you need it the most. For those of you who practice yoga on the regular, it will be easy to incorporate these poses into your existing home practice. For those of you who are new to yoga, find comfort in knowing that these 15-20 minutes you spend on your mat each day leading up to the beginning of your cycle will soothe and comfort you when it feels like your body is trying to kill you. 

Yoga for PMS

  • Child's Pose (Balasana): Begin here. Bring your big toes to touch and separate your knees at a width that is comfortable for you. Try and send the breath into your low back and hips. This pose is a great starting place as the forehead can rest on the floor (or a yoga block). Child's Pose opens up the hips, lower back, and helps relieve stress and fatigue. Stay for several long, deep and soothing breaths. 
  • Cow Pose (Bitilasana): This pose is a common warm-up in many yoga classes. Experiment with movement in the spine here: this pose alleviates spine tension and massages internal organs, increasing blood flow to the areas that are affected by PMS discomfort. Move through a few cycles of inhales and exhales as you tilt the pelvis, experimenting with spine mobility. 
  • Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana): This pose is great for menstrual discomfort because it allows a large portion of the upper body to stretch and lengthen at once while massaging internal organs. This pose increases energy and relives fatigue. Great for backaches especially, hold this pose on each side for 4-5 long, deep breaths. 
  • Locust Pose (Salabasana): Prone postures such as Locust Pose are great for menstrual discomfort because they stimulate all of the abdominal organs, increasing blood flow and moving stagnant energy that causes the pain we hate so much. Additionally, this pose strengthens the upper back so you'll be able to stand taller, which is said to be associated with increased confidence. Stay here for 4-5 breaths. 
  • Bow Pose (Dhanurasana): Again with the prone pose benefits, the abdominal muscles are stimulated here and blood flow is increased. This pose is great for lengthening all of the muscles that can become sore and uncomfortable during the week leading up to your cycle. If you cant reach your ankles, use a yoga strap or a belt and loop it around your feet. Pain is not gain in yoga: listen to your body and skip any postures that don't provide relief. Stay in the pose for 4-5 breaths. 
  • Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana): Now that you've stimulated all of the abdominal organs through belly-down backbends, it's time to bring in the therapeutic benefits. The ovaries and uterus love this pose. If it helps your lower back, find pillows to place under each knee. Try to visualize your entire body settling into the ground beneath you in this pose, allowing rejuvenation and restoration to wash over you. Stay here for 9-10 long, soothing breaths. 
  • Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): According to many ancient yoga texts, this pose is known to "cure all that ails you", by flushing the blood from your legs and restoring energy to the rest of your body. If you're going to only practice one pose from this sequence, let this be it. This pose soothes the mind and restores stress, anxiety and depression. As shown in the photo, use a pillow or a yoga block and allow your legs to rest against a wall. Stay here for 10-20 long, deep breaths. When you come out of this pose, bring your knees into your chest and slowly roll to your side, resting your head on your arm before moving on to the rest of your day. 

Other Helpful PMS Tips

  • Eat well. Now is not the time to give into your sugar and salt cravings: nourish your body with detoxifying nutrients from vegetables & fruits and your PMS will eventually decrease. 
  • Listen to your body. Give it what it needs and you will overcome your PMS symptoms with greater success and less stress. That might mean leaving the dishes for tomorrow and parking it on the couch for an afternoon. Remember to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.  
  • Breathe. Even if you choose not to practice yoga, deepen your breath and try and stay mindful throughout your day. If you are low on energy, utilizing deep breaths can help you overcome anxiety and overcome stressful situations. 

Ancient yoga texts and traditions honor a woman's cycle and highly suggest rest and relaxation right at the beginning of your cycle (or the first day or two after your period begins): no asana practice, just self-care. The hustle-bustle of today's society doesn't always allow for this, but on the first day of our cycle it really is a good idea to take a break from all things physical: if yoga is your exercise, that means taking a break from asana. If you're a runner, choose a cup of tea and a book on the couch over your daily run. If you're a cross-fitter, remember that you will survive if you don't get your WOD in when good ol' Aunt Flow pays her visit. Your body will thank you. 

Take care of yourselves, ladies!