Menstrual cramps are experienced by 50% of female adolescents, and common among women of reproductive age. A recent study from Iran found three yoga poses—Cobra, Cat, and Fish—to reduce menstrual cramps in adolescents with primary dysmennorrhea.
The researchers randomized 92 girl students, ages 18-22, to an experimental group and control group. The experimental group practiced the yoga poses, while the control group received no intervention. Intensity and duration of pain was measured with the Visual Analog Scale for Pain, and the girls were studied for three menstrual cycles. The first menstrual cycle, both groups received no intervention (to acquire baseline characteristics); the subsequent two cycles, experimental subjects were asked to practice the three yoga poses during their luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle).
Researchers found the yoga group participants to have a significantly improved parameters on pain intensity and duration, compared to the control group. The researchers conclude: “These findings suggest that yoga poses are [a] safe and simple treatment for primary dysmenorrhea.”
There are a number of reasons these poses may be efficacious for alleviating dysmenorrhea. Cat pose stretches out the lower and upper back, which relieves cramps; Cobra stretches out the belly and creates gentle pressure, which may mitigate cramp severity; and Fish pose stretches out the upper back and belly, creating space and helping cramps diminish in intensity. Other poses recommended during menstruation include Camel, Hero, Pigeon, Prayer Squat pose, forward bends, and twists. Some poses are cautioned against while menstruating in certain traditions, such as inversions, strenuous backbeds, and free-standing poses.
Have you found yoga practice to help with painful menstrual cycles? Are there any poses in particular that work for you?