I’m bloated, crabby, and feel exhausted—and I haven’t made it out of bed yet. When my period hits, I don’t feel like doing anything. Even still, I make it a point to roll out my yoga mat because I know that I’ll feel better if I practice yoga. As it turns out, scientific evidence backs up my experience—a new systematic review shows that yoga may indeed relieve the symptoms of menstrual disorders.
Yoga may offer relief from menstrual cramps; however, painful cramps aren’t the only uncomfortable side effect of periods. Menstrual disorders run the gamut from dysmenorrhea (painful cramping) to emotional issues, headaches, breast pain, acne, and fatigue.
Recently, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a review paper that compiled the various studies that have been conducted in relation to yoga and its benefits for menstrual disorders. (A review paper is different from a study in that it looks at data from various past studies to form a conclusion.)
Of the 15 included studies, each had a different combination of symptoms and approaches to treatment. The original studies looked at multiple disorders, including dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and treated them with asana, pranayama, and other relaxation and meditation techniques. Due to the large range of practices, styles of yoga and intensity levels, it’s not possible to identify what would work best for the general public. Even with the wide variety of symptoms and approaches, each study reported positive results for yoga helping to relieve menstrual disorders.
Although the review paper did not recommend specific yoga practices, there are several yoga poses I’ve found beneficial for menstrual disorders.
For headaches and moodiness caused by menstruation, start in Child’s pose. By gently stretching the back, Child’s pose may help relieve headaches and release tension. For something more energizing, try Warrior II. This pose opens the hips and abdomen, increases mental focus and helps ground the emotions.
Bloating and constipation can be common symptoms of menstruation. Supine Bound Angle pose is a gentle way to open the hips and relieve constipation. Wind Relieving pose and gentle twisting poses such as Belly Twist can also improve digestion.
For more stretch, bring your body up from a supine position into Bridge. This is a gentle way to energize the body and can help with some hormonal issues while menstruating. Standing Backbend pose can also help with hormonal issues and can be done from Mountain pose.
A previous study in 2011 found that practicing just three yoga poses—Cobra, Cat, and Fish—reduced menstrual cramps in adolescents. You can also check out YogaBasics’ list of poses for PMS, or follow this 28 step sequence of yoga postures for a more complete practice to reduce the common complaints and symptoms of PMS.
Menstruation affects a wide range of systems in the body and can create mental, emotional and physical discomfort. Fortunately, yoga has a plethora of practices that can be utilized to create inner and outer ease and balance. When menstruating, the most important thing to remember is to listen to your body and to be gentle with yourself and your practice.
What yoga poses do you practice for menstruation relief?
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