Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a collection of a wide range of symptoms that occur between the time of ovulation and the beginning of the menstrual period. PMS has been characterized by more than 150 symptoms, ranging from mood swings to weight gain to acne. It is estimated that approximately 75% of women experience one or more of the symptoms of PMS. Not every woman suffers from PMS, but those who do know how disruptive and frustrating it can be. Fortunately, yoga’s postures, breathing, and meditative aspects have all shown to be a powerful remedy to reduce the symptoms of PMS.
The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome is not known. Many practitioners believe that an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone may be the cause of many cases of PMS. Others believe decreased levels of neurotransmitters, abnormal metabolism, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies are to blame. Traditional Chinese Medicine sees the root cause of PMS as either an excess of the Liver system’s energy or a deficiency of the Spleen and/or Kidney systems’ energy. Yoga can be used to address both the physical and energetic systems of the body to bring the body’s hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolism, and energy back into balance.
Yoga poses have an inherent ability to balance the endocrine system, metabolism, and neurotransmitters. Poses that activate the 7 chakra energy centers will have a strong effect on all three of these issues, especially the 2nd, 5th and 6th chakras. Belly down back bending poses will stimulate the reproductive organs to balance the levels of progesterone and estrogen. Shoulderstand, camel, plough, and bridge poses all help stimulate the thyroid gland in the center of the neck to balance metabolism and effect the entire endocrine system. Child, seated head to knee, side seated angle pose and meditation (especially our 3rd eye meditations) will activate and balance the brain centers that regulate the levels of neurotransmitters and most hormones in the body.
If PMS is due to an excess Liver imbalance, symptoms will include: irritability, anxiety, anger, emotional instability, major mood swings, breast tenderness, and pain that is sharp in nature. Symptoms will tend to be worse during times of increased emotional or physical stress. To balance the Liver, harmonize the emotions and calm the mind use side bends, hip openers, twists, and the following calming poses: child, fish, puppy dog, crocodile, and seated forward bend. Using meditation, Nadi Sodhana pranayama and Dirga pranayama will also be beneficial.
If PMS is due to an deficient Spleen and/or Kidney, symptoms will include: bloating, weight gain, water retention, fatigue, lack of energy, food cravings, nausea, backaches, and pain that is dull in nature. To tonify the Spleen and Kidneys use backbends, twists, and strengthening standing poses such as: warrior I and II, warrior angle, dancer, and standing squat pose. Using Dirga pranayama and Kapalabhati pranayama will also be tonifying to the Spleen and Kidneys.
An overall healthy diet and lifestyle has been shown to reduce the symptoms of PMS, and practicing yoga develops the self-awareness and discipline required to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices. Eating small meals with complex carbohydrates, whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables is recommended. Cut down on caffeine, refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, dairy, alcohol, and salt, especially at the premenstrual phase of your cycle. The following supplements have been shown to provide relief from PMS: calcium, B6 and vitamin E.
In many ancient and primary cultures, menstruation is considered a special time for women to reconnect with each other, slow down, and honor their own lives and bodies. Women gain a heightened level of awareness and intuition due to the change in hormones around the menses, and thus it is considered an auspicious time for engaging in spiritual practices. And while yoga and meditation are wonderful practices to nurture yourself during this time of month, other self-care practices can be helpful: hot baths, massage, acupuncture, walks in nature, reading, gardening, and journaling.