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Yoga for Period Pain Relief: Embrace the Healing Power - 4 Poses for Menstrual Cramps

Dec 08, 2023

Does the arrival of your period fill you with dread? For me these days I feel lucky that the only real thing I have to worry about is remembering to take supplies – no one wants to be caught out wodging (apparently that isn’t a word … it is now) toilet roll in their pants and waddling about like they’ve done themselves a mischief – just me?!

But for too many women the arrival of their period heralds the dread of excruciating pain which makes you want to curl up in the foetal position and stay cocooned in bed. Sadly that is not an option for most of us and that level of pain isn’t normal. If that’s you, it’s important to understand what is normal in terms of pain and bleeding, how lifestyle factors can improve your pain levels and know when to seek medical help. You can find out more in this blog.

While changing lifestyle factors and taking over-the-counter medications can help, yoga offers a holistic and natural approach to managing and alleviating menstrual pain. In this blog we'll explore how yoga can be your companion in soothing those cramps and making your periods more bearable.

Understanding Menstrual Pain:

A western perspective - Before diving into yoga, it's essential to understand the nature of menstrual pain. Menstrual cramps are primarily due to the contraction of the uterine muscles, triggered by the release of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances. Allow this is normal, high levels of prostaglandins can cause inflammation, swelling and menstrual pain, also potentially influencing other ares of the body, such as the lower back and even causing nausea. The intensity of these cramps can vary widely from person to person. While mild cramps may be manageable, severe cramps can be debilitating, impacting one's quality of life, if that’s you it's important to know when to seek medical help, read this!

An ayurvedic perspective - Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga and an ancient form of eastern medicine, from this perspective period pain is seen as an excess of vata which consists mostly of the two elements air and space (also known as ether) and is generally described as cold, light, dry, rough, flowing, and spacious. In order to treat the impact of excess vata, warmth is required, slowing down, relaxation. Which is why things like, herbal teas, rest, hot water bottles and herbs with warming properties such as ginger, cumin and cinnamon are great. If the pain is more hot and inflamed then this could indicate excess pitta - fire, which may need a more cooling approach, whilst kapha - earth pain that is dull and heavy may need warmth and movement to release stagnation. (Teaching Yoga For The Menstrual Cycle - An Ayurvedic Approach - Anja Brierley Lange) 

The Healing Power of Yoga:

Yoga combines physical postures, breath control, meditation, and mindfulness to create a connection between your body and mind. When it comes to managing period pain, yoga can work in several ways:

  • Gentle Stretching and Relaxation: Many yoga poses are designed to gently stretch and relax the muscles in your abdomen and lower back. These stretches can alleviate tension and reduce cramping.
  • Improved Blood Circulation: Yoga poses that involve gentle twists and deep breathing can enhance blood flow to the pelvic region, reducing congestion and easing pain.
  • Relaxation and Stress Reduction: Menstrual pain can be aggravated by stress and anxiety. Yoga practices, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help calm the nervous system and alleviate pain perception.
  • Mind-Body Connection: Yoga encourages a deeper connection between your body and mind. Being in tune with your body's signals can help you manage pain more effectively.

Ultimately anything that helps you to feel rested, restored and calms your nervous system will provide relief from pain. When managing period pain I also like to think of surrendering and allowing the pain, often when we try to push past it, it worsens. Perhaps there is a message in the pain, I personally find when I allow myself more space to rest during my period my pain is reduced. Try these poses and hold the intention of letting go and surrender and ask your intuition if there is a message to your pain, is there something you need which you aren't getting/giving yourself? 

Yoga Poses for Menstrual Pain:

  1. Wide Legged Child's Pose (Balasana): This pose gently stretches the lower back and provides relief from cramps. Kneel on the floor, open your knees out to a comfortable position, sit back on your heels, and stretch forward reaching your hands out in front of you, rest your forehead on the ground. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. 
  2. Reclining Twist: This pose can help reduce lower back pain. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and gently twist them to one side while keeping your shoulders grounded. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Supported Bridge Pose: This restorative pose helps reduce discomfort. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and lift your hips by placing a block or cushion underneath your sacrum/lower back (the place where your spine meets your pelvis) Hold for 5 – 10 breaths.
  4. Pigeon Pose: will help you to relax your hips, which can hold a lot of tension during your period. From all fours place your right knee behind your right wrist then shuffle your knee a bit further over to the right hand side, slide your hips back and try to keep them square, find an angle to your right shin that feels comfortable in your body and if your right hip is floating off the mat place a block underneath it. You can fold your chest forward from here over some pillows or a bolster. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Practicing Yoga for Menstrual Pain Relief:

  1. Start Slow: If you're new to yoga, begin with gentle, restorative poses and gradually progress to more challenging postures.
  2. Listen to Your Body: Respect your body's limits. If a pose feels uncomfortable or painful, modify it or skip it.
  3. Regular Practice: Consistency is key. Regular yoga practice, even when you're not on your period, can help prevent and manage menstrual pain more effectively.
  4. Combine with Mindfulness: Incorporate meditation and focused breathing techniques into your practice to enhance relaxation and reduce stress.
  5. Hydration: Stay well-hydrated during your practice. Dehydration can exacerbate cramps.
  6. Heat Therapy: Using a heating pad or warm water bottle on your lower abdomen during and after your yoga session can provide additional relief.

Everyone’s experience of period pain is different. What works for you might not work for another. Befriending your own body and learning what works for you is the beginning of your journey to embracing your menstrual cycle and loving your femininity!

Would you like to follow some soulfully created practices to help you with all the different challenges of your cycle? Then head to the Cyclical Yogi Studio where there will soon be practices for PMS, period pain, befriending your inner critic and more! …

Love Lizzie XX

Cyclical Yogi Studio


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