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How yoga can help with PMS pain

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Woman doing yoga

PMS can affect you from head to toe, from the hormonal breakout on your chin to your (nonexistent) enthusiasm for going to spin class. Not surprisingly, Advil is a must-have for its ability to mitigate menstrual pain. In addition, regular exercise, including a yoga practice, may also help with PMS symptoms.

When it comes to yoga in particular, in one study, 64 women participated in a 50-minute yoga practice twice a week for 12 weeks. After completing this program, the subjects reported improved physical function and less bodily pain, bloating, breast tenderness, and cramps during menstruation. While this was one small study, if you like practicing yoga, it’s certainly worth trying out to see if it helps you.

With the help of Kumi Sawyers, a yoga teacher at Love Space in Los Angeles, we put together a guide of the best yoga poses to alleviate pain caused by PMS. She recommends incorporating them the week before you expect your period and through the end of your cycle.

woman doing wide-legged balsana

Pose 1: Wide-Legged Balasana

“Child’s pose is a wonderful pose for relieving [the] lower-back and hip pain that is often accompanied with menstruation,” Sawyer says. “For an extra-cushy restorative pose, you can slide a bolster in between your legs and lie down over it, turning your head to one side.”

How to do it: Starting on your knees, sit back on your heels with your knees spread slightly wider than your hips. Bend at the hips to fold your upper body over your knees, reaching your arms out in front of you on the mat. Feel free to do this at any point during your yoga practice.

woman doing cat/cow

Pose 2: Cat/Cow

“Cat/cow is all about restoring the fluidity of the spinal column,” Sawyer explains. “During menstruation, the spine can become compressed and stuck as a result of bloating.”

How to do it: Start on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees below your hips. First, create your “cow” pose by lifting your chest, dropping your stomach, and releasing your tailbone to the back of the room. Pause here, then move to your “cat” pose by rounding your stomach up, dropping your head and tailbone, and arching your back into a scared-cat shape (hence the name). Breathe, then alternate the two.

Bent Knee Uttanasana

Pose 3: Bent Knee Uttanasana

This is a forward fold in which the knees are slightly bent. “Practicing this position with the knees bent allows you to really get into the folds and fits of the joints of the legs, which creates stability and a clear sense of ground,” Sawyers explains. “This allows the nervous system to let go, therefore releasing and decompressing the spine.”

How to do it: Start by standing up straight. Then, fold forward at your hips, keeping your knees slightly bent. Let your head and arms hang heavy. To deepen the stretch, Sawyers recommends reaching for your opposite elbows with both arms.

woman doing baddha konasana

Pose 4: Baddha Konasana

This seated pose is a favorite among athletes, and for good reason. “This is a very targeted hip opener,” Sawyers says. “It gets deep into the muscles that tend to grip the pelvic girdle tight on to the head of the femur bones, which is the main culprit for back pain.”

How to do it: Start seated on your mat with your legs out in front of you. Draw your feet in so that the soles are pressed against one another and your knees are butterflied. Your heels should be directly against your pubis bone (you can use your hands to stabilize them there).

setu bandha

Pose 5: Setu Bandha

“Bridge pose stretches open the whole front side of the body, helping to relieve cramping,” Sawyers says. “You can take a restorative variation by sliding a block underneath the pelvis.”

How to do it: Start by lying on your back, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressed against the floor. Use your hamstrings and quads to lift your butt, pelvis, and mid-to-lower back off the floor. Stay in this position for several breaths, using a block to support you if you wish.

woman doing supine spinal twist

Pose 6: Supine Spinal Twist

Simple enough that you can do them in bed, supine spinal twists are deeply restorative. “Twists help to relieve bloating by wringing out the organs and increasing circulation,” Sawyers says.

How to do it: Start by lying flat on your back. Bring your knees up so that they’re directly over your hips and your shins are parallel to the floor. Gently roll them to one side. Stretch your arms out to either side and gaze in the direction opposite your knees. After several breaths, repeat on the other side.