Asanas and Aids for Period Pain

If you have a period like me, you’ll know that we’ve all been there…bed or couch-ridden, unable to reach peak productivity due to those extra-crampy days of one’s menstrual cycle. And though menstrual cramping isn’t completely avoidable — I’ve come to find there are a few things that help. This post compiles a lists of yoga postures (aka, Asanas) and remedies that I’ve personally found helpful in dealing with period pain.

Please note that I’ve included contraindications prior to each posture, cautioning one to refrain from practicing that posture if experiencing any of the named conditions. However, even if you don’t have a contraindicated condition, I recommend still entering into each posture with caution; stopping immediately if any sharp pain or strong discomfort occurs.

I also recommend using props (a bolster, or 2 pillows; yoga blocks or books) to support yourself in these postures when possible, to allow a fuller release of effort, and deeper focus on breath.

Forward Folds

Forward folds are beneficial as they stretch a majority, to all of the backside of the body at once, releasing tension often built up during menstruation. They’re especially helpful in increasing circulation, and oxygenation of blood in the pelvic region.

Paschimottanasana

Contraindications: back injury, pregnancy, abdominal ulcer, hernia.

To get into Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold):

  1. Begin seated, with the legs stretched out in front of you. You may place a blanket, or a bolster (small pillow) beneath the edge of your sit bones for additional support.
  2. On your next exhale, keep a slight bend in the knee, the hip flexors & quads relaxed, and begin reaching the torso over the thighs.
  3. Bring the hands along the outsides of your legs, or to your feet to support your position, while keeping the sit bones rooted firmly to the floor.
  4. Be here for 7-10 rounds of breath.

Uttanasana

Contraindications: back injury.

To get into Uttanasana (Forward Fold):

  1. Begin standing upright, reaching the spine long by extending upward through the crown of the head.
  2. On your next exhale hinge forward at the hips, folding the torso over the quads and shins keeping a micro-bend in the knee.
  3. Bring the hands to the floor, or along the sides/behind the calves as the head hangs heavy.
  4. Take 5-7 rounds of breath, consciously guiding the hips toward the head such that the legs become perpendicular to the ground.

Hip Openers

Hip openers are beneficial as they open up the hips and pelvic area, releasing discomfort, bloating, or pain that comes with menstruation.

Supta Baddha Konasana

Contraindications: serious neck, knee, or hip injury; serious lower back sensitivity or injury.

To get into Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose):

  1. Begin laying down, allowing the torso and hips to rest heavy into the ground beneath you.
  2. On your next inhale, bring the knees up as while allowing the soles of your feet to come to the mat, inside edges of the feet parallel as they meet.
  3. As you exhale, allow the knees to open to opposite sides, as the soles of the feet come together.
  4. Be here for 5-7 rounds of breath, before using the hands to guide the knees back together.
  5. Bring the soles of the feet about hip-width distance apart, allowing the knees to knock toward one another. Be here for 5-7 rounds of breath.

Supported Balasana

Contraindications: knee injury, pregnancy, stomach infection, ankle injury.

To get into supported Balasana (Child’s Pose):

  1. Begin seated on the ankles & calves (in Virasana). If you have knee sensitivity place a folded blanket behind the knees, in between the hamstrings and calves.
  2. Place a bolster (or 2 pillows) between your legs, as you guide the knees apart.
  3. Keeping the toes together and sit bones heavy, hinge forward at the hips over the bolster or pillows, outstretching the palms in front of you, allowing the arms to come alongside the bolster.
  4. Let the torso rest heavy on the support beneath you as your hips sink into the ground, keeping gaze to the left. Switch gaze to the right after 5-7 rounds of breath.

Backbends

Gentle backbends are beneficial during menstruation as they can help in alleviating back pain, and pelvic discomfort.

Supported Matsyasana

Contraindications: serious lower back or neck injury, migraines, high/low blood pressure.

To get into supported Matsyasana (Fish Pose):

  1. Place two blocks (or stacks of books) on the top half of your mat (or the floor, if not using a mat).
  2. Place one block on the 2nd highest level, where the back of your head will rest. Place the second block on the lowest level, just beneath where your shoulder blades will rest. (if you’re using books, simply ensure that the books supporting the head are at a higher level than that which will support your back)
  3. Begin in a seated position with the legs in front of you, knees bent with soles of the feet flat on the floor.
  4. Slowly recline, using your arms for support as you place your backside over the blocks. Adjust the placement of blocks as needed.
  5. If the back is feeling tender, keep the knees bent. If not, allow the legs to stretch out long.
  6. Be here for 7-10 rounds of breath.

Salamba Bhujangasana

Contraindications: spinal injury, or pregnancy.

To get into Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx):

  1. Lie facedown (prone) on the center of your mat, outstretching the palms and forearms parallel to one another in front of you.
  2. Bring the elbows in toward the torso so the upper arm bones become perpendicular to the mat/floor, elbows directly below the shoulders.
  3. Gently press the tops of the feet, and thighs into the mat/floor as your tailbone reaches toward the heels.
  4. Reach the crown of the head forward as the low belly reaches away from the floor, lengthening the spine.
  5. If feeling discomfort in the pelvis, place a blanket beneath pelvic bones for support.
  6. Be here for 7-10 rounds of breath.

Twists

Although deep twists should be avoided during menstruation, soft twists can be helpful in relieving lower back pain, menstrual cramping, and digestive issues.

Marichyasana III

Contraindications: serious back or spine injury, high/low blood pressure, migraine/headache, insomnia.

To get into Marichyasana III (Marichi’s/Sage Pose):

  1. Begin seated with legs outstretched in front of you (in Dandasana.) If feeling especially fatigued, sit with your back about a foot away from a wall.
  2. Bending the right knee, bring the right foot as close to the right hip as is comfortable.
  3. Keeping the back side of the left leg and sole of the right foot rooted firmly into the ground beneath you, inhale as you reach the spine long through the crown of the head.
  4. As you exhale, begin twisting through the thoracic spine (mid-spine) such that the front side of the torso moves to the right, guiding the left elbow to meet the outside of the right knee. Utilize the wall for support of the right arm if applicable.
  5. Inhale to reach tall through the crown of the head, lengthening the spine; and exhale as you sink deeper into the twist.
  6. Stay here for 5-7 rounds of breath, then switching sides to get into the pose for the same length of time.

Additional Remedies

Period Pain Free Herbal Tincture

Period Pain Free was kind enough to send me a couple months of their Chinese herbal tincture. Each custom-made tincture contains herbs that are meant to address your specific period patterns and ailments. I was shocked with how well this worked. It wasn’t until my second cycle taking it that I really felt (or in this case, didn’t feel) the difference, but by month two I was completely free of the cramping I was so used to experiencing month-to-month. I haven’t continued taking it since my trial as my cramps aren’t terrible to begin with; but would highly recommend testing out if your period symptoms are on the more intense side.

Bloom Farms CBD Tincture

I was nervous about trying out CBD oil since there’s so little research that’s actually been done to validate it’s effectiveness and safety. But after reading Minna Lee’s Everything You’ve Wanted to Know About CBD blogpost, I felt more comfortable with my personal decision to give it a shot. Bloom Farms CBD was kind enough to gift me this tincture to try out, and I’ve found that I really like taking a serving of it on my heaviest days (typically, days 1-2) of my period. I use their lightest blend, Balance which contains 300 mg.

Re-heatable Rice Pad

I got mine from Urban Outfitters, but you can just as easily make your own re-heatable pack with rice and a couple old socks. Either way you can pop your pack in the microwave, and use it to relieve lower abdomen pain on the very crampiest of days!

In Conclusion…

There are a handful of things you can do to beat period pain. This list was in no way comprehensive of every asana and remedy one might try, but I’m hoping that it can be a helpful starting point as you navigate life with a period 🙂 Let me know if there are other tips & tricks you’ve personally found helpful in the comments below!

Resources: Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Journal, Leela Yoga 200 hr Teacher Training

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