Yoga for Period Cramps: Can You Do Yoga on Your Period?

If you’re a complete yoga addict like I am, then it might be hard for you to take a break from it.

This is true for me even when I’m feeling somewhat rundown due to my menstrual cycle starting.

Can you do yoga on your period?

yoga for period crampsYes, you can continue your yoga practice during your period. However, it is important to mention that the asanas can provide a great deal of healing, and relieve certain pains as well, but at times it can be a good idea to ease off a bit.

One of those times is when you are on your period. We don’t recommend putting your body through any unnecessary stress. It’s important to take it easy.

Yogi Bhajan, who is a Kundalini yoga master, says that the auras of women are 16 times more powerful and larger than men’s. When you are menstruating, it is like having a full moon, which makes your aura even larger.

During your period, you are more sensitive physically, and movements that make you feel good normally may irritate you during this time.

Traditional yogic culture refers to the energy flowing through a woman’s body while she is on her period as Apana Vayu.

This is the natural downward force that helps to move the bowels and urine. It helps the blood exit the body safely.

Ayurvedic teachers consider your period to be a time to renew and relax since your body is working very hard to eliminate, detoxify, and cleanse. Many yoga teachers say this is the best time to take some time away and enable your system to do its own thing without having to deal with any extra stress.

Using yoga as a treatment for period cramps is a topic that has quite a bit of debate surrounding it. Some people claim you don’t need to avoid anything while you are menstruating, while other people insist that you should completely stop doing yoga during that time of the month.

For me, I have discovered that the middle ground in between those two positions works the best.

No yoga posture will do lasting harm to you while you are on your period. However, there are some that will hurt when you are feeling crampy and bloated already.

What I advise my female students to do is take it easy and also avoid doing the following five asanas during that time of the month when they are on their period.

Yoga Poses to Avoid During Menstruation

1. Shoulder Stand: Salamba Sarvangasana

Shoulder Stand Salamba SarvangasanaWhenever you are lying on your back and swinging your feet above your head, it paves the way for energy to move from your Mooladhar Chakra (your cervix) into your Manipura Chakra (your belly button). That is the exact opposite way that your body is flowing naturally while you are on your period.

According to Kate Woodworth, who is a Yoga Vidya Gurukul teacher and yoga therapist, it causes heavier blood flow because your uterus is pulled towards your head, which causes the veins to collapse partially and the ligaments to overstretch, which in turn causes the arteries to pump additional blood.

We used to believe that this pose caused infections and endometriosis. However, that has been proven not to be true. Still, this asana may build up excess amounts of heat around your female parts, which can lead to more overall discomfort.

If you aren’t one of the women who find this to be a painful or unpleasant experience, then go ahead and do it while you are on your period. Just make sure that you don’t strain too much.

If you are looking for an alternative pose to do instead, just lie down on your back and then raise your legs up straight in the air while your hips are kept on the floor and hold that pose. You will feel a release in your lower back still and your core will be given some work without it being too intense.

2. Headstand (Sirsasana) or Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Supported headstand yoga poseIt takes more energy and effort to do these inversions compared to Warrior 1 and 2, for example. They may be too strenuous on your body potentially when you aren’t feeling your best.

Of course, that will depend on how much experience you have with the practice. What I tell my students is if they are not completely confident in doing headstands yet, then they shouldn’t be trying to do them while they are on their period.

You might end up tiring yourself out a lot more than you anticipate, which could lead to even more intense cramps than you had before. That definitely is not fun.

Like the shoulder stand and plow pose, these poses also encourage the flow of your body to go in the opposite way. That can result in your lower abdomen having some unnecessary tension, which can disrupt your important detoxification time.

While it might be a nuisance for our practice, Julie Bernier, who is an Ayurvedic Wellness Educator, recommends that you look at it as the chance to really listen to your body and connect with your inner self.

You can give yourself permission to take it easy or sit out on some of the postures that the rest of the class is doing to balance things out.

3. Breath of Fire

If you haven’t performed this breathing asana before, don’t bother to add it to your yoga practice while you are on your period. The navel is used as a pump by this exercise to exhale leftover gunk and toxins out of your body.

Usually, it is done throughout some of the vinyasa flow series and following the Bikram Yoga series. This is a very powerful belly movement that may place too much pressure on the abdomen when you are in a very sensitive state.

This exercise can be performed very light, or even better, skip it entirely and practice shallow, deep breathing instead. The movement is not only tough on your stomach but traditionally it is practiced using a very rapid rhythm.

So before you realize, you have contracted the lower part of your abdomen rapidly more than one hundred times, and extra contraction has been added to a region of your body that is tight already.

Think about how that may make you feel like going to bed and assuming the fetal position after putting your body through so much stress.

4. Seated Spinal Twist: Ardha Matsyendrasana

Ardha MatsyendrasanaThis specific twisting posture might overstimulate your abdominal area, particularly when doing the full version. It places a lot of pressure on your entire pelvic area and contracts it quite tightly.

I find it to be quite painful when I have menstrual cramps already, and I have heard the same thing from my students and other teachers. Although this pose has numerous benefits for the shoulder girdle and back, it might cause the tummy area to have further aches.

If you would like to crack your thoracic spine or release your body with a twist at least while on your cycle, lay down on your back, move your knees up to your chest, and then allow them to fall slowly to one side with your head looking in the opposite direction.

This version is much gentler and you will feel like you are getting rid of all of the nooks and crannies from your spine still.

5. Full Wheel Pose: Urdhva Dhanurasana

Full Wheel Urdhva DhanurasanaOne great way to relieve menstrual cramps and get the blood flowing safely and gently is to do backbends. However, many teachers, which includes me, encourage you to avoid doing this posture.

That is because the Full Wheel lifts your pelvis so that it is high in the air, which forces you to stretch your front hip region and entire core fiercely, and that can be detrimental to your ovaries.

This type of back bend takes a lot out of you as well, to the point that I frequently see a person completely forgetting to breathe while they are performing them.

I also know how great it can feel to open up your chest in a kind of non-habitual way. Therefore, if you want to do a backbend, do the Floor Bow or Bridge pose instead.

Both of them are heart-openers, and allow you to create space in between your spinal vertebrae so that you can get nutrients flowing into areas that are otherwise tight. Floor Bow lengthens your abdominal muscles gently, which helps to ease your menstrual cramps rather than making them worse.

However, whatever you decide to do, the most important thing is to be sure you listen carefully to whatever your body is attempting to tell you.

Considering Yoga for Period Cramps? Remember That All Women Are Different

Every woman experiences her period in a different. For some, it isn’t a big deal; some women say they feel like they do on other days.

There are other women who experience mild symptoms of bloating and cramping, while some might experience periods that are so serious that they have to spend one or two days in bed.

Due to these differences, there isn’t a single prescription in terms of whether or not you should do yoga. If you are feeling up to it, then, of course, you can try using yoga for period cramps.

However, if you are bleeding heavily and feeling lousy, then on your worst days you can always decide to skip it. One of the things that yoga teaches you is how to listen to your body, so make sure that you use that skill when making your decision on whether to use yoga for period cramps (or not).

Use a Gentle Yoga Sequence for Period Cramps

When you are on your period that may be a good time for you to change your yoga practice approach. If you practice an intense power yoga, hot yoga, or Ashtanga class on a regular basis, you might want to choose a Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga practice for those couple of days per month.

You won’t necessarily injure yourself by practicing in a high-intensity class. However, you may not feel up to flowing a number of arm balances and Chaturangas.

You might end up having negative feelings regarding your yoga practice, particularly if the poses that you normally do quite easily become hard to do because of low energy and discomfort. A class that is less intense may be the style that you need whenever you are feeling grouchy, fatigued, or mellow.

Positive Thinking

Practicing yoga might end up helping you feel better. There was a study done on 40 women participating in a regular yoga program for 12 weeks, one time per week. The 20 women who practiced yoga reported having less discomfort and pain during their menstrual periods compared to those who did not do yoga.

This research was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2016. However, it did not examine yoga practice specifically while the women were on their periods.

Another study, which was published in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal in 2011, supported using Yoga Nidra for treating menstrual disorders.

The study involved 150 women who experienced improvements in pain, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal symptoms that were associated with their periods after Yoga Nidra therapy was used for six months on a regular basis. Yoga Nidra is a meditative, quiet form of yoga that is frequently called yoga “sleep.”

Yoga Tips During Menstruation

Some yoga experts will warn that you shouldn’t do certain postures while you are on your period. What poses you decide to do is completely up to you ultimately.

However, if you would like to be cautious, in addition to the specific poses already mentioned in this article, wait to do the following poses after your menstrual cycle is over:

Inversions

Inversions, like the shoulder stand, headstand, and handstand, cause your Apana energy to shift, which is thought to flow from your navel into your cervix in the wrong direction that you want it to be in while you are menstruating.

Usually, when the flow is reversed during an inversion it can increase your energy. However, while you are on your period, it is viewed as going against your body’s natural flow.

Even if this yogic philosophy is not one you subscribe to, inversions do make your uterus shift towards your head, and that can result in overstretching as well as increased blood flow, which could mean a potentially heavier menstrual cycle.

Extreme Postures

It might also be a good idea to avoid really strong postures involving extreme twists (e.g. revolved bound side angles), arm balances (e.g. peacock), or dramatic backbends (e.g. the wheel), particularly ones that place a lot of stress on the abdominal area.

A lot of strength and energy is required by these poses, which might be diminished while you are on your period. When you are suffering from cramps, your contracting uterus could include spasms that make it harder for you to perform those poses.

Beneficial Yoga Poses for Menstrual Cramps

Although there is no one single pose that can cure your menstrual symptoms, there are some postures that might feel soothing during that time of the month.

The following poses can be considered:

  • Supine Twist: Lie down on your back and then drop your bend knees over to the right as you are rotating your head over to the left. Then repeat this on the opposite side of your body.
  • Child’s Pose: Get down on all fours. While you are stretching your arms forward, sit down on your buttocks on top of your heels. Your forehead should be supported on a block or by the floor.
  • Forward Bends: Sit down on the floor with your legs extended, or keep the soles of your feet together with your knees at the sides like in the form of a butterfly. The move forward folding over your legs to complete the pose.
  • Standing Half-Moon: Stand up with your feet either hip-distance apart or together and reach your arms up to the ceiling. Put your hands together and then lean towards the right in order to stretch your body’s left side; go back to the middle and then lean towards the left.

You Can Use Yoga for Period Cramps, but Listen to Your Body

Your stamina, mood, and energy are all affected by your period. With changing hormones, you might be wondering if you should even attend your fitness class during that time of the month. There are some practices that discourage women from doing yoga while they are on their period, and maintain that this is a time for rest and renewal.

There are other practices that may discourage you from doing certain postures, like inversions, since your energy is directed in the wrong direction, which during menstruation is headed downward.

However, if you would like to do some yoga while you are on your period, go for it. It can relieve bloating, soothe cramps, and energize you.

Just make sure to listen carefully to your body. If you want to, take a break from asanas. Whether or not you decide to do yoga while you are on your period is ultimately your personal choice to make.

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