Around 85 percent of menstruating women suffer from one or more of the symptoms of PMS every month.
You know when it hits. That week before your period when you are overcome by crazy, unable to control your mood swings, and logic is a thing of the past.
Other symptoms may include joys such as breakouts of spots, tender breasts, bloating, joint or muscle pain, random food cravings, mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. Let us not forget the irrational thinking, backaches, cramps, and depression. Diarrhea, headaches, and insomnia are also some of the pains that we women endure on a monthly basis.
A little-known fact is that yoga can help to effectively alleviate pretty much all of these symptoms.
How so? Yoga helps by balancing the endocrine system, and the gentle stretching when practising yoga postures releases any increased muscle tension generated by your internal hormonal stresses. Yoga also regulates our breathing and improves circulation around the body, as well as helping with any menstruation-related digestive issues.
Many of us who already have an existing yoga practice avoid practising in the days leading up to our period, but there are several postures that can be very beneficial as we approach the start of the menstrual cycle.
Try practising the following postures in order, as a sequence or individually, for general relief of the symptoms of PMS. They are suitable for all levels of yoga practitioner, even if you’ve never stepped on a yoga mat before.
1. Pigeon pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is a great posture for releasing tension in the hips and groin and to allow yourself to completely chill. Pigeon can help relieve tightness and restore flexibility.
Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch your back. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of your left hip, but if this variation is painful, lean forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Hold for five or more breaths, and then repeat this pose on the other side.
2. Natarajasana or Dancer’s pose requires a significant amount of flexibility in the hip flexors and spine, as well as an unwavering sense of balance. Benefits include reducing menstrual discomfort and PMS symptoms.
Begin in Tadasana and stretch the right arm forward and keep it parallel to the ground. Bend the left knee toward the back and hold the left big toe with the left hand. Engage the knees and press the left foot into the left hand to lift it up and to the back. Keep the balance for 10 seconds then release the grip of the left foot and lower the arms. Repeat the posture on the other side.
Beginners can practice this pose by placing the front hand on a wall for balance. They will still feel a fantastic stretch and feel all of the emotional benefits, too.
3. Ustrasana or Camel pose helps to stimulate the thyroid gland in the centre of the neck to balance metabolism and affects the entire endocrine system.
Come up onto the knees. Reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels, and then bring your hips forward so that they are directly over the knees. Allow the head to come back, opening your throat and chest.
If this is too much of a stretch to reach all the way back to the feet, just gently kneel and take the hands to the hips. Look up toward the third eye (between the eyebrows) and bend gently backward as much as is comfortable. Take the shoulders back and down and open the chest as you bend backwards from the hips.
4. Dhanurasana or Bow pose is a great back bending pose, which will help to stimulate the reproductive organs and helps to balance the levels of progesterone and estrogen in the body. It stimulates both the back and front of the body, especially the lumbar and pelvic regions and helps relieve depression. Combat cramps and upset stomach with a backbend like this pose, which gets the spinal fluid moving and relieves compression in the vertebrae.
Lie on the belly with your hands by your side, with your palms up. On the exhale, bend your knees and bring the feet toward the buttocks. Reach back and take hold of the ankles. The knees should only be hip distance apart, if possible. Inhale, lifting the heels away from the buttocks and also lift your thighs up from the floor. Your head and chest will follow and lift off of the floor. Keep your back muscles soft.
Continue to lift, press the shoulder blades together and open the chest. Draw the shoulders away from the ears. Gaze forward while breathing more into the back. Breathe here for about five seconds, release with an exhale, and repeat once or twice as comfortable.
If grabbing the feet is too much of a strain, you can use a strap around the front of the feet and reach back and grab the strap. Remember you don’t have to come all the way up, either; for many people, just grabbing the ankles and raising the chest is enough of a stretch.
5. Utthita Parsvakonasana or Extended Side Angle pose strengthens and stretches the legs and knees and also opens up the groin and waist region. While stimulating the abdominal organs, this posture can also provide us with an influx of energy at time when we are feeling lethargic and fatigued.
Stand with feet facing forward, about four feet apart. Raise the arms parallel to the floor and reach them out to the sides, with the palms down, stretching with the fingertips. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right (about 45 degrees) and your right foot out to the right (about 90 degrees). Align the heels and turn the right thigh outward, so that the kneecap is above the ankle. Bend the front knee, anchoring with the heel of the back foot.
Take the shoulders back and down and extend the left arm up toward the sky, with the left palm facing toward your head, and then reach the arm up and over. Lengthen from the heel to the tips of the fingers. Turn your head to look at your fingertips.
Hold for five breaths and then change sides and reverse the feet. Then come up and return to Tadasana.
The postures should be held for five breaths each, but if you feel able, you can repeat the flow as many times as you wish up to 10 times. If the posture is practised on the left and right, then hold for five breaths on each side.
Please note that this sequence is to be practised before bleeding begins. When menstruation begins, we should abstain from all practice for the first three days or focus on meditation and yogic breathing, “pranayama.”