Period cramps are no joke. They’re uncomfortable, inconvenient, and downright painful.
Moving your body, in general, will help alleviate cramps, but there’s something special about the deep breathing and gentle movements of yoga that help put your body and mind at ease. The best part? You don’t have to sign up for an hour-long yoga class, just carve out a few minutes in your day, roll out your yoga mat and get to stretching.
Here, women’s health dietitian and yoga teacher Kendra Tolbert, MS, RDN, RYT, shares five yoga poses you can try to help alleviate menstrual cramps— just in time for International Yoga Day on Friday, June 21st.
Cat cow is a super yummy stretch to do anytime of the month but it’s especially delicious when you’re on your period because it helps release tension and improve circulation to your pelvis.
“Start on your hands and knees,” Tolbert says. “On an inhale, round your back allowing the crown of your head and tailbone to release towards the ground. On an exhale, arch your spine pointing the crown of your head and your tailbone toward the sky. Repeat five times.”
Simple but effective, a low lung will help release you're notoriously tight psoas muscle (which is said to contribute to pelvic pain) that runs from the lumbar spine to your groin.
“From tabletop, step your right foot forward between your hands,” Tolbert says. “Keep a long spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head. Stay in the pose for at least five full breaths. Repeat on the other side.”
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
“Not only does wide-angle seated forward bend stretch and release your hips, thighs, and lower back (all places you may experience period pain), it also provides an opportunity for introspection and stillness,” Tolbert says.
Start by taking a seat on the floor and extending your legs out in front of you. Then spread your legs apart and stop when you feel the first hint of a stretch. Inhale as you extend your arms over your head and exhale as you bend forward. Rest your hands on your thighs, shins, or on the floor. Hold the pose for at least five full breaths.
Deer pose is a yin yoga pose that gently stretches the front of your chest, shoulders, and quads which tend to get tight when you’re in pain, Tolbert says.
Here’s how you do it: Seated on your mat, bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor. Then place your hands on the floor behind you with your palms down and fingers pointing towards your bottom. Keep both legs bent and drop your knees to the left and hold the pose for 10 full breaths then repeat on the other side.
Reclining Bound Angle
This restorative hip-opening pose is like savasana but better. It’ll help your mind and body relax, which is much needed while on your period. It also promotes blood flow and energy to your reproductive organs to help give you some relief.
“Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place the soles of your feet together,” Tolbert says. “Draw your heels towards your pelvis. Allow your knees to fall away from one another towards the ground.” Then close your eyes and place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart to help you connect with yourself. Hold this pose for as long as you need.