Yoga can be an effective way to reduce period cramps. Yoga teacher and author Anja Brierly Lange discusses the best poses to ease period pain.
Is yoga helpful for painful periods?
Painful periods and menstrual cramps are probably the most common complaints when we talk about menstrual health. Periods aren’t meant to be painful and there can be many reasons why they are, including conditions such as Endometriosis.
But consider that “the uterus, or womb, is the strongest muscle in the human body. It expels the menstrual fluid (endometrial lining and blood) through contractions, just like the uterus expels the baby or babies and placenta during childbirth through uterine contractions. These contractions are what we experience as menstrual cramps or painful periods… Part of this process includes high levels of prostaglandins which can cause inflammation, swelling, menstrual pain and cramps.” (Excerpt from my book ‘Teaching yoga for the menstrual cycle - an Āyurvedic perspective’).
Which yoga poses are best for easing period cramps?
Research into yoga for period pain suggests that prevention is better than a cure. So incorporate some of these poses into your daily yoga practice or perhaps just a few times a week through the month. Many of the poses in the studies include backbends. Opening the front of the body and stretching the belly is the perfect antidote to our sedentary life.
This is a gentle back bend to stretch the abdomen and the front of the pelvis. Lie facing down. Bring the hands next to the chest with the elbows lifting and pointing back. Raise the chest and head to a comfortable level without any strain. Breathe here for 1-5 breaths. Release. Repeat 3 times.
Supported bridge pose
Start by lying on your back with the knees bent. Feet under towards your buttocks. Raise the pelvis and part of the back off the floor. You can enjoy this as a restorative pose by placing some firm cushions or a yoga block or bolster under the sacrum/top of the buttocks. This pose should feel relaxing with a nice release to the front of the hips and lower abdomen. In this restorative variation, you can rest for 1-3 minutes. If you are practising without the support then raise the pelvis stay for a breath or two then release down. And repeat 3 times.
Supported reclined Goddess pose
Get your cushions or rolled-up blankets for this restorative rejuvenating pose. Sit on the floor with a bolster or lots of rolled-up blankets or cushions behind you. Slowing recline onto your support. Now, place the soles of your feet together letting the knees drop away from each other. Add cushions under the thighs to support. You can stay here for 1-4 minutes.
Tips for getting the most from your yoga practise
With all these poses start slowly and with a short amount of time. Then increase as you get used to the practices. We recommend a pair of our period leggings if you’re menstruating. They’ll support your gently as you move, and absorb your flow without leaks- keeping you comfy and dry, able to focus on nothing more than your movement and your breathing.
Finally, breathe. Take time to relax and let go. These poses may support releasing tightness in our respiratory diaphragm which could affect your breathing. How we breathe affects our stress levels and the hormones associated with stress and anxiety.
Anja Brierley Lange (BSc, PGDip Āyurveda) is an experienced yoga teacher, Āyurvedic practitioner and teacher trainer. Teaching since 2005 she has specialised in yoga and Āyurveda relating to female anatomy and physiology. Anja is the author of Teaching yoga for the menstrual cycle - an Āyurvedic perspective.
Originally from Denmark, she moved to London and now lives on the Sussex coast where she enjoys the being by or in the sea.
Can yoga help with period pains?
Yoga can be a wonderful way to ease period pains, especially as more high intensity exercise could make you feel worse. Listen to your body and do what feels good to you in the moment. Focus on breathing and slow movements, stretching the body and giving the mind chance to rest and relax.
Which yoga pose is best for period cramps?
The poses in this article are all great for period cramps, but make sure you listen to your body and stop if you don’t feel right.