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Yoga can be the answer for many ills, both physical and mental. Here is a look at how we can harness the power of yoga for menstrual problems.
As a Yoga teacher, I’m often asked if Yoga can help with menstrual problems. The short answer is yes, but whether the issue is too rare periods, too frequent or too heavy, the most important advice a Yoga teacher can give on this matter is to consult a doctor.
Persistent irregularities in the menstrual cycle are often signs of other illnesses which could aggravate further if left untreated. Once a proper medical examination has ruled out this possibility, we can look to Yoga for establishing balance in the body and regularizing the menstrual cycle.
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Many of us have grown up associating periods with pain, and we consider pain a normal part of the process. But like any other pain, period pain is a sign that there is something amiss in one’s system.
The medical term for painful periods is ‘dysmenorrhea’. Characterized by abdominal cramps and back pain, it can also entail headaches, nausea and bloating. Emotional stress aggravates these problems, so it is important to consciously de-stress during menstruation.
Many women resort to pain relievers and hormonal supplements or birth control pills to ease their menstrual pains, but Yoga offers natural and effective techniques with no harmful side effects. Besides addressing the particular menstrual issues, it also improves sleep quality, makes metabolism more efficient, improves the functioning of internal organs and calms the mind.
With their inside-out modus operandi, the Asanas in Yoga balance the endocrine and nervous systems, while improving blood flow to the reproductive organs. By compressing and massaging the internal organs and glands, they tone and strengthen them and ensure a fresh blood supply to them. The stretching of the muscles releases the stiffness in them and counters the cramping sensation brought about by the contractions of the uterus during menstruation.
While some women feel energetic enough for a challenging workout even during their period, for most women a gentle restorative practice is exactly what the body needs at this time. The idea is to relieve the aches and pains, chase away stress and facilitate hormonal balance.
The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones, so regulating them is the key to addressing menstrual problems. The part of the brain in charge of hormone regulation is the hypothalamus. And because the hypothalamus is also connected to other parts of the brain, emotions affect its functioning. Stress, in particular, suppresses it and the result is hormonal imbalance and menstrual problems.
The effect of Yoga on stress is well-documented and even a fifteen-minute practice brings down stress levels drastically.
A Yoga practice also hones one’s ability to listen to one’s body and respond to its messages, and this goes a long way toward healing and regularizing the body’s rhythms.
If there is excessive bleeding, Yoga Asanas should be avoided. As for inversions, some schools (such as Bihar School of Yoga and Iyengar Yoga) advise against doing them while menstruating, but many modern practitioners opine otherwise. Given that the period is a time of extra energy expenditure, it is wise to skip the more energy-intensive poses and lean towards a restorative practice.
Below are some of the asanas that relieve menstrual pain/ discomfort such as abdominal cramps, heavy bleeding, body aches, bloating, headaches and fatigue. If you find any poses too difficult, feel free to simplify and adapt the poses to meet your body, going just as far into the pose as your body permits. As one of my teachers often said, feel the challenge of the poses but not the strain. It’s called a ‘Yoga practice’ and not a Yoga performance, so it’s not about ‘getting the poses right’. The point is to do them with awareness and attention to how one feels in the poses. Keep the breath soft and easy, never holding/straining it.
Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose: Watch here.
Janu Shirshasana or Head-to-Knee Pose. Watch here.
Pasasana or Half-Bound Squat. Watch here.
Mandukasana or Frog Pose. Watch here.
Shashankasana or Child’s Pose. Watch here.
Baddha Konasana or Bound Angle Pose. Watch here.
Reclining Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle Pose. Watch here.
Vipareet Karni or Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose. Watch here.
Savasana or Corpse Pose. Watch here.
The focus on a lot of these poses is on the lower abdomen and the lower back, so it helps to keep one’s awareness on them while doing the pose. Using props such as bolsters and rolled blankets helps one ease into the poses and feel a sense of relaxation as the pose is held for a few minutes.
A one-time session might well relieve pains, but a consistent practice is where the full benefits of Yoga wait to be discovered. It need not be an hour everyday. Between all of modern life’s perpetual pulls in various directions – to buy this, go there, accomplish that and do more – even a ten-minute practice can be one’s return ticket to one’s own spirit and the sanctuary within.
Image source: women doing Yoga in lotus position by Shutterstock.
Yoga teacher, writer, travel blogger. Loves going where she’s never been, having (mis)adventures,
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