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Menstrual cramp is a beast in women’s lives. Here are 7 effective ways to deal with menstrual cramps, and let’s share it with every woman and girl we know.
Disclaimer: Those who are too shy to read this article may skip it. But a problem that affects 3 billion people of this planet sometime or the other, deserves a solution.
Is it that time of the month? Had to miss your class? Had to take a sick leave? Reaching out for aspirin? Feeling dizzy in the head? Back is aching? Had to miss your sports tournament in school or college? Had to cancel the picnic?
Are you doomed to suffer like this month after month, for 35(years) x 13(periods per year) = 455 times in your life?
Older women might have told you that women must suffer and lead painful lives, so that they get strong enough to deliver a baby. Are menstrual cramps monthly reminders to a woman that she is trapped in a painful cycle of biology?
As a teenager, every time during my period, my mother used to ask “ki re shorir kharap hoyeche?”, which literally means “Hey, are you unwell”. Gawddd! She did not mean to ask if I was sick. She wanted to know if I was menstruating. This meant that having your period is equal to being unwell. Period is perceived as a problem, instead of being a normal process; something as normal as brushing your teeth.
Indian mothers teach their daughters to be shy about their bodies, their being and their self. They teach their daughters to put up brave smiles during the terrible menstrual cramps, and never to talk about their problem to anyone. Traditional India also treated menstruation as an event. Women were not supposed to leave the house, wear new clothes and even sleep on the bed, during those days. Remember, Draupadi spent her menstruating days in a bathrobe in closed quarters, not attending court? On one such occasion, she was pawned and lost in a game of dice by Yudhisthir, her husband. The winning team dragged her to the court and pulled her stained bathrobe off (the famous Draupadi cheer-haran, a central event of the Mahabharat).
The same is true in today’s world also. Just Google “menstruation”; you will find a zillion articles on how women worry about their periods, what problems they face before and during their periods, how we should manage them, and what home remedies are advisable to overcome menses-related problems. This leaves a woman in a fear of her period, waiting in terror for the next monthly agony to set in and hold her life ransom for 3-6 days.
Like any teenager (1994-2001), I suffered painful uterus cramps in school. There were a couple of times when I had collapsed in the classroom and had to be sent to the sick-room. I had to always carry an aspirin in my bag. And then a concerned classmate said, “You will get stomach ulcers. One should not have aspirins that much.”
The pain continued in college (2001-06). Painful first day of the period. Standing and doing a 2m-long ship drawing in the drawing hall (Department of Naval Architecture, IIT Kharagpur) for 3 hours ached my back. My lower belly was crying to be pampered. Doing welding/foundry/machining in the workshop and cycling for about 5 km daily in the 500 acre IIT Campus all became tough on those days. There was no other option than popping the aspirin.
Once, I decided to take hold of my biology, regular physical exercises, including weight-training, regularized the periods greatly, and shortened the duration to 3 days only. But dysmenorrhea remained a problem. Strangely, no one in the girls’ hostel ever discussed this problem, let alone finding solutions. Maybe they were conditioned to bear the woman’s problem bravely and silently. Increased physical strength and endurance helped me during my strenuous shipyard internship in the summers, with me moving all over warships, which were still being constructed. Climbing cranes and cat-ladders, descending to cramped engine rooms, and walking around in countless workshops for a couple of months became easy.
Once I began my graduate studies and simultaneously supported myself financially, I began taking all decisions of my life on my own, including my well-being. I refused to suffer. And I refused to be an all-suffering Bharatiya Naari. I began yoga with full earnest. I took up a variety of interests every semester: I learnt swimming, badminton, kick-boxing and Odissi (2 years). I also started running. Weekends were filled with three-hour walks in the green city, sometimes with my darling roomie Yogita. (Yogita is the only girl I have met in 28 years, who attacks problems head-on and solves them.)
It has been almost six years now (since mid 2009), that I can boast of absolutely painless periods. I don’t even remember I am menstruating except while using the toilet. Also, I have been predicting my periods more or less accurately since the last 15 years. Also, it lasts for 2.5 days only, instead of the usual 4 days.
Every problem has a solution. And God did not send you to this planet to suffer. He sent you to this beautiful world to live life to the fullest. And, woman! Love yourself and solve your own problems.
(a) Fitness is important. Daily physical exercise for at least 45 min is an absolute must. You must be sweating at the end of the session. The human body is designed for activity, not a sedentary lifestyle.
(b) There is no alternative for muscular strength. Weight train at least twice a week. Shoot for a minimum of 5 kg dumb-bells. What nature has not given us, we must achieve ourselves (nature did not give us wings, but we can still fly across oceans and continents).
(c) Yoga: Flexibility is compulsory. Focus on your lower body. Go beyond your comfort levels. Master your skeletal and muscular systems. Do bhujangasan, shalbhasan, vrishchikasan, chakrasan, kapotasan, viparit virabhadrasan, paschimmotanaasan and surya mamasakar (at least 13 in one workout session). Try the butterfly oscillation; it helps to expand your pelvic girdle.
(d) Classical dance: Try odissi, bharat natyam or kuchipudi. All classical Indian dance forms are basically extensions of dynamic yoga or power yoga. And with it comes grace, poise, balance, and rhythm. Wow!
(e) Lower body strength is compulsory: Men have stronger upper bodies and women have stronger lower bodies. Men work on their biceps, triceps and pectorals. Should we not work on your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluts? Virabhadraasan, with at least 10 variations works great. Squats, lunges, side squats, duck-walking, frog-jumping all firm up the muscles in the lower body. Also, parvataasan, dharuaraasan, and halaasan are perfect for the pelvic girdle.
(f) Try martial arts: Try karate, kick-boxing, lathi or mushti yuddha. The more the range-of-motion (ROM) of your legs, the stronger are your pelvic muscles, including the uterus.
(g) Have your orgasm (and you don’t need a partner for that): Regular orgasms (about 2 per week) cause uterus convulsions, which regulate the movement of the ovum in the fallopian tubes, giving you the freedom to predict your periods accurately. (The reason why the population of India is so much is that Indian women have irregular periods and the calendar method of preventing a pregnancy hardly works)
This post was previously published at the author’s blog.
Image of a woman in pain via Shutterstock
Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
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