After moving to Dallas, I got on Bumble BFF to make a few new friends. I quickly noticed that the first or second question I got from new girlfriends after they learned I was a yoga teacher were something along the lines of “what poses should I do to help with cramping?” or “what poses should I do during my period?” or “should I practice yoga during my period?”
My typical answer to the last one is always, listen to your body. Whether or not women should practice yoga while menstruating is a highly debated topic in the yoga community, but I believe that if you need it, then do it. Five minutes of yoga asana is still yoga. Meditating is yoga. So I always say just listen to what your body needs, even if it’s just a few breaths in a forward fold to help massage the stomach and aid the natural flow. But for the first two questions, I have a slightly longer response…
While there are many yoga poses that help relieve menstrual cramping, these are my six go-to poses while on my period…
Pillow-Supported Child’s Pose
I like to start almost every practice off with a child’s pose. While on my period I’ll add a pillow underneath of me for extra support and to help settle into a deeper supported child’s pose, which can help alleviate low back pain and, in this case, stomach discomfort.
Start on all fours. Relax your sits bones toward your heels and extend your arms long in front. Relax your shoulders down your spine. Take 7–10 deep breaths. Option to place a pillow underneath your belly to extra support.
After a relaxing child’s pose, I like to stretch out my core in cobra pose, which not only opens up the heart but reduces aching in the belly by stretching and strengthening the core and long-term could even improve menstrual irregularities.
Start on all fours. Step the hands one hand-print forward. Begin to slowly lower your pelvis to the ground. Lift the heart high, roll the shoulders down the spine and breathe deeply. If you need a break, exhale to lower down to the mat. When ready, inhale and lift back into cobra pose.
Seated Forward Fold
Any and all forward folds can help to relieve stomach pain and cramping, but the seated forward fold is my go-to. Sometimes I’ll let me stomach rest on a block or stiff pillow and gently sway side to side.
Sit up with your legs long in front . Inch fingers forward. Take 10 deep breaths and allow yourself to relax into this stretch. Option to fold a pillow, or stack two or three pillows together, to support your head and chest and relax into this pose for longer.
Twists can help to gently massage the pelvic area and relieve pain. I like to think I am ringing out all of what my body no longer needs (literally in this case) while twisting out.
Lie on your back. Bring your right leg up to your chest, twist the leg across your body. Bend your left knee so that your foot is behind you. Your hips should be turned completely onto their side, but shoulders stay flat on the bed. Take 5–7 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
While I typically shy away from backbends while on my period, I will make an exception for a supported bridge pose, which can help to relax the muscles around the pelvic area.
Make sure your yoga block or pillow is within arms reach. Lie on your back with your feet on the ground, hips width apart. Slowly lift your sits bones off the ground and slide your yoga block or pillow under the sacrum. Relax into this pose slowly. Take 5–7 deep breaths. Move slowly when exiting this pose: lift the sits bones a little higher, remove the yoga block or pillow, and relax the low back slowly back onto the ground. From here, option to spread the feet mat’s distance apart and windshield wiper the knees side to side.
I save the best for last and usually the longest, supine butterfly pose.
Lie on your back . Place the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall open. If this feels too intense, place a pillow underneath each knee. Stretch your arms out to the sides, palms facing the ceiling, and roll your shoulders back and down. Take at least 10 full slow breaths.
Two Types of Yoga Poses to Avoid While on Your Period:
When you’re menstruating the energy in your body is flowing downward–blood is literally flowing down and out of your body. Certain yoga poses disrupt this flow of energy. Therefore, I avoid two main types of yoga poses while on my period: inversions (hand stands, shoulder stands, head stands, forearm stands, etc.) and deep backbends (wheel pose, boat pose, etc.).
Because at the end of the day, it’s all about whatever makes getting through the period easier. Here’s to an easier period for us all!
Until next time,