Everything Yoga posted a brilliant article about modifying yoga flows to target pre- and post- menstrual symptoms.
We all are familiar with the symptoms that come at the beginning or end of each cycle. They can vary from no symptoms at all to mild headaches, back aches, upset stomachs and fatigue, and from increased emotional sensitivity, to debilitating cramps, migraines and more.
I agree that menstruation gets a “bad rap” , but here’s something to get you thinking about that time of the month a little differently:
“The monthly hormonal cycle of menstruation serves as a constant backdrop for the mental and emotional life of every woman, as well as being an important factor in her overall state of health. From the spiritual point of view, the days around the menstrual period are very powerful and auspicious for a woman to practice meditation and japa yoga. The period commencing three days before the onset and continuing for five days of menstrual bleeding and the first five days of the new cycle is a time when a woman gains a heightened level of awareness naturally, by virtue of the altering hormonal balance. This is a time when her natural insight and intuition become very prominent, and it is a most powerful time for psychic awakening.” –Excerpted from Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Sarawati (via Everything Yoga)
I love the flow that was posted in conjunction with the quote, but it feels like it’s written for a more experienced home practitioner. Here are some suggestions on creating a gentle sequence if you’re just getting started in your yoga practice:
- Modified sun salutations or even Sun C’s, which tend to be a little gentler on the joints are beautiful practice openers. Definitely modify if your energy is low.
- I’m not a big believer in chanting and using sounds in my practice at this point. (It might freak my poor roommates out.) But the flow from table top to child’s pose, rolling back into bridge, and then down to supta baddha konasana sounds delicious and restorative. I’d add in a couple gentle forward folds and some extended time in Happy Baby.
- Child’s pose is on my favorites when the cramps and low belly tightness starts to feel too much.
- Gentle spinal twists can help with the “full sponge” feeling that can come just before you start your period.
- If you don’t have a yoga bolster, a rolled up towel or small blanket works wonders. You can roll it the narrow way or wide way, depending on your needs.
Unless you’re an experienced yogi, I’d just stick with soft, easy gentle breathing and ignore the more advanced pranayama practice. Unless you really know what you’re doing, it can make you really dizzy and feel nauseated (nothing we need to encourage when we’re already feeling yucky.)
Instead of spending five to ten minutes with funny breathing, come to child’s pose or supta baddha and just breath in through your nose, sending the breath deep down into the low spine or belly, and exhale completely. With each inhale, visualize the breath coming into your body, gently wrapping around the area of discomfort, and on the exhale, release the breath and the pain. Keep breathing gently for a few minutes, keeping the inhales and the exhales roughly the same length.
Who knows … after some yoga, maybe you can put that bottle of Motrin away.