Yoga for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Many women approach their monthly cycle barely noticing physical or mental changes. However, 75% of women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to some degree. Although this condition may just disrupt daily activities for some, others can become debilitated by the monthly occurrence. This is the perfect time to turn to yoga as a complementary health care practice to help manage PMS symptoms and feel better.
How Can Yoga Help with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
Yoga can alleviate premenstrual pain and help the mind and body adapt to the stress, anxiety and depression that often accompanies premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The yoga poses help to regulate the entire body, helping to realign muscles and bones and regulate the nervous and endocrine systems of the body, returning you to balance.
Below are some yoga poses, or asanas, helpful for relieving premenstrual symptoms:
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
Easy pose is one of the classic meditative asanas that helps in straightening the spine, slowing down metabolism, promoting inner tranquility, and stilling the mind.
Cat pose teaches one to initiate movement from the center and to coordinate movement and breathe—two of the most important themes in yoga practice. Cat pose may not be advisable for those with chronic or recent back pain or injury.
The bow pose is a type of backbend that resembles an archer's bow. Bow strengthens the muscles in the back area, improves posture, and helps in dealing with several gastrointestinal problems. However this asana should be avoided by those who are suffering from serious neck or back injury.
This asana, another backbend, improves spinal flexibility and strengthens the muscles in the arms and back. In addition, it is effective in relieving menstrual irregularities and constipation.
Corpse (Shavasana), Crocodile (Makarasana) & Child's Pose (Balasana)
The corpse, crocodile, and child's poses are simple relaxation asanas that help relieve anxiety and nervous irritability. The crocodile is helpful for women who experience severe cramping or are unable to relax lying on their backs. It allows the mind to focus inward with fewer distractions as the head faces downward, like a crocodile concealed underwater. The child's pose relaxes the body completely, focusing the breath on the organ systems in the abdomen and pelvis, which helps massage and tone them. The gentle inversion of head, neck, and torso also relaxes the back muscles, easing lower back pain.
Yoga can stimulate blood flow to the abdominal and pelvic areas and help regulate sugar metabolism. Many women experience food cravings before the onset of menstruation, especially cravings for sugar and chocolate as the body needs more glucose. Unfortunately, using sugar and chocolate to meet these nutritional needs often induces a letdown feeling, fatigue, and headaches. Various yoga postures address this situation, as well.
Modified Bridge (Setu bandha)
The modified bridge pose stretches and tones the ovaries, uterus, and abdominal organs, helping to relieve carbohydrate cravings.
Upward-facing Dog (Urdhva mukha shvanasana)
The upward-facing dog stimulates both the back and front of the body, especially the lumbar and pelvic regions. It also helps relieve depression.
Modified Wide-angle (Upavishtha konasana) & Half Plow (Halasana)
The modified wide-angle pose and the half or supported plow are two gentle, effective inversion postures for relieving problems of weight gain, bloating, and tender breasts. The modified version of the posture is recommended over the full plow to avoid injury to the lower back.
If you are a new yogi, it is recommended to seek the guidance of a well-trained yoga teacher for instruction on performing these postures.
What is Yoga?
At over 5,000 years old, yoga is considered the oldest self-development systems in existence. It was originally designed as a means to calm the body and prepare for meditation, with an ultimate goal of reaching complete peacefulness of body and mind.
What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is characterized by uncomfortable mental and physical symptoms that can occur from two to fourteen days prior to the start of a woman’s menstrual cycle. The exact cause of PMS is unknown, although most experts believe there is a link to estrogen levels. It is also possible that a combination of behavioral, genetic, nutritional and psychological factors play a significant role.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms usually leave at the onset of the menstrual cycle.
The most commonly reported symptoms of PMS include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Appetite changes
- Breast tenderness
- Crying spells
- Depressed mood
- Food cravings
- Irritability or anger
- Joint or muscle pain
- Mood swings
- Tension or anxiety
- Weight gain from water retention
Women experiencing PMS also report anxiety, back pain, confusion, forgetfulness, nausea, swelling of arms and legs, and sleep difficulty.
Is Yoga Safe?
Although yoga is considered safe, there are some situations in which this practice can pose a risk. Check with a doctor or other health care provider before starting a new yoga program, especially if experiencing certain health conditions. These include joint problems or a history of neck or low back pain (not PMS-related). Since complications can arise, also consult a health care provider before beginning yoga if you have artificial joints; eye conditions, including glaucoma; hard-to-control high blood pressure; osteoporosis; and risk of blood clots. One may still be able to practice yoga in these situations if precautions are taken.
Yoga instructors are trained in assisting practitioners in not exceeding personal limits, encouraging one to avoid or modify certain yoga positions if they may cause undue strain. For instance, during PMS yoga should be practiced gently. The abdomen should remain soft and inactive throughout the practice so the menstrual flow can continue unobstructed. Therefore twists and inverted positions (unless otherwise indicated) should be avoided.
“Getting out from Under: Asana for Relieving PMS” by Anna Rychner.