Often, people who get periods fall into two camps: those who feel that exercising through PMS symptoms makes them feel better, and those who would rather challenge themselves to watch an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without moving. For those of us firmly in the latter group, practicing yoga may be a PMS cure that’s a happy medium between those two. There are many reported benefits to hitting the mat, including reducing stress, boosting your mood, and best of all, getting natural period pain relief. Looking for somewhere to start? Try this simple, very beginner-friendly flow from The Vagina Book: An Owner’s Manual for Taking Care of Your Down There.
Remember: Skip any asanas (poses) that cause you more discomfort or pain. Take some time to relax into positions that work for your body (as you should with any yoga practice). There’s no need to push yourself past your limits, especially during an already vulnerable time like menstruation. For the best yoga benefits, find what works for you—even if that means keeping the TV on. There are no rules here.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
This natural, stress-relieving pose will gently stretch your hips, thighs, and ankles, which is why it’s often the position you’re told to fall into when you need a break during yoga class. You can adopt Child’s Pose with your knees together or wide, whichever is more comfortable for you. For another variation that combats bloating and cramping, curl your arms over your stomach.
Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide-legged Forward Bend)
To safely enter this pose, start by standing up straight, then step your feet out sideways until they’re beyond hip-width apart, wherever you feel comfortable. Slowly bend forward while propping yourself up with your hands flat on the floor (feel free to bend your knees if you need to). Practicing inversions (when your head is below your heart) can reap many benefits, including helping you feel energized and refreshed, soothing an achy lower back, and even lowering your blood pressure.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Variation (Sleeping Pigeon Pose)
Ever feel so stressed while on your period that your whole body tightens up? Try this pose. Start from a plank position, then carefully bring one knee to the floor beneath your stomach, behind your wrists (be mindful of your ankle). Slowly lower your pelvis to the floor. If you find your hips are not aligned when you settle down, you can place a block or a blanket under the hip that is raised. Once you’re comfortable, walk your hands forward until you can rest your forehead down on the floor and chill out for a bit. To pick yourself back up, place your hands flat on the floor and carefully push yourself back into a plank position. Repeat with the other leg bent.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
First, lie down on your back with your knees bent. Release your knees out to your sides, down toward your mat, then bring the soles of your feet together. You can prop up your knees with blocks or place a blanket under your back (or both) if that makes you more comfortable. You can breathe into this pose for several minutes; it’s perfect for releasing all the tension that builds up in your hips and groin during your period.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall Pose)
Sit yourself on the floor in front of a wall or chair, or anywhere you can prop your feet up. Lie flat on your back and walk your feet up until your body is in an “L” shape. Hang out in this position for as long as you’d like. It might take a few minutes, but any cramps you’re feeling should eventually alleviate! Not only does this pose combat bloat and any tummy issues you might be having, but it’s also great for giving yourself a mental breather to regain focus, especially when you’re feeling your most angsty.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
It can be tempting to skip this restorative pose, but taking time to relax your muscles is an instant stress buster and a great PMS cure. Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides, and tune out any external distractions. It’s totally OK if you doze off. (Hey, napping while wearing yoga pants is still yoga, right? Asking for a friend.)
Reprinted from The Vagina Book by Thinx with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020