When period pain strikes, the last thing you probably want to do is exercise. But for some women, even doing gentle movement can help alleviate pain at different times in the menstrual cycle.
“Women go through their natural cycle every month, and every single day we’re different – our hormonal levels are different and our energy levels are different” says Kirsty Gallagher, yoga expert and teacher – “and your yoga practice should respond to that”.
In order to honour that cycle, Kirsty recommends doing different types of yoga for different times in your cycle:
During your period
During your period, your energy level is at its lowest, and Kirsty says your yoga practice should support this by being nourishing, calming and supportive. She recommends Yin yoga, as holding poses for a long time can be uncomfortable if the body is feeling a little bit crampy and achy.
During your follicular phase
After the menstrual cycle, during your follicular phase, she suggests more energetic classes as your energy levels start to rise. It’s a good time to try more playful types of yoga like Acro yoga or vinyasa. It’s also a good time to try Iyengar, a practice where you hold only a few poses for an extended amount of time.
During ovulation, Kirsty says our energy is at its absolute peak, so it’s a good time to explore Ashtanga and the more active forms of yoga, like power yoga, Vinyasa and Jivamukti. Anything high energy and intensity will work as your body feels at its most energetic.
During the luteal phase
Then during the luteal phase of your cycle, different women’s bodies respond in different ways. Some women can suffer from awful PMS, while others will have lots of energy still. Kirsty suggests following how your body feels – if you have energy you could try hot yoga or Vinyasa still, but maybe drop it down a gear – and as your energy drops alongside your hormone levels, opt for more nurturing or restorative yoga that has slower flows.
And once those cramps start? Try these yoga poses at home:
Poses to help relieve period pain:
This is a real fave for Kirsty “it stretches out the back of your body so if you get cramps in your lower back, it opens it out”, she says. “It also offers a light compression at the belly and knees and gives a massage to soothe – and when you’re doing this pose you feel like you’re going inwards and the outside world doesn’t exist” – ideal when you’re in cramping hell! Breathe into the belly to help with the massage.
Standing forward fold
This helps women who get pain in their bum cheeks and legs – and stretches the whole bottom half of the body. Kirsty advises that the gentle hanging of the pose lets the muscles in your bum and hamstrings release, which helps the cramping feeling.
You can do this pose with a double or single knee – and the deeper the twist the more you will get a massage in the belly. Kirsty also says this pose “wrings everything out and helps your muscles move around when you twist either side”
This relaxing pose can help woman just calm the body down and stretch out, especially if they suffer from cramping in the legs.
And if you suffer from awful pain, Kirsty suggests lying down, placing your hands on your belly and breathing slowly into the stomach, as sometimes this can help alleviate cramps.
Kirsty Gallagher was the yoga and mindfulness host at the Fitbit House of Fit event.
Lauren Smith Head of Social Lauren Smith is Cosmopolitan UK’s Head of Social, and looks after the site’s social media accounts, as well as occasionally covering fitness, health, lifestyle, and travel on the site.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io