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  • Yogi and nutritionist Le’Nise Brothers shares the yoga flow you need to know.

    If the thought of your period coming fills you with dread every month – stomach cramps, backaches and fatigue – then welcome to the club. According to YouGov research91% of women throughout the country have suffered from period pain. While it can be comforting to know you’re not alone, women shouldn’t have to live with debilitating symptoms—that’s where yoga for menstrual cramps comes in.

    You’ve probably heard of yoga – an ancient practice that combines physical movement, breathwork and meditation. But did you know that yoga promises to help your hormones too?

    The new survey Women’s Health Strategy found that most women had their symptoms immediately written off by doctors, despite NHS the website says period cramps are a normal part of your menstrual cycle. But think about it: two or three days of pain around your period adds up to 24 to 36 days of pain per year. It is a pulp.

    For too long now, women’s pain has been ignored or simply defined as “hysterical”. That’s why it’s time to change our expectations of a “normal” period and try to eliminate pain from the narrative.

    Yoga during your period might sound like the last thing you want to do – often you just want to curl up in a ball, right? But yoga for better periods is all about cycle care and preparing your body for a pain-free period during each phase of your cycle.

    Eager to hear more? We’ve talked to nutritionists and yoga teachers, The Le’Nise brothersauthor of You can have a better period, to explain exactly how yoga for period pain works. Whether you’re trying yoga for beginners or using yoga poses when you’re feeling achy and stiff, we’ve got a flow below that you’ll wish you’d known about sooner.

    Period Yoga: Your Needs to Know

    • The combination of movement, breath work and meditation used in yoga can help relieve menstrual cramps.
    • It also supports blood flow, which is believed to help relieve cramps and pain.
    • It can be done at any time during the month.
    • Yoga has been shown to reduce chronic inflammation and work on the autonomic nervous system.
    • As I said – it is not a solution. Understanding your cycle is key

    How does yoga work against period pain?

    If you’re one of the many women who often experience period pain, yoga might sound good for easy to solve all your period related problems, right?

    But Le’Nise is here to put all those doubts to bed and explain the science behind yoga for period pain. “As a full-body exercise, yoga is a powerful way to reduce the chronic inflammation that builds up prostaglandinsthe hormone-like compounds that in excess can increase pain,” she explains.

    Additionally, research has found that another of the benefits of yoga is that it improves your autonomic nervous system, increasing your body’s natural painkillers and reducing pain response. Nice, isn’t it?

    Let’s break it down further. “First, there is the physical practice of yoga, asana. Moving our bodies through a gentle series of poses can help stretch out tense muscles, support blood flow around the pelvis and open up areas that are stiff from lack of movement,” she explains.

    And this matters for? “Many of us with painful periods can stay in one place, resulting in something called muscle spasms, where the muscles tighten to reduce the pain,” she shares. “This creates a cycle of stiffness and tightness that an asana practice can help break.”

    Yoga can feel intimidating to start with, especially if you haven’t tried it before. But know this: you don’t have to be super flexible or a yogi expert because the practice is all about youand make yourself feel good. (Read our guide to yoga poses for beginners, here).

    The other aspect of yoga for menstrual cramps? Breath control, also known as pranayama.

    “Research shows that deep, yogic breathing can calm our nervous system and transform us into a more relaxed state of mind,” explains the expert. “This is useful when our period is painful because a deeper breath can reduce muscle spasms and pain, especially in the pelvis, lower back and hips.”

    Have you never understood why “breathe in, breathe out” is so important in a yoga flow? “Deep yogic breathing also helps us relax tense muscles and lowers levels of cortisol (our primary stress hormone), which reduces inflammation and prostaglandin levels,” she continues.

    yoga for menstrual cramps

    If you’ve read our guide to breathing exercises, you know that breath work can do wonders for your nervous system – as can meditation (Dharana) or mindfulness. Le’Nise explains that these can help the mind shift its attention away from the physical body and the pain it feels, focusing instead on the breath. Do you struggle to sleep? Meditation for sleep may be the answer.

    It may not be for everyone – after all, every body is unique and will react differently – but it may be worth a try if period pain is seriously affecting your daily quality of life.

    Yoga for Menstrual Cramps: 4 Flows to Try for Each Step

    In Le’Nise’s book You can have a better period, she explains that our period should be seen as our fifth vital sign of health and that pain and discomfort are a sign that something is going on. There are many different reasons why a period can be painful, from polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids or endometriosis (see a doctor, if you are worried you may be affected).

    Still not convinced that yoga for menstrual cramps is for you? We all take time for ourselves every day for our mental well-being – why not give back in the same way to your physical body too?

    Watch Le’Nise practice poses for each phase of the cycle or read below. Don’t miss our guides to different types of yoga and yoga classes, while you’re here.

    Menstrual phase

    Baddha Konasana / Shoemaker’s Pose

    “This pose helps open up the pelvis to support healthy blood flow around the uterus, supporting the hips and creating ease. Baddha konasana can be very helpful for painful periods, especially for those with endometriosis and adenomyosis, where the instinct may be to curl up into a ball and remain still to reduce the pain.”

    Malasana / Yogi’s Squat

    This is another pelvic and hip opener that can relieve the heaviness many of us may feel on day 1 or 2 of our period. When doing the pose, it’s important to lift and squeeze the pelvic floor to connect with the abdominal muscles. This helps keep the chest and head lifted and open the hips further.

    Follicular phase

    Vrkasana / tree pose

    This pose combines strength, balance and focus, asking you to both lift from the top of your head, while grounding through your standing foot. To increase your focus, open your arms to the side and swing from right to left, visualizing the smooth movements of a tree in your mind.

    yoga for menstrual cramps

    Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II

    Warrior 2 pose asks us to tap into our inner and outer strength to hold the bend in our front knee and grind down into the edge of our back foot. Our outstretched arms add strength to this pose. Open your chest and roll your shoulders back, imagining you are holding a pencil between your shoulder blades.

    Ovulation phase

    Utkata Konasana / Goddess Pose

    This is one of my favorite poses to practice and teach. Goddess pose asks us to step into our power, open the pelvis and hips, while bending our knees and grounding in all four corners of our feet. When you feel steady, you can move your arms over your head, clasp your hands and release your index fingers. This is called Kali mudra, known to help us channel energy from our pelvis through the top of our heads and to cultivate strength and courage.

    Virabhadrasana III / Warrior 3

    This pose combines balance and strength, asking us to ground our standing foot and lift our raised leg as far back as feels good. You can start by keeping the toe of the raised foot on the ground and gradually lift to a place that is available to you. There are many options for the arms: prayer hands in front of the chest, airplane arms back or to the sides, or extended in front. To increase your stability, focus your gaze on a point that does not move and hug everything in the middle. Hold the pose for ten breaths on the right and left side.

    yoga for menstrual cramps

    Luteal phase

    Shavasana / Corpse Pose

    Shavasana can be one of the most challenging poses because it asks us to embrace stillness and focus on our breath. In shavasana, close your eyes, take a seat, spread your arms and legs wide, and draw your attention to the space between your eyes to help focus the mind. If you find your attention wandering, know that this is normal. Acknowledge the thoughts that come in and let them drift away, bringing your focus back to your breath. If possible, stay in shavasana for a few minutes or longer, allowing yourself to this time just be.

    Uttana Shishosana / Puppy Pose

    Puppy pose is a lovely alternative to child’s pose that helps open up the shoulders and chest. With your arms outstretched in front of you, you have the option of keeping your head up to deepen the stretch in your chest or you can place your forehead on the ground. Slow down and connect with your breath. You can stay in this position for a minute or longer and then switch back to child’s position.

    “I Tried Yoga for Period Cramps – Here’s What I Thought”

    My name is Dionne, 24, and I’m a writer intern at Marie Claire UK. I’ve had period pain for as long as I can remember so turned to yoga to see if it would help. This is how I got on.

    “Without exaggerating too much, reading Le’Nise’s book and the flows felt life-changing for me. As a PCOS sufferer, I have had painful periods for as long as I can remember.”

    “For me, I think it’s really helped me understand my cycle more and what I need to do at each stage. I found myself thinking, why don’t they teach us this more at school? An A* in Biology but no real understanding of how hormones affect us all.”

    “Honestly, I’m not a big gym goer and I don’t practice yoga as much as I should (practice what you preach, I know). But I will preach this forever, because since reading Le’Nise’s book and trying yoga flows, I had my first ever pain free period in my life *screams*.”

    “Disclaimer here, I read the book and tried the yoga around the same time I tried the acupuncture, so that could have affected my cramps too.”

    “Knowing that I have a tool there to relieve any pain if it comes back makes it worthwhile for me. Even if it doesn’t completely take away the pain, I feel relaxed, stronger and like I’ve checked something off my self-care list also.”

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