COMBAT PMS CRAMPS WITH THESE YOGA MOVES
That time of the month can be uncomfortable and distressing for many women. Try these asanas to relieve period pain and menstrual cramps
Mood swings, outbursts, irritability, bloat, and cramps are just a few of the tell-tale signs that your period is coming.
“Many women think that premenstrual symptoms (PMS) are normal and expected because they are so widespread, but from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, a normal period should be a non-event that’s smooth and free of any discomfort, fatigue, or emotional changes,” Yin yoga teacher, Catherine Tan, points out. Catherine, who’s currently studying TCM as a complementary health modality to support her yoga practice, explains, “The symptoms of PMS are signs that the woman’s body is out of balance.
Delving deeper into the subject, Catherine continues, “Menstrual pain is a sign that something is awry. TCM takes a holistic approach to health and looks at the body as an integrated whole, so its aim is always to bring the body back into balance. But the good news is, you can try to bring balance back through better management of contributing factors such as diet, emotions, and yoga practice.
“When I explain to women how TCM can usually eliminate symptoms of PMS, many are surprised that treatment even exists and are sceptical of the outcome,” says Catherine. “This is because most women have come to assume that PMS is a normal occurrence and an inconvenience they simply must learn to live with. But according to TCM, there are certain meridians and organs that are related to a woman’s menstrual health. Take for instance, the liver – it is often affected by stress, so PMS symptoms may increase during particularly stressful months.”
In TCM, the energetic function of the liver facilitates the free flow of qi (energy) and blood throughout the entire body, making its function crucial to the menstruation cycle. However, the liver is easily disturbed by emotions, poor dietary habits, or an overly stressful life. When this happens, the liver’s qi begins to stagnate and affect the circulation of qi and blood. Mood swings, bloating, low energy, and cramps manifest as a result of qi getting stuck.
HOW DOES YIN YOGA HELP?
“We can do ‘liver sequences’ to try to promote the circulation of qi”, says Catherine. Likening it to using acupuncture for the unclogging of the meridians and to get the qi flowing, she suggests, “Think of Yin yoga as going for a ‘needleless acupuncture’”.
Lay Peng, who teaches pre-natal yoga at The Yoga School, agrees. “Yoga brings more ease and comfort during the menstrual cycle,” she says. “During practice, blood circulation to the reproductive organs is enhanced. It also encourages deep relaxation, as well as the release of endorphins (the body’s natural mood-elevating hormones).”
ASANAS FOR RELIEF FROM PMS CRAMPS
“The TCM side of the house says that even when two women present similar symptoms of pain, their underlying causes could be vastly different. Therefore, counter-measurements, such as dietary changes, might differ,” Catherine points out.
“Periods are sometimes inconvenient, yet, it’s a very natural and valuable part of our life. But because of the pain and discomfort of PMS, a lot of women have developed a negative relationship with their periods,” Catherine highlights. “This inevitably becomes a vicious cycle because this ‘conversation’ going on internally will have a negative effect on your emotions. This then affects your liver health, which then contributes to worsening signs of PMS.”
If pre-period week usually sees you bowled over in pain or feeling miserable, there are asanas that can bring you some degree of relief. “I highly recommend gentle yoga styles like Yin yoga, Restorative yoga, and Women’s yoga, as they allow practitioners to nurture themselves in a pose, and engage in breath work,” says Lay Peng. Here’re the poses she suggests:
BALASANA (CHILD’S POSE)
“This restorative pose gently stretches the back, releases pelvic tension, and is very calming for the nervous and endocrine system,” Lay Peng advises. “Practice deep breathing in this pose to help ease the stress of PMS irritability or take the edge off menstrual cramps.”
UTTANASANA (FORWARD FOLD)
“The Forward Fold stimulates the abdominal and reproductive organs, hence helping to alleviate bloating and puffiness. It is also very calming and can relieve fatigue,” Lay Peng explains. For women with tight hamstrings, she recommends this variation: “Try a Seated Forward Flow with props that you can use at home – sit on a blanket, or place a bolster under your knees for added support.”
APANASANA (KNEES-TO-CHEST POSE)
“The lower back can feel tight and tired during PMS, so this is a good pose that stretches it and release tension,” Lay Peng points out, adding, “It also helps to relieve bloating and puffiness.”