Having your period, is a GOOD thing, but when it happens each month it feels as if your world is crashing down on you. I don’t know about you, but for me, one month I feel completely normal when I have it and the other month I am BLOATED for about 2 weeks; sometimes to the point that I actually think I am pregnant, (I am not though; I actually have my period this week which made me want to write this post!) I have headaches, my back hurts, I can’t sleep, my skin looks dull, and I am tired all day. I never crave certain foods during that week or leading up to it, I just want to eat anything I can get my hands on; which often exacerbates my symptoms and I feel that my digestion is working in overdrive.
One thing for sure, is – my energy levels are usually pretty low and recently my intense workouts have been taking a back seat. I truly notice a big difference and I encourage you all to at least try it to see if it works for you! During the time, I do yoga (heated or non-heated), walk, or maybe lift lighter weights; but nothing extremely intense. Personally speaking, when I was in college I swam 2x a day, lifted 3x a week for school and I hardly ever got my period. I was over-exercising and I wasn’t properly educated on how to fuel my body for that amount of work I was putting in. Eventually it became somewhat normal after college and then on and off for a few years. My biggest factors for a missed period are and continue to be stress, travel, under-eating, and/or over exercising. It finally came back on track a few months ago which is why I do not take it for granted, do not push my body too hard, and make sure I am eating as best as I can- the majority of the time.
Honestly, that’s another topic for another day. I wanted to share this post with you all because of how beneficial it has been for me during my period to do and focus on certain yoga moves to help relieve cramps, slight bloating, put me in a better mood, and truly just make me appreciate my body more during this time. Trust me, even if you do not have a dedicated yoga practice, these poses are simple to do – at home, work, in your pajamas, in your bed, or while watching tv etc!
One of the main things is that yoga should be accessible for all levels; everyone can benefit whether you move for 10 minutes, 60 minutes, or just do a handful of poses at a time.
It took me a while to realize this; whenever it is the time of the month I have a harder time with HIIT workouts, running, and bootcamp style classes. My body is already achy to begin with, I feel not as strong, I am very bloated, I feel uncomfortable, and often times those types of workouts already leave my body feeling inflamed or slightly bloated post class. My gut is sensitive and too much stress causes my cortisol levels to rise therefore when my body is already working extremely hard during my period I do not need to add the extra stress. I stopped pushing myself during that week when I discovered that yoga was extremely more beneficial to me; it helped with my cramps, my mood, the bloating, and my sleep! I felt that I was giving my body just what it needed. It is amazing to me that by changing a few things around with the food that I am eating and focusing on certain ways to move my body actually helped in dealing with my PMS symptoms and staying more regular. Even though I have practiced yoga for 10+ years and teach as well and know the benefits it brings, during my period I constantly focused on fast running, intense spin classes, and everything else instead to help with bloating and my cramps. Ugh; not smart!
During the menstrual phase our hormones levels decline quickly and your energy will be at its lowest at the start of your cycle; even a few days before! Which is why pushing yourself through that really tough spin class might leave you more frustrated, bloated, and not as energized as you hoped! When your period ends, that is when you have the most energy! During this time we lose iron so I try and focus on proteins, fats, and vegetables that are a bit lower in sugar, magnesium, and tons of fiber! This helps me feel less sluggish as well too. Plus, it is such a good “excuse” to take it down a notch, rest, catch up on sleep, and just take a break. Taking short breaks and resting are always good because you come back stronger and more motivated!
Below are some really great yoga poses you can do just about anywhere! I typically go to a studio to practice yoga, but there are always those days or moments when I need relief when I am at home working. I normally do these set of poses when I first wake up, in the evening, and a few during the afternoon if I have been sitting all day. Also, it just gives you a few minutes during your day or evening to take a quick break, calm down your mind, and for once - notice how your body is feeling.
My go to pose when I am stressed out, need to calm down my breath, and helps to release any lower back pain- which you might experience during your period. Here, you simply relax your chest between your thighs, arms extended long in front of you, forehead to the ground and breath noticing your chest rise / fall and your ribs expanding away. Relax your hips and notice a long stretch all the way from your tailbone to the top of your head. Stay here and take about 10 rounds of breath.
2. SUPTA BADDHA:
It always seems that the lower half of our body tends to feel a bit more heavy during the time of the month. We are a little more stressed, anxious, and may even have a harder time falling asleep even though we are tired. In a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and sit up tall; lengthen out your spine! You can also this lying down! This pose is very restorative and opens your hips and your pelvic region. When we are stressed we often hold a lot of tension in our hips and this area and by focusing on this pose with long inhales/exhales you can being to calm your mind down. You can also do a seated straddle with your legs out wide and open; stretching your inner thighs and back. This may feel more comfortable since you might not be able to stretch as deep as you did the week before.
3. FORWARD FOLD:
Have your feet about hips width distance apart, place a slight bend in your knees, and begin to melt your torso over your thighs. Arms can hang heavy or you can grab for opposite elbows; whatever feels the most natural but relax the neck. Here, you are stretching your spine and your hips. Also- any type of inversion where your head is below your heart, it allows blood to flow to your head which can help boost your mood! If you are sitting for longer periods of time or resting more than usual, standing up and folding forward helps tremendously with circulation!
4. KNEES TO CHEST;
One of my favorites! Laying down completely on your back with your low back stamped into the ground, hug your needs into your chest, grab for opposite elbows or place your hands on your shins. You can stay still for a few rounds of breath or rock gently side to side massaging your low back. Not only does this pose relax your low back, but it also helps relieving any tension in your abdominals. You are bringing circulation towards your abdominal muscles (your internal organs) which can help with anxiety and calm down your mind!
5. CAT / COW;
Come on to your hands and needs; table top pose! Inhale for cow and exhale for cat. I love this pose to stretch out my stomach and my back. It feels great when my low back is aching and my stomach feels sluggish, bloated, and experiencing cramps. Stay here for at least 10 rounds of breath, with every inhale bring your gaze towards the ceiling and allow your belly to drop - as your exhale hug your belly in and bring your gaze towards your belly button. Move slow!
6. SUPINE TWIST;
I love a good twist! Not only does it feel amazing on my cramping stomach, but also helps with improving tension in my low back. Just take the these twists lightly and gently. Too much twisting and straining may increase any stomach cramping! Listen to what you need. Lay down on your back, hug your knees into your chest, extend your left leg long and cross your right knee over your body towards the left. Repeat on left leg. You can also take a modified version and simply send both of your knees towards the right and then towards the left. Relax your shoulders into the ground and your arms long towards the side.
7. LEGS UP THE WALL POSE
One of the most relaxing poses in yoga (in my personal opinion!). If you have blocks at home or even a firm pillow, you can place the either underneath your tailbone and send your legs up in the air, either floating freely or resting against a wall. Arms down by your side. This pose makes me feel very calm, helps with blood flow (especially if you have been standing all day), boosts my mood, helps with anxiety, and helps with circulation towards your digestion. Stay here as long as you want! You can even do this pose in bed.
The best pose? This will truly help with relaxing your mind. Stay here for as many breaths as you need to and focus on your inhales/exhales making each one deeper. Relax completely, laying all the way down on your back, arms down by your side, and your eyes closed. Often times this helps me forget for a few moments any negative side affects I am experiencing with my period; it is a very soothing pose and one that any person can do!
Hopefully these poses will help you and bring you some relief! One of the things that I love about yoga the most is once you start moving through the poses and focusing in on your breath you can truly get a sense of how your body is feeling and what it needs. Instead of going 100 miles a minute, try taking a step back first to see what feels good and where you need to back off. Sometimes when you have your period it can be hard to stay motivated but maybe by doing these 8 poses above, you can find that you have the energy to move a bit more- even if it is slower than usual as well as simply appreciate what your body is going through! You’ll be back to feeling like yourself again in no time!