Low in energy, back pain, feeling a little more emotional than usual? It’s easy to skip your regular yoga routine when you’re having your period. But such interruptions can prove disruptive to your fitness goals as well as mental and emotional well-being.
Next month, instead of ditching your regular practice, consider adapting it to manage your monthly cycle. We speak to Elaine Lee, yoga instructor from Freedom Yoga on the yoga poses that are particularly beneficial for your time of the month.
To ease lower back pain
Cat & Cow
This pose stretches and compresses the back all the way to the neck and abdominal muscles, releasing aches and increasing circulation in the areas mentioned.
How to: Come onto your hands and knees. Knees can be together or hip-width distance apart. Palms should be below shoulders. Inhale as you arch your back, lifting the tailbone up, extending your chest forward and keeping the back of your neck long as you gaze forward; Exhale as you round the spine to cat position, tucking your chin towards your chest. Continue this for 1-2 minutes, allowing your breath to initiate the moves.
ALSO READ: 10 YOGA POSES FOR GLOWING SKIN
Standing forward bend
A grounding pose that’s often used in yin or gentle yoga practices, it’s also used to loosen hamstrings while warming up the quadriceps.
How to: Do this with or without wall support. Start by standing hip-width apart, bend your knees and fold forward from the hips and let your upper body dangle. You can choose to keep your knees straight or bent as you continue to stay in the pose for about 2 minutes or longer. If you are using the wall for support, step a foot or two away from the wall, lean back keeping the buttocks in contact with the wall, and then bend forward slowly to work into the stretch. Using gravity to assist, the pose gently stretches the spine, especially targeting the lower back. To come back up, roll up slowly, head coming up last.
To reduce anxiety
The pose very gently stretches the lower back muscles, soothes and quiets the mind. Focus on deep long belly breathing and relaxing the back.
How to: Come onto your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide, send your hips back and lower your buttocks towards your heels. Hands can be stretched out in front of you or resting alongside your body. Rest forehead on floor, block, or forearm. Cushion your knees if they are sensitive.
There’s no better time to focus on breathing. Start with 5 minutes a day and work towards 20 minutes once you feel more comfortable. “It’s not about just taking in more oxygen into the body, but to distribute the oxygen more evenly throughout the body,” shared Elaine.
How to: Start with slow deep breathes by inhaling and exhaling initially on a 1:1 ratio and then try to extend your exhale to a 1:2 ration (eg: inhale for 3 counts, exhale for 6). Otherwise, attempt alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhan). Use your thumb to press lightly on the right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, press the left nostril. Release the left right thumb and breathe out through right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close the right nostril once again and breathe out to the left.
To beat bloating and cramps
How to: Bring knees to the chest, stretching the lower back, compressing the abdominals, while relaxing the entire spine.
Supported bridge pose
A restorative backbend that allows the spine to experience an extension while being supported. Stay in this pose for 3-5 minutes and be very mindful and gentle as you come out of it.
How to: Lie on your back and bend your knees bringing the heels close to your buttocks. Lift your hips up and if you need, place a block below your sacrum. You can choose to have your legs bent or straightened. Breathe into the torso, hips and lower back. Relax the upper body.
This pose provides a gentle compression to the reproductive organs to help stimulate circulation in this area. The pose also helps release tension in the lower back area and relieves cramps during your period.
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the mat. Walk your feet to the edges of the mat. Stretch your hands out shoulder level with palms facing down. Allow your knees to fall to the left to come into a twist. Repeat on other side.
This article was originally published in Shape.