Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

Click through to find out which poses can help you ease through your next PMS meltdown.
By Patricia D'Amato
Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

(Photo by Erik Putz. Shot on location at Barreworks in Toronto on Queen West.)

Yoga for PMS

Reducing the symptoms

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to the common symptoms women experience seven to 10 days leading up to their period. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 85 percent of women experience one or more premenstrual symptoms per cycle. Symptoms vary for each individual, but generally include cramping, bloating, back pain, headaches, anxiety, tiredness and/or just overall discomfort.

We all know yoga can be a great stress reducer, and there’s no better time of the month to be proactive about your yoga routine than during your cycle. It will help you get through those irritable, tiresome days.

I spoke with Pat Harada Linfoot, yoga instructor at Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre in Toronto, to find out which yoga positions focus on reducing premenstrual symptoms and why.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

Q: Are there certain types of poses that should be avoided prior to or during your period?

A: Avoid inversions on the first few days of a heavy flow, positions like headstands and handstands, which require a lot of upper body strength can be too strenuous. However, there are supportive inversions in yoga such as a shoulder stand or legs-up-the-wall, which can be done during the onset of PMS. It really depends on the severity of your symptoms and what you can handle.

The great thing about yoga is that there are so many modifications for each pose, and depending on your activity and comfort level during PMS, a yoga instructor can provide modifications for almost any position. However, before beginning any new fitness regimen it is always best to check with your doctor.

Q: When is it best to start this yoga sequence?
A: It’s best to begin at the onset of PMS symptoms. Everyone’s body is different. Some women begin experiencing symptoms one day before menstruation begins, while others may feel symptoms creeping in an entire week prior.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

Q: Are there specific days of your cycle you shouldn't practise yoga at all?

A: Honour how you’re feeling. If you don’t feel like moving much, yoga offers a restorative practice that is great for PMS. Savasana (otherwise known as corpse) is the ultimate restorative pose, grounding the body, and doesn’t require much movement. Restorative yoga is really about accessing the body’s innate capacity for healing but in a very supportive way, bringing conscious attention and overall awareness to your bodies inner workings.

1. Savasana (Corpse pose)
How to do it: Lie flat on your back legs stretched out hip-width apart and arms by your side facing upward. Let your breath take over and breath slowly. Stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes, but if you’re feeling physically exhausted stay longer.

Why it works: This very gentle pose doesn’t require a lot of movement and helps with migraines as a lot of poses help with the floor.  Since you’re focusing on the breath your mind should be clear of all thoughts which really helps the rest of the yoga poses sink in on a deeper level.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

2. Wide squat

How to do it: Widen your feet to a little wider than hip-width. Turn toes out and bend your knees so knees are in alignment with your toes. Once grounded, slowly come down into a squat position. Bring palms together and place in front of your heart.

Why it works: Squatting creates a lot of space in the lower abdominal area and tones the pelvic floor. This position also relaxes the nervous systems, bringing a flow of oxygen into productive organs while engaging the pelvic floor to lift up.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

3. Supported shoulder stand

How to do it: Fold two blankets and lay flat on your back – shoulders should be resting on the blanket and back of head is on the floor. Make sure you feel room between the back of your neck and the floor. Inhale, raising legs off the floor. Swing legs over your head bringing hands to your lower back and arms are parallel. Straighten legs fully and lift up towards the ceiling. Do not press your neck on floor; make sure shoulders are on the floor and there’s space between your chin and chest. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.

Cautionary note: If you have neck/shoulder issues or migraine headaches, don’t attempt this pose as it can place too much of a strain on those parts of your body.

Why it works: A full body inversion improves circulation and works on the thyroid, pituitary glands and stimulates kidneys. Plus, it’s a flexing stretch that’s great for your upper back.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

4. Plow pose

How to do it: Lie on your back and bring your legs straight up in the air towards the ceiling. Swing them all the way to touch the floor. Bring shoulder blades together pressing into the floor and clasp both hands.

Modification: If you can’t touch the floor, use a chair to place your legs on the chair seat.

Why it works: This type of inversion stimulates blood flow, working on the adrenals and kidneys. Like shoulder stand, plow pose stimulates the pituitary glands which helps balance the metabolic system. The body isn’t meant to fully relax in this pose, but that doesn’t mean it has to be strenuous.

Plow pose, Yoga for PMSIf you can, clasp hands once they are on the floor (Photo, Getty Images)

5. Seated forward bend

How to do it: Start seated with legs in front of you. Inhale to raise arms up and exhale to touch your hands to your leg.

Modification: If you cannot reach your toes, either bend your knees or use a bolster.

Why it works: By folding over you are placing pressure on abdominal organs to ease cramping and promote circulation. Forward bends are introspective which allows for quietness and stillness to reflect.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

6. Crocodile pose

How to do it: Lie flat on the floor resting on your stomach. Place your arms straight out in front of you. Widen legs to the width of your mat. Open up your heart by raising your shoulder and neck off the floor. Draw hands towards chest and gently rest your forehead on your arms.

Why it works: A very accessible pose for all levels as the position flows into a soft back bend that isn’t deep or strenuous. It also puts pressure on the abdominal organs, opens up the chest, and lifts the diaphragm away from abdominal organs to create space.

Yoga for PMS: Seven poses to cure bloating and boost energy

7. Fish pose

How to do it: Lie on your back, bend knees and lift hips off the floor. Place hands, palms down, underneath buttocks and draw elbows inwards as you straighten your legs. Press elbows and forearm into the floor and lift up to arch back strongly in order to drop crown of your head onto the floor. Draw frontal hipbones in towards each other and zipper up from pubic bone to your naval.

Why it works: Your hearts center is higher than any other part of the body creating an expansion in the upper body. Also, this pose improves circulation and strengthens muscle around the pelvic floor.

Fish pose in yoga


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