Whether you’re a novice or someone who’s been doing yoga for a while now, one question that might cross your mind is whether you can do yoga during your period. On the one hand, you may have been advised by all and sundry about taking it easy when you’re on your period. On the other, your instructor could have said you can keep up classes during your period. Who do you believe? Here’s the lowdown on yoga during your periods, how it can actually help, and asanas you can practice safely.
Menstrual periods can cause a host of aches and pains, cramps in the abdominal region, and even anxiety and fatigue. If the very thought of exercising at all during your period seems like a challenge, take heart. As the National Health Service explains, exercise actually helps relieve pain.1 And yoga is a good option on various counts.
Yoga Eases Physical Problems During Periods
Of the various exercise options available, yoga can be especially good because certain poses or asanas could actually help ease period pains, cramps, and even symptoms of anxiety. As one piece of research found, practicing specific yoga asanas during a period helped reduce both the duration and the severity of menstrual cramps.2
Yoga Improves Mood During Periods
Most women experience mood swings, anger, irritability, depression, and anxiety before their period. This is known as premenstrual syndrome. For some women, these blues may carry on until the end of their period. Research has found that yoga can actually reduce these psychological issues that crop up during the menstrual cycle in women. They also help with overall mental well-being.3
In other words, unless you have a very heavy flow, you have no excuse to skip yoga when on a period!
1. Fish Pose Or Matsyasana
This pose can help alleviate pain and aches due to menstrual cramps.4. Here’s what you need to do:
- Lie on your back, keeping your legs straight and arms by your side, feet together.
- Place your hands palm down, beneath your thighs.
- Now press down onto your elbows, arching your back and inhaling as you do so.
- Let your head drop back, with the top of it touching the floor. Ensure the weight is supported not by your head but by your elbows.
- Hold the position exhaling.
- Breathe deeply in position. Your legs and lower torso should be relaxed.
- Exit the pose by first moving your head back so it returns to the original position and only then lower your elbows and release your arms.
2. Bow Pose Or Dhanurasana
This pose can ease cramps and pain as well as help with constipation. It can also be helpful if you experience anxiety or fatigue.5 Here’s what you need to do:
- Lie on your stomach with hands to the side, palm up.
- Bend your knees, bringing your heels toward your buttocks as much as you can, exhaling all the while.
- Reach out to the back and grasp your ankles with your hands, taking care that knees are no more than hip-width apart.
- Lift your heels firmly away from the buttocks, feeling your thighs lift off the ground as well. Inhale as you do this. Your head and upper torso rise off the floor, your tailbone sinks into the floor, and the muscles of your back should feel soft.
- When you lift your thighs and heels up further, your shoulder blades should press firmly into your back, opening up the heart.
- Look forward and keep the top portion of your shoulders away from the ears.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds.
- As you release the pose, exhale. Allow your body to relax before repeating.
3. Noose Pose Or Pasasana
The noose pose is suggested for easing menstrual discomfort as well as back and neck tension. You need to stand with a wall to your right about a forearm’s distance away.6 Here’s what you need to do:
- Begin in the mountain pose with feet hip-distance apart, shoulders back and away from ears in a relaxed position, and spine elongated.
- Turn right and press the palm of your right hand into the wall. Your forearm should be parallel to the ground.
- Then turn your torso back to the front.
- Now bend from the knees into a squat so your buttocks touch your heels. Heels must be flat on the floor or raised on a blanket.
- Swing your knees to your left and then turn your torso right, exhaling as you do this. Your hands should both press into the wall. As your left hand presses into the wall, the elbow must press the outside of the other knee. Ensure there’s no space between the left torso (side) and the top of your thighs.
- Now press your shoulder/arm to the knee, allowing your left side torso to lengthen as it slides along the top of your thighs. Be sure to keep the stomach soft.
- Move the palms of both hands together, elbows facing away from each other, increasing the twist.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
- To release, exhale as you untwist.
- Repeat on the other side.
4. Camel Pose Or Ustrasana
This yoga pose eases pelvic pain by toning the organs. It also opens the chest and boosts mood and energy levels, combating fatigue or tension due to periods.7 Here’s what you need to do:
- Kneel down on the ground with thighs perpendicular to the floor, knees hip-width apart. Narrow your hips and make buttocks firm but not hard. Picture pulling the bones that help you sit up into your torso. Your outer hips must remain soft. The top of your feet, as well as shins, must be pressed into the floor.
- Let your hands rest on the back of your pelvis, keeping palms on the upper buttock so your fingers point downward.
- Your fingers can help spread the back pelvis, allowing it to lengthen all the way to your tailbone. Push your tailbone forward lightly, ensuring your groin doesn’t jut out in the front. Your front thighs need to simultaneously press backward.
- Inhale as you feel your shoulder blades pressing into your back ribs, lifting your heart.
- Now start to lean back into your shoulder blades and tailbone. Your head should be up with the chin close to the sternum. Let your hands sit on your pelvis. Next, get one hand on the same side foot. You could also tilt your thighs back a bit and even twist a little to one side if you need to.
- Press thighs to perpendicular again and make torso neutral. Touch your other hand to the foot as well. To simplify this, you can elevate your heels and turn toes under.
- Start to release your front ribs as your lift the front pelvis upward to your ribs. The lower back should rise away from your pelvis. The goal is to keep your lower spine lengthened as much as you can. Your palms should be on the soles of your feet, fingers pointing to your toes. Your neck should be neutral and must not feel strained.
- Hold for half a minute to a minute.
- Exit by bringing your hands to the front on your hip points. Inhale as you lift your torso and head pushing hip points down. Come up heart first, not head first.
5. Cobra Pose Or Bhujangasana
The cobra pose or bhujangasana improves the flexibility of your spine while also strengthening back muscles. This equips your body to better cope with a backache and pain associated with a period.8 Here’s what you need to do:
- Lie on your stomach with your feet together. Put your palms down near your shoulders, just below them. Keep your forehead gently resting on the ground.
- Slowly lift your head up off the floor as you inhale, grazing the floor with your nose and then chin.
- Lift up your palms up and lift your chest up as high as you can, using the strength of your back muscles.
- Hold this position, taking a few deep breaths as you do.
- Now exhale, slowly returning to your original position. Take care that your chin is held raised until the very end.
- Repeat the inhalation and raising, but lift not just your chest but your entire trunk up. You should feel the bend happening at the middle section of your spine.
- Hold, taking some deep breaths.
- Exhale as you return
- Lastly, inhale as you lift this time, letting the trunk lift. This causes your back to stretch to its base from your neck. Hold if you can for a breath or two and then return to the original position.
6. Cat Pose Or Bidalasana
This pose helps you better coordinate breath and movement, helping you manage your pain better.9 Here’s what you need to do:
- Get on all fours, with your palms flat to the ground, arms extended below your shoulders and knees below your hips.
- Keep your back parallel to the floor, perfectly flat like a table. Your spine must be fully extended.
- Inhale deeply so that your abdominal muscles are pulled back to your spine.
- Tuck your tailbone under and gently contract the muscles of your buttocks.
- Stay lifted out of the shoulders, pressing down into the floor with your hands.
- Round out your spine so the middle of it arches up to the ceiling.
- Curl your head in so you can see the floor near your knees.
- Hold for a few seconds and then return to the table position.
7. Supported Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Or Salamba Upavistha Konasana
This asana relaxes the uterus and helps improve circulation to reproductive organs, easing symptoms related to periods like cramps and pain.10 Here’s what you need to do:
- Sit with your legs wide apart, kneecaps pointing upward. Keep a bolster or two in front of you to provide a stable platform to lean on.
- Lean forward, resting your chest on the bolster.
- Turn your head to face one side, your cheek in contact with the bolster. Your legs must remain straight throughout. Keep your knees engaged lightly.
- Focus on your breath and close your eyes. Relax. Hold this position for a minute.
- Now turn to face the other side and repeat.
8. Reclining Bound Angle Pose Or Supta Baddha Konasana
This modification on the baddha konasana is considered restorative, especially during menstruation. It can be done with the help of a bolster for support below your torso. Supta baddha konasana stimulates abdominal organs and relieves stress and symptoms of menstruation.11 Here’s what you need to do:
- Begin in the bound angle pose with your feet tucked in, soles pressed together, knees bent and out at the sides, heels to the pelvis. Hold your big toes with your thumb and first and second fingers. If this is hard, clasp your ankles or shins.
- Lower your back to the floor, exhaling as you do. Initially, lean on just your hands, then the forearms.
- Take the help of your hands to spread the rear pelvis, releasing your lower back, the upper buttocks, and finally the tailbone. You should come to a rest with your torso flat on the floor.
- Hold your upper thigh, rotate the thighs outward and away.
- Bring your hands down along the thigh to your knees from the hips, widening your outer knees now so they reach away from the hips.
- Next, move your hands from the knee to the groin along the inner thigh, picturing the inner groin pushing down into the pelvis. Feel your groin drop into the floor. Don’t force the knees – it will actually prevent the pose from working well.
- Push the outer tips of your hips together, allowing the front pelvis to narrow even as the back pelvis widens.
- Your arms should be on the floor palms up, at a 45-degree angle to your torso sides.
- Hold the position for a minute, more if you can. Push your thighs together with your hands when you are done. Roll onto your side and then get up slowly, torso first, followed by the head.
Should You Do Yoga Inversions During Your Period?
While a yoga routine can make you feel better during a period, there is some debate about whether some kinds of yoga poses or asanas are better avoided. As one expert explains in The Yoga Journal, when you practice inversions in yoga – like when you do a headstand or a shoulder stand – you go against the normal flow of gravity. During your period, blood vessels in your uterus expel blood and the lining in a downward flow. When you invert your body, your pelvis is now above your heart. Normally, this would be great to boost circulation in the body, but if you do this while on your period it disrupts the rhythm. You may experience a dip in the menstrual flow before it resumes.12
Another expert weighs in on the issue, pointing out that retrograde menstruation, where flow reverses, happens in as many as 90% of all women naturally. So fear of developing endometriosis, a painful problem which causes cell clusters to form in the abdominal cavity due to this reversal of flow, should not worry you. Such retrograde flow may not actually even increase your risk of endometriosis at all. Both views have its supporters.
So what do you do? Right now, it boils down to taking a call yourself. Consult with your yoga instructor on what poses to do and whether or not you should practice inversion at all during your period.13 But also remember that you have a variety of helpful asanas to choose from even if you decide to leave out inversions.
If you’re worried about retrograde menstruation, you can avoid inverted poses such as the shoulder stand (sarvangasana), handstand (adho mukha vrksasana), or the headstand (sirsasana). Other yoga poses you may wish to avoid during a period include the boat pose (paripurna navasana), heron pose (krounchasana), plow pose (halasana), and the upward abdominal lock (uddiyana bandha).14
You could also replace inversions with restorative asanas. These include salamba upavistha konasana and supta baddha konasana, detailed in the next section.15
Dos And Don’ts For Yoga During Your Period
- Do make use of blankets and cushions to help support your abdomen and improve balance if need be.16
- Do practice meditation and relaxing asanas that help you ease anxiety.
- Do check with your yoga instructor on whether certain poses or asanas should be avoided. If you are wondering if it is safe to do hot yoga during a period or if Bikram yoga is safe while on a period, ask.
- Do listen to your body. Keep in mind that each woman’s body is different. While some women are able to keep up their yoga practice while having a period, others find it doesn’t work for them and leaves them more achy or drained.
- Don’t try anything too strenuous. Very strenuous exercise has been known to stop periods in some women.17
- Don’t experiment with new asanas or poses for the first time while on your period.
|↑1, ↑17||Period Problems. National Health Service.|
|↑2, ↑4||Rakhshaee, Zahra. “Effect of three yoga poses (cobra, cat and fish poses) in women with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial.” Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology 24, no. 4 (2011): 192-196.|
|↑3||Kanojia, Sarita, V. Kumar Sharma, Asha Gandhi, Raj Kapoor, Ajay Kukreja, and S. Kumar Subramanian. “Effect of yoga on autonomic functions and psychological status during both phases of the menstrual cycle in young healthy females.” J Clin Diagn Res 7, no. 10 (2013): 2133-9.|
|↑5||Bow Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑6||Noose Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑7||Clennell, Bobby. The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of the Menstrual Cycle. Shambhala Publications, 2016.|
|↑8, ↑9||Rakhshaee, Zahra. “Effect of three yoga poses (cobra, cat, and fish poses) in women with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial.” Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology 24, no. 4 (2011): 192-196.|
|↑10||Clennell, Bobby. The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of the Menstrual Cycle. Shambhala Publications, 2016.|
|↑11||Reclining Bound Angle Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑12, ↑15||The Best Flow for “Aunt Flo”. Yoga Journal.|
|↑13||Inversion Confusion – Is it safe to go upside down when you’re having your period?. Yoga Journal. May-June 2004.|
|↑14||Poses Contraindicated for Menstruation. Yoga Journal.|
|↑16||The Best Flow for “Aunt Flo”. Yoga Journal.|