Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 10.46.15 AMThis is an article for the ladies. Men, you have been warned!

During that time of the month, it’s common to feel uncomfortable. Many women experience cramps, irritability, headaches, and even occasional nausea. It can be tempting to reach for pain killers, crawl under a blanket, and refuse to move until the end of your cycle, but yoga offers a few ways to stay sane and feel comfortable during menstruation. Don’t think of being on your period as a disability or disease.  Instead, think of it as a time to slow down a bit, get some extra rest, and get in touch with your inner world.

Asana – It can be hard to get in the mood to do physical activity when you’re having cramps. But gentle movement can be a big help in relieving the discomfort and lethargy that sometimes comes with menstruation. Many yogic texts discourage strong inversions and twists during menstruation. These intense postures can constrict the internal organs, and disrupt the downward flow (apana) of the menstrual cycle. If you have the energy, do the poses that come naturally, but remember it’s nice to give yourself a few days to rest and relax each month. Gentle postures like child’s pose (Balasana), supported bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana), and other restorative postures are a nice way respect your body during that time.

Some of my favorite poses during menstruation are cat/cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana), legs up the wall (Viparita Karani), deep squats (Malasana), and standing forward fold (Uttanasana).

Pranayama – As ladies, we have probably all heard that during the first few days of our cycle we shouldn’t do Breath of Fire. If you have a regular pranayama practice, you can do practices such as Long Deep Breathing or Alternate Nostril Breathing, both of which are relaxing and balancing for the body and nervous system. If you’re feeling really lethargic, pranayama practices like Ujjayi can be done in a reclining position. It’s also acceptable to take a few days off completely, and allow your body the rest it needs.

Meditation – PMS can cause some women to experience mood swings. If that’s the case, taking a few extra minutes a day to sit in meditation can help you to get in touch with what is happening in your body and emotions. There are many meditative techniques to choose from. You can keep your focus on the breath, and bring it back when your mind wanders to help reign in negative thinking. Reciting a soothing mantra can help to balance the emotions. You could also try visualizations, perhaps seeing your internal organs bathed in healing light to reduce physical pain. Allowing your menstrual cycle to be a time of introspection is a way to make peace with your period on the days it’s particularly heavy or uncomfortable.

Snatam Kaur’s beautiful Merge and Flow helps you relax and reflect.

Proper diet – Sometimes craving can hit during PMS or menstruation. It can be hard to resist reaching for brownies or salty snacks, but eating well during your cycle can help you to feel better. Too much salt can cause some people to retain water, enhancing the bloated feeling our periods sometimes bring. Too much sugar can overstimulate our endocrine system, and caffeine in chocolate and beverages can tax our nervous system. If you have a regular cycle, plan ahead. Keep healthy snacks in the house, so if you do have the urge to munch on something it won’t make you feel worse. Drinking warm herbal teas, or room temperature water can also provide relief from discomfort.

Yogi Bhajan’s herbal formula for that time of the month

Yogi Bhajan recommended this blended drink for women:

8oz of fresh squeezed orange juice
1 banana
1 tbs of chlorophyll
2 tsp of cold pressed sesame oil or almond oil.
2 tsp of Rice brand syrup

The oil is said to help with menstrual fatigue if taken in the days around your period.

Focus on rest and relaxation – Is there anything better than soaking in a warm tub to relieve cramps? Warm water can help to relax your muscles and ease tension in the body. You can also add some aromatherapy bath salts or essential oils to enhance the relaxation response. Also make sure to get plenty of rest during your period. If you want to take a nap, do it! Go to bed early to ensure you get plenty of sleep at night, which will help improve your mood during the day. Ask your partner to rub your back, or try some reflexology. The bottom line is take care of yourself so you can feel your best!

“Yoga for Women” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa offers tips for PMS, pre- and post-natal care, and other times in a woman’s life

Music for asana, meditation, or relaxation

Take comfort in a warm cup of tea

“A Woman’s Book of Yoga” contains exercises and recipes for all stages of life

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