“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.”
The words stand true. While the pain is inevitable, every woman is given the gift of procreation. The process of menstruation is a simple cleansing process of life itself, a process of shedding the inner lining each month, repeating the cycle of life. Signifying health, new creation and coping with the loss.
Why Does One Have Painful Menstrual Cramps?
While some women feel relatively bearable period pain, most writhe through the process. The pain felt during the menstrual process is due to the presence of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are lipid groups formed from traces of fat in cell membranes. These compounds are released at sites of cell and tissue damage which is what happens during a period. The inner lining of the uterus is shed and during the process, prostaglandins are released. These chemicals constrict blood vessels and cause painful cramps.
However, these chemicals are great for healing. They stimulate the contraction to set off the healing process and allow the tissues to relax when it is achieved. Some synthetic prostaglandins are also used to induce labour pain in clinical settings.
Seeking Relief Through Yogasanas
There are numerous over-the-counter drugs to help with painful cramps. As effective as these drugs may be in curbing the effects of prostaglandin, they come with side effects when used in a liberal fashion. Excessive use of over the counter drugs can lead to organ damaging side effects or even mask underlying issues such as endometriosis.
Yoga has been reported to significantly reduce the intensity of pain and increase the flexibility of the muscles to cope with the cramps. Here are a few Yogsanas that can help you curb the pain, especially in the long run.
1. Yoga For Painful Menstruation: Ushtrasana
Ushtrasana or the Camel Pose is a stretched out, intermediate level pose. It is very helpful in relieving one of menstrual discomfort and relieves the body of lower back pains. It is known to increases strength and flexibility while also aiding digestion.
How To Do Ushtrasana:
- Kneel on your Yoga mat and straighten your legs behind you, ensuring that the soles of your feet face the ceiling.
- Keep your knees in line with your shoulders and inhale while slowly bending backwards while pushing your hips out in front of you.
- Slide your palms over your feet until your arms are straight.
- Do not strain your neck and let it rest naturally. This is one of the most common mistakes that people make while getting into the pose. Do not flex your neck and allow it to remain in a neutral position.
- Stay in this posture for the duration of a couple of breaths.
- Breathe out and return to the initial pose while bringing your arms back to your sides.
Precautions: Those with back and neck injuries must refrain from performing this exercise. It is also not advisable for those that have high or low blood pressure. This exercise must be performed under the supervision of a yoga instructor or teacher.
Bhadrasana also referred to as the Gracious pose is a beginner level yoga pose. It is considered a great asana for meditation and grounding oneself. Bhadrasana is known to calm the mind and reduce stress, strengthen the backbone, thighs, hips and the buttocks. It is also known to increase flexibility in the legs and eases childbirth as well.
How To Do Bhadrasana:
- Ease yourself into deep breathing. Inhale. Exhale.
- Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place a blanket under your pelvis if your hips or groins are rigid.
- Bend your knees and bring the heels of your feet closer to you. Now, slowly lower your legs sideways, like a butterfly, while keeping your knees bent.
- Ensure that the soles of your feet are facing each other and bring them together. Hold your big toes with your hands and bring the joined feet as close to yourself as you can.
- The outer edges of your feet must be in contact with the floor or your mat.
- Straighten yourself to ensure that your tailbone in the back and the pubis in the front are equidistant from the floor.
- Take care that you do not force your knees down. If your body is rigid, it will take time to adjust.
- Remain in this position for two to five minutes while steadily practising deep breaths.
Precautions: Those that have groin or knee injury must take care to use the support of blocks or blankets and ensure that it is done in the presence of a yoga instructor or teacher.
The Gomukhasana, translating into the cow face posture is performed in the seated posture. It has immense benefits such as posture correction, the stretching of muscles and even elongates the spine. The Gomukhasana also helps treat sciatica, stimulates the kidneys and tones and increases the flexibility of the reproductive organs with regular practice. It is known to reduce stress and anxiety as well.
How To Do Gomukhasana:
- Sit on the yoga mat and straighten your back. Extend your legs in front of you and place your feet together.
- Bend your right leg at the knee and place your right foot under your left buttock.
- Stack your left leg over your right leg and leave it free towards your right.
- Raise our left arm above your head and bend your elbow allowing your left forearm to remain behind you. Simultaneously, bring your right arm behind you by folding at the elbow and try to join and interlock both hands.
- Remain in this posture for as long as you are comfortable and practise deep breathing.
- Release your arms as you exhale and repeat on the other side.
Precautions: Those that have shoulder pain, injury, muscle tears in the thighs or soft tissue injury in the legs, spondylitis must refrain from performing Gomukhasana as it might aggravate the condition. It must be practised under the supervision of a yoga teacher or instructor.
Vajrasana, also known as the Diamond pose, the adamantine pose or even the thunderbolt pose is a beginner level asana that requires you to sit down. It is commonly done while performing pranayama. The Vajrasana pose increases blood flow in the lower abdomen area. It strengthens the nerves in the thighs and legs, straightens one’s posture and also prevents certain rheumatic diseases. It is also known to relieve gas troubles and improves digestion.
How To Do Vajrasana:
- Kneel down on the Yoga mat and ensure that your knees are in line with your shoulders.
- Straighten your legs behind you and flatten your feet with your soles facing the ceiling and the big toes in contact with other.
- Sit down in the pit formed between your parted heels. Look straight ahead and straighten your back, head and your neck.
- Take in deep breaths and hold the pose for as long as you comfortably can.
- Exhale and relax your body and slowly straighten your legs.
Precautions: Those that have slip-disc conditions, stiffness and foot injuries must refrain from performing this asana. Those with rigid joints must seek help and supervision of a yoga teacher or instructor before doing the same.
5. Yoga For Painful Menstruation: Padmasana
Padmasana, also known as the Lotus pose is a cross-legged, seated posture that calms one’s mind. It is a posture that deepens the meditative state and facilitates deep breathing, ridding one of stress and anxiety. Padmasana significantly reduces menstrual discomfort and pain and also aids in easy childbirth. This pose also reduces muscular tension, reduces blood pressure, improves digestion and relaxes the mind.
How To Do Padmasana:
- Sit on the floor or a yoga mat with your legs stretched out in front of you and straighten your spine.
- Bend your right knee and bring your right leg towards and place it on your left thigh. Ensure that the sole of your foot is facing upwards and bring it closer to your abdomen.
- Repeat the same with your left leg. Bend the knee and bring the leg towards you and place it over the right thigh.
- Place your hands on both knees in the respective mudra positions.
- Correct any change in posture and straighten your back, head and neck.
- Relax and take in gentle, deep breaths.
- Hold the position for as long as you are comfortable.
Precautions: Those with knee and ankle injury must refrain from performing this asana. It is recommended that one seeks a yoga teacher or instructor to be supervised.
6. Viparita Karani
Viparita Karani, also known as the Legs-up-the-wall pose is a simplified variation of the Shoulder-stand pose. The Viparita Karani is very beneficial for those that face issues pertaining to the reproductive system such as menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome and menopause.
It is also good for anxiety, digestive issues, urinary disorders, varicose veins, respiratory ailments, insomnia, migraines, mild depression, high and low blood pressure, headaches and arthritis.
How To Do Viparita Karani:
- This pose can be performed with the help of supports and blocks to aid those that are rigid. It can be placed closer to the wall if you are more flexible and farther away if you find it difficult to settle into the pose.
- Place the support under you and swing your legs over to the wall in one swift motion. If it is uncomfortable, you can readjust yourself or change the distance of the support from the wall between five or six inches.
- If you are comfortable without the support, align your legs straight up against the wall and lie down in a perpendicular fashion.
- Relax your neck into a natural position.
- If the hollow between the back of the neck and your mat is causing discomfort, you can place a rolled-up towel to provide extra support.
- Take in relaxing and deep breaths and remain in position for about five to fifteen minutes.
- Exhale and rise up by shifting yourself to your side slowly.
Precautions: Those with eye conditions such as Glaucoma must refrain from performing this asana. It is also not recommended for those with severe neck or back pain and must be done under the supervision of a yoga teacher or instructor.
Balasana, also known as the child’s pose is a relatively simple restful pose. Balasana stretches the muscles of the hips, the thighs and the ankles. It is also known to calm the brain and relieve one of fatigue and stress, back pain and neck pain.
How To Do Balasana:
- Kneel down on your yoga mat and distance your knees in line with your hips.
- Straighten your legs behind you and sit on your heels with your toes in contact with each other.
- Bend forward with your arms stretched outward and nestle your hip into your inner thighs.
- Let your outstretched arms lay on the floor and relax.
- You may also lean closer to the ground allowing your torso to rest on your thighs.
- Retain this pose for two to three minutes.
- Inhale while bringing your arms back up and relax into your natural posture.
Precautions: Those that have diarrhoea, knee injury and those that are pregnant must refrain from performing this asana.
Ensure that all asanas are practised under the supervision of a certified yoga instructor, yoga trainer or yoga teacher. Should there be any pain, aches, conditions, kindly consult your medical practitioner?
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