Got cramps? You're not alone. Many women suffer from severe menstrual pain (known as dysmenorrhea) with sharp, throbbing, burning, or nauseating cramps in their lower abdomen and back. The cramps may come right before you get your period or during, but thankfully they go away when your period is over.
These crippling, can't-get-through-your-normal-day kind of cramps are caused by uterine contractions and can be aggravated by emotional stress. They tend to cause headaches and a really heavy flow — twice the fun. Some women take pain medication to deal with them, but you may want to give these yoga poses a try too, since getting your body moving (and out of fetal position on the couch) can really help with cramps.
Half Bound Squat
Hip pain is often part and parcel of period pains, so stretching them out feels really good. Here's how to do Half Bound Squat.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hips-width-distance apart. Bend your knees, and lower your hips all the way down. Take a peek at your feet, and see if you can press your heels out, bringing your feet parallel.
- Press your elbows against your inner knees, and lengthen through your torso. Hold like this in a Wide Squat for five breaths.
- Then bring your left arm between your knees. Lower your left shoulder as far under your left knee as possible, so you hug your knee with your armpit as you reach your left forearm around your back with your palm facing away from your body.
- Reach your right arm up as high as you can, bend your elbow, and bring the back of your right palm to your lower back. If they're close enough, hold your right wrist with your left hand, with the right palm facing behind you.
- Stay here for five deep breaths. Come back to Wide Squat for one complete breath to release the pose, and repeat on the right side.
Pigeon Pose also opens your hips, but sometimes it feels better to work one side at a time. This variation will also stretch out the lower belly.
- Sit on the floor with your right knee bent and your left leg extended behind you.
- Place your hands on your hips, and gently arch your back. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of your left hip, but if this variation is painful, then lean forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. If you want more of a stretch, raise your arms in the air.
- Hold for five or more breaths, and then repeat this pose on the other side.
Stretching out your abs and the front of the hips can also relieve cramps. Here's how to do One-Armed Camel.
- Stand on your shins so your knees are underneath your hips.
- Reach your right hand back, placing it on your right heel or on the mat behind your right toes. Extend your left arm in the air.
- Shift weight forward onto your knees to increase the stretch in your quads, belly, and chest. Lower your head behind you, and stay here for five breaths.
- Switch sides, holding for another five breaths, and then lift the torso up to release.
Wide Child's Pose
If you feel cramps in your lower back, then Wide Child's Pose is sure to offer relaxation and relief.
- Place your knees on the floor, widen them to a comfortable distance, and then fold forward, extending your arms in front of you.
- Rest your forehead on the mat or turn your head to one side, holding for five breaths. Turn your head to the other side for another five relaxing breaths.
Here's a relaxing way to increase side-to-side spinal flexibility, which can also help relieve pain in the lower belly and lower back.
- Lie on your back, and cross your left knee over to the right side.
- Extend your arms out wide, gazing to the left.
- Hold here for at least five breaths, feeling your spine lengthen and twist. You may even hear some "cracks."
- Use your abs to lift your knees back to centre and repeat on the other side.