You know how it is…tender breasts, crazy cramps, angry lashes, excruciating headaches, chocolate cravings and feeling miserable for a week every month…Oh, why was God so unfair to women? Why do we women from all cultures have to reckon with this?
As a yogini I have never experienced these pre-menstrual syndromes, but most of my friends take painkillers right before their period. Yikes! They don’t have to, they really don’t. Because regular yoga practice does not only alleviate menstrual cramps, it helps prevent PMS syndromes altogether. How so?
The asanas promote glandular secretion. The body releases endorphins – the happy hormones. Yes, we have natural mood-elevating compounds and yoga kicks them up the roof, so we don’t experience that terrible pain that cringes our insides.
Doing the appropriate asanas, coupled with a round of pacifying breathing calms the central nervous system and increases the flow of oxygenated blood to the reproductive organs. That eases the stress and promotes deep relaxation – which virtually mutes the PMS surge.
I find it really fascinating, that in Chinese Traditional Medicine Qi-Gong practice is a must before and during menstruation, because it increases the blood flow in the reproductive area and it purges the excess in the body. In Ayurveda, for example, PMS is regarded an imbalance of “Apana Vayu” – a force that regulates menstruation, childbirth, urination, and moving the bowels. That means we need to put emphasis on the downward flowing asanas and breath work that bring air and wind through our second chakra and flush the excess from the body. According to the ancient longevity practice this will pacify the second chakra and make every cycle bearable, if not pain-free.
When Apana gets stagnant, it causes muscle weakness. Movements become reduced or limited. Apana can also become cranky or unsteady, causing movements to become excessive of erratic. In most disturbances of “apana vayu,” we need to reeducate, reanimate, strengthen, “tonify”, stabilize and relax the lower trunk, abdomen and pelvic zone using lower back and pelvic exercises like twisting, flexing and squatting, full dynamic breathing to encourage the release of “ama” or toxins through the blood stream. A comfy heating pad or oil massage through the pelvic area also pacifies “Vata” imbalances.
It is vital to practice those poses that boost circulation so you can relieve the fluid built up that cause bloating. Reclining hip openers, and gentle twists, forwards and inversions, facilitated by deep breathing will increase oxygen flow to tissues and decrease the discomfort induced by the cramps. And arching into gentle backbends will lift up your spirit and help you embrace menstruation as a gift, not a painful experience.
The asana and breathing will get you to experience happy cycles. That will bring back you appreciation for menstrual flow, which cues us women to the moon tides and makes us intuitive and receptive priestesses. So we can welcome those days of “housecleaning” as a sacred conversation with the Moon.
Yoga for PMS: Pain-free Cycle (open level)
This is a set of practices, breathing and asana to encourage downward flow and ensure a pain-free cycle. An apana (down-ward flow) breathing in Yoni (Earthing) mudra starts you off to flood the belly with vital juices, and open the two main meridians that channel energy through the body. A tight rocking hug with the elbows rooted into the ground allows you to, flutter your legs out like a butterfly and curl them back in a tight cocoon. Diaphragmatic breathing in Frog Pose further opens the hips and rushes blood into the pelvic area to facilitate the release of waste. Deep squats urge the hips to release “apana”. Seated spinal twists, forward bends, and lower back soothers help relieve spinal compression and bloated-ness. Reclining hip and spinal soothers earth the energy down to ground you so you release and receive guidance through this powerful monthly rite of passage . A brief prayer of appreciation closes the sequence down, and makes you relish your Ying power of being a woman, and a herald of the Moon.