Lower back pains, moderate-to-“I’m dying” cramps, bloating, depression, negative thinking and mood, and every other God-awful symptom associated with menstruation are all symptoms us ladies would love to avoid — or at least lessen every month.
While search engines will give you millions of home remedies, recommendations, and methods of pain relief, if you have been considering taking on the practice of yoga for any reason, I’m here to tell you that the positive benefits don’t end at mindfulness, flexibility, muscle tone, and cardio-pulmonary health — yoga has been shown to make your periods less painful and it even eases PMS symptoms.
An analysis published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine stated that yoga can be considered a number of different practices according to different practitioners: meditation, breathing exercises, and the hundreds to thousands of different physical yoga styles can be quite different.
The range of symptoms that women experience before and during menstruation are just as different and numerous in variation. There have been studies that have looked at period pains, stress, water retention, cognitive functioning, general sense of well-being, moods, and all of the above together.
Getting to the central issue, Lina Sparrowe, co-author of Yoga for a Healthy Menstrual Cycle, has stated that the benefits of most types of yoga are both mental and physical. Practicing asanas (the physical poses in yoga) releases endorphins that boost your mood, increases the blood flow to the organs, and relaxes your mind and body. The same goes for working out on a treadmill or elliptical, but if you’re like most women and don’t want to try and run on high-impact machines during your period (because of the fatigue, the pain, cramps, and other reasons), yoga is a low-impact way of keeping your breath and focusing on releasing those endorphins and stretching your body out, breathing easy, and being mindful without killing yourself in a gym.
While it has been shown that yoga can really help with PMS symptoms and period pains, the technical conclusion from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine is that “While all studies reported some positive effect of yoga on menstrual distress, as reported by participants and as found by assessing physiological correlates of menstrual distress, the external validity of the studies is limited by the frequency of the interventions used, with daily practice under instruction being an unrealistic expectation of most working-age women.”
Basically, the studies analyzed showed a significant improvement of menstrual-related issues when women practiced a variety of yoga types, but it is hard to pinpoint which type of yoga is better or why that may be so.
One of the studies in the Journal compared two different yoga techniques and another study compared yoga to a different type of exercise altogether — it could be that yoga improves the underlying physical causes of menstrual distress or that it improves the mind’s ability to cope with the symptoms. This part is still unclear.
However, the good news is that studies and thousands of years of real-world practice by women has pointed out the value of using yoga as a way of improving your health and potentially minimizing the physical, emotional, and mental effects of menstruation.
For now, science can’t say whether it helps or hurts, but based on real yogis around the world, it looks like a green light for those willing to give it a try.