For some women, every month, the arrival of the painful menstrual cramps is inevitable. Cramps or “dysmenorrhea” can be anywhere from mild to severe. Mild cramps can be barely noticeable while severe ones can disrupt someone’s activities for days at a time. For myself, at least 1 to 2 days a month are accompanied by crippling abdominal pain and fatigue. Since it has been going on so long its one of those things that I have grown to accept.
So why are they so painful? According to medicenet.com
Menstrual cramps are caused by the uterine contractions that occur in response to prostaglandins and other chemicals that are present during menstration. The cramping sensation is intensified when clots or pieces of bloody tissue from the lining of the uterus pass through the cervix, especially if a woman’s cervical canal is narrow.
The difference between menstrual cramps that are more painful and those that are less painful may be related to a woman’s prostaglandin levels. Women with menstrual cramps have elevated levels of prostaglandins in the endometrium (uterine lining) when compared with women who do not experience cramps. Menstrual cramps are very similar to those a pregnant woman experiences when she is given prostaglandin as a medication to induce labor.
**Other factors that have been shown to contribute to menstrual cramps is emotional stress and lack of exercise**
Luckily through yoga I have learned ways to sooth the sensations of razor blades in my gut with a few helpful tools.
Exercise should be an important part of any healthy living but when Aunt Flo is visiting it can be challenging to stick with a regular routine. Here are a few postures that can help relieve some discomfort as well as provide some valuable exercise that isn’t going to leave you feeling more fatigued.
Wide-knee Supported Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Ohhhh I cannot express how lovely this pose feels especially during my (what my boyfriend refers to as) “lady times”. It is a great gentle stretch for the lower back and hips which can get tight and sore. With the support of a bolster or a few blankets you are able to completely let go here. Also anytime the belly is covered or facing down it can increase a sense of warmth and safety.
*Add* a hot water bottle or pack onto the lower back
Abdominal muscles can become very contracted from cramping. This wonderful posture can gently lengthen thighs, torso, chest, and shoulders. It helps in menstrual discomforts by opening up the hips and abdomen. It also aids in relieving mild depression, stress, and anxiety.
*Add* Ujjayi breathing to your movements helping to stay connected as well as cultivate a balancing heat within the body.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose ( Supta Baddha Konasana )
Mmmm! This is a beautiful opener for the hips and chest. This is also an amazing pose for reducing fatigue and headaches. Feel free to close the eyes or place a eye pillow over the eyes to help relax. If you feel too exposed here you can also rest a hot water-bottle on the belly or a blanket. Also a strap around the hips and/or bolster beneath your back, allowing the head to remain supported can aide in opening the chest and heart more fully.
*Add* Varuna Mudra- symbolizes water. It can enhance beauty, remove impurities from the blood and relieve painful menstrual cramps.
If you are feeling drained and in pain during this time treat your body with the respect it deserves.
In the first few days of your menstrual cycle try to find a restorative or gentle class and avoid inversions such as headstand.
Love your body even in the worst of times and it will love you back.