Killer PMS Cramps? This Type Of Gentle Yoga Can Ease Your Pain

It turns out hatha yoga poses can actually help soothe symptoms of women suffering from endometriosis, PMS, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

March 17, 2017
woman doing yoga child pose

You don't need to be a dedicated yogi to reap the benefits of gentle hatha yoga, which may offer a real reprieve from pain for women suffering from reproductive conditions like premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Countless women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with symptoms that occur before a woman's period, and can include severe cramps and headaches. It turns out that hatha yoga may be able to help alleviate this as well as symptoms from other more severe (and less prevalant) conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Endemetriosis is a disorder that occurs when the endometrium, the tissue lining the uterus, develops outside of the uterus instead of inside, which can cause chronic pelvic pain, fertility problems, lesions on the pelvic organs, and cysts. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs when a woman's hormones are out of balance and often results in painful cysts.

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Linda Sparrowe, author of The Woman's Book of Yoga and Yoga at Home, also traces the connection between yoga practice and women’s reproductive health.

“Yoga supports us in a variety of ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually," she says, "It helps balance the nervous system; specifically, it dampens down the sympathetic nervous system, our fight-or-flight response, and elevates the parasympathetic, or rest-and-digest, system. It does this by teaching slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing and postures that create stability and ease in the body."

Sparrowe says yoga's ability to alleviate not just physical symptoms but emotional stress is "important to healing, not only because stress exacerbates such conditions as PCOS, PMS, and endometriosis, but because stress also separates our minds from our bodies. Once we’re on our way to calm, we can get to the root and the heart of the problem. Yoga quiets the nervous system so our minds and hearts can hear and feel what’s happening inside—and bring loving attention to the places that need it most.”

A recent paper in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine dug into the effects of a yoga practice on women with endometriosis, particularly. They found that the women who completed the yoga intervention reported notable improvements in their quality of life, feeling less pain and more control, better emotional wellbeing, and improved self-image, as opposed to the women who did not complete a hatha yoga practice.

These findings offer insight into yoga as an option for symptom management for women with endometriosis, as well as as a potentially viable option for conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome and premenstrual syndrome.

Related: How To Do Yoga In An Airport (Without Everyone Looking At You Like You’re Crazy)

For women with endometriosis, PCOS, or PMS, Sparrowe recommends yoga poses that promote space and freedom in the belly and pelvic floor and allows those muscles to release and breath to enter. Some of her favorites include:

reclining butterfly pose
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Reclining Butterfly Pose

This easy move is helpful to relieve cramping and spasms, takes pressure off the pelvis, and helps to relax the nerves.

Begin flat on your back on the mat, then press the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop open to both sides, your arms out horizontal at our sides. It can also be helpful to use a couple of rolled blankets under your spine, but keep the buttocks on the mat or floor. You could also add a block or blanket under each thigh. The key is to completely relax and release the muscles in the pelvis. Spend as long as you like here, gently breathing into the belly and keeping the jaw relaxed. 

Related: This Inspiring Teacher Will Change The Way You Think About Yoga

child's pose yoga
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Child’s Pose

This classic pose can help release tension and relieve the cramping that is often a sympton of PMS.

Begin on your hands and knees, and spread your knees part while keeping your big toes together. Sit up straight and bow forward slowly, with your chest resting on your thights. You can keep your arms extended or bring them to rest along your sides. You may want to hug a bolster into your abdomen for additional benefits. Hold for as long as you like.

half moon pose with a partner
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Half-Moon Pose

This standing pose, shown above with a partner, can help in softening any tension in the belly and for relieving cramping associated with endometriosis.

You can do this pose in the center of a room or against the wall for further support. Stand at the top of your mat, turn to the left, and step your feet apart. Extend your arms out to the sides. Rotate your front foot to point to the top of the mat. Reach forward with your right hand to reach for a block, a partner's hand, or the floor. Lift your left leg and left arm, and try to stack your hips and gaze up towards your left thumb. Try to hold for 30-45 seconds, and then switch sides.