Mild or severe, all of us have felt the agony of menstrual cramps. Sometimes we manage to cope with it but sometimes, it renders us completely unproductive. Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual cramps – a Greek word meaning ‘painful menstruation’. To understand why we get cramps during menstruation, we have to understand the menstrual cycle. Every month, the uterus builds up its lining (the endometrium) in preparation for a possible pregnancy.
After ovulation, if the egg is not fertilized, this lining is shed as the menstrual flow. When the old uterine lining begins to break down, molecular compounds called prostaglandins are released. These compounds cause the muscles of the uterus to contract. The contractions press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus causing pain. The cramping sensation is intensified when clots or pieces of tissue from the lining of the uterus pass through the cervix.
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea include pain or pressure in the abdomen, pain in the hips, lower back and inner thighs, an upset stomach sometimes accompanied by vomiting and diarrhoea. So, what can we do to feel a little better during those 5 days? Placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on the lower back or abdomen definitely helps. Lots of rest and a healthy diet make a world of difference. But most of us just pop a pill. Before you pop that pill, give yoga asanas and pranayama a shot. Yoga is a natural way of alleviating the pain – the stretches and the breathing calm and relax the body and the mind. Yoga is a great way to cope with both the physical and mental symptoms of PMS and menstruation. It is actually a fact that women who exercise regularly have less menstrual pain – so, a long-term solution for preventing cramps is to make exercise a part of your weekly routine.
Lie on your back with feet stretched out. Hands by your side.
Inhale and lift legs off the ground. Exhale and gently hug the knees to the chest.
Inhale as you release the hands and lift knees off the chest, exhale as you bring legs back to the floor.
Hold the posture for about 10 breaths. Do 3 rounds.
Note – this posture is usually done lifting the leg to 90 degrees and then bringing it to the chest, but has been modified so that you do not put pressure on the abdomen.
Sit in vajrasana.
Place your palms in front of your knees.
Slide your hands forward; stretch your arms straight with your forehead touching the floor. Hips stay on the heels.
Stay in this position for at least ten breaths.
Come on all fours. Make sure that wrist and shoulders are in one line and knees slightly apart and aligned properly under the hip.
Inhale, arch the back and look up.
Exhale, round the back and look down.
Slowly and continuously, move between arching and rounding the back coordinating the movement with the breath. Stay in each posture for about 3 seconds. Do 10 rounds.
Stretch back and rest in shashankasana.
Lie on your stomach, legs stretched out, feet together.
Bend the knees and hold the ankles.
Inhale and slowly lift legs upwards away from the body, arch the back and simultaneously lift thighs, chest and head. The final posture resembles a bow.
Breathe normally in the posture. Hold as long as comfortable.
Exhale and bring the chest and legs down. Release the legs completely coming back to the start position.
Do 3 rounds.
Sit comfortably with legs crossed or on a chair with your back straight.
Bend forefinger and middle finger of your right hand.
Place thumb between eyebrows, press ring finger on left nostril. Breathe in through right nostril. Bring thumb to close right nostril and hold the breath.
Remove ring finger and place between eyebrows; keep the thumb on right nostril. Exhale through left nostril.
Now inhale through left nostril, bring ring finger to close left nostril and hold your breath. Release the thumb and place between eyebrows, keeping ring finger on left nostril; exhale through right nostril.
This is one round. Practice 10 rounds.
Initially, the duration of inhale, hold, exhale is equal in a 1:1:1 ratio. As you get comfortable, you can increase the hold and exhale and make it a 1:2:2 ratio.
Abdominal breathing in Shavasana
Lie down on your back. Palms by your side, legs comfortably apart. Close your eyes. Let yourself relax, don’t tense any muscle.
Become completely aware of the natural breath.
Now bring your focus to the navel. Imagine that you are breathing directly through the navel.
Feel your abdomen rising with every inhalation and falling with every exhalation.
Do not force the movement. Keep breathing for 10-20 rounds.
Come back to your normal breathing, watching the normal breath for a few seconds before you gently open your eyes.