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Improving Period Pain with Yoga

May 7, 2018
period pain and yoga, dysmenorrhea yoga, period cramps, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto

Whenever clients come to my office with period pain complaints, they usually expect to have some dietary and herbal recommendations. As I’ve been doing more research to see what other therapies would be helpful for this all too common condition, I’ve come across some research investigating yoga as a therapy for period pain. 

What the research says about period pain and yoga

There have been three studies looking at the effects of yoga on period pain. All studies looked at three specific poses – practiced alone or with others and results have shown an improvement in pain duration, pain intensity, and quality of life.  

The three specific poses that were studied were: cobra, cat, and fish pose. The duration of the yoga practice ranged between 20 minutes a day to 60 minutes once a week, and length of treatment ranged between 2 to 3 months respectively. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a follow-up in any of the studies to determine the lasting effects. Also, the studies did not keep track of any pharmaceutical use between the yoga groups and controls. 

yoga period pain, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto 

Cobra Pose

This energizing pose, helps to increase circulation within the lower back and pelvic, and provide them with a fresh supply of blood.  

How do do this pose

Start by laying facedown with your forehead on the mat. Your feet should be close together with pointed toes. Place your hands beneath your shoulders, palms down and elbows tucked next to the your body.

Inhale and curl your upper body off the floor 2 to 3 inches as you slowly raise your forehead, nose, chin, shoulders, and chest. Your pelvis should remain on the floor.

Return to a neutral position by, slowly releasing your upper body back onto the floor.

Cat Pose

Often seen as a warm up stretch (paired up as cat-cow pose), this pose helps to increase the flexibility and strength of the spine and improve circulation overall. 

How do do this pose

Kneel in neutral “table position,” with your knees under hips and arms beneath the your shoulders. Your back should be flat, and face should be looking down at the floor. 

Exhale and slowly drop your head and tailbone. Arch your back and exhale further as you pull your navel up toward your spine

Fish Pose

This pose helps to stimulate the pelvic organs (like your uterus!). 

How do do this pose

With your legs extended and closed together, lie on your back. Your hands should be palm down, underneath your tailbone. 

On an inhalation, lift your upper body onto your elbows and bend your neck backward. You can rest the crown of your head on the mat. At this point, your back should be arched. Ensure your weight is mainly on your elbows, not your neck. Press both sitting bones firmly into the floor.

Return a neutral position by pressing your elbows onto the floor. Gently lift your head, tuck your chin, and lower your upper body

Note: This pose may be a bit more labour intensive than the others, if you practice yoga at a studio, you may want to ask your teacher to help you achieve the proper position of this pose, or how to modify it. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to period pain, there are so many tools available to help alleviate pain. My go to recommendations are usually going dairy-free as well as acupuncture (my favourite!). But incorporating yoga is an easy at-home treatment. You can likely start to practice these poses before and during your cycle! 

Of course, if you’re finding that you need some additional support or guidance, certainly feel free to contact me to see how I can I help with your period pain!

References

Rakhshaee Z. Effect of Three Yoga Poses (Cobra, Cat and Fish Poses) in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2011;24(4):192-196. doi:10.1016/j.jpag.2011.01.059.

Yonglitthipagon P, Muansiangsai S, Wongkhumngern W et al. Effect of yoga on the menstrual pain, physical fitness, and quality of life of young women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2017;21(4):840-846. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2017.01.014.

Yang N, Kim S. Effects of a Yoga Program on Menstrual Cramps and Menstrual Distress in Undergraduate Students with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Single-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2016. doi:10.1089/acm.2016.0058.

Miller O. Essential Yoga. Chronicle Books; 2014.

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