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Yoga Insights

Yoga Poses to Head off PMS

As featured on yogadigest.com

Some women aren’t particularly bothered by the onset of their monthly period but, for many others, Premenstrual Syndrome can be debilitating. PMS generally refers to the discomfort, pain, and emotional swings that can occur from the time of ovulation until bleeding starts about two weeks later. Unpleasant symptoms often continue through the menstrual period as well, especially during the first few days.

PMS is generally thought to be caused by hormonal imbalance and liver congestion. But our lifestyle also plays a part. Symptoms can be aggravated by:

  • lack of physical exercise
  • stress
  • poor diet and nutrition
  • exhaustion from too much work or excessive exercise
  • inadequate sleep
  • chemicals and toxins
  • strong emotions such as anger, excessive attachment, and fear

Although it’s not possible to completely eliminate the hormonal changes responsible for menstruation, avoiding these other factors and living a balanced yoga lifestyle can be of tremendous help. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting proper sleep, and reducing stress through yoga relaxation, yoga breathing, and Yoga Sound Meditation. And of course, regularly practicing yoga asanas can be very helpful.

Yoga asanas are one of the most therapeutic types of exercise for reducing PMS and menstrual difficulties as they help release tension and restore energy. Practicing yoga asanas regularly, including standing and sitting postures, inverted poses (avoid inversions during menstruation) and backbends helps stimulate the glands responsible for the production of hormones.

For the asanas to have a positive effect on PMS, practice regularly before and after your period. Some of the inversions you can practice before your period are Summit Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Reverse Arrow. If you find it hard to get up into Reverse Arrow, Lying Waterfall (lying on your back with legs up the wall) is a good alternative and has the added benefit of being relaxing and restorative.

During your period, you may not feel much like doing some of the more vigorous poses, so listen to your body. Take the opportunity to do more restorative poses or perhaps focus on yoga relaxation, breathing, or Yoga Sound Meditation.

Grounding for Steady Poses

If you have trouble balancing or feel top heavy when you practice asanas, it could be that you need a little grounding. For us to experience the steadiness that is part of what the word “asana” means, it’s very helpful to be aware of our body’s connection with the earth. Regardless of whether we’re standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down, our poses begin from the ground up. So take a few moments before starting each pose to feel your body’s points of contact with the earth.

Explore the Effects of Your Breath

Breathing is a subtle process that occurs every minute of every day, yet we often take it for granted. The breath is actually a very powerful tool that we can use in various ways to enhance our yoga practice.

Our lungs are large air sacs, each one approximately the size of a football. When we fill them with air, they give us a sense of buoyancy. If you’ve ever floated on your back in a pool, a lake, or in the ocean, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to stay afloat when your lungs are filled with air. You can use this same sense of buoyancy when practicing asanas.

Let Your Poses Blossom from Within

If you want to really enjoy and advance in your asana practice, it’s important to feel what you’re doing, not just on the level of what muscles are stretching or strengthening, but on a deeper level. You’ll want to experience your fullest expression of each pose. This doesn’t mean pushing as hard as you can to move further into a pose so that it looks a particular way—that can actually get in the way. Like expressing an idea or an artistic concept, this comes from the inside.

Calming the Mind in Asana Practice

At the beginning of an asana practice, it’s nice to draw your awareness inward, focusing on the body and the breath for a few moments. This calm focus is an essential part of yoga. Once we’re practicing the asanas, however, it’s common for the mind to wander. It’s not that we necessarily start thinking about other things on purpose, but the mind wanders nonetheless.

Asana Practice After Injury

No one likes to get injured. Injuries not only hurt, but they can also prevent you from doing what you love to do for days, weeks, or even months. If practicing yoga asanas is one of those things, having to give up some of your favorite poses can be a real challenge. Don’t despair! Yoga is so versatile that there are still several poses and techniques you may be able to do while injured.

Simple Inversions

Advanced inversions such as Headstand, Shoulderstand, and Plough have widely touted benefits, yet they’re not for everyone. Because they can place a lot of pressure on your neck, the risk of injury often outweighs the benefits they can bring. Doing them properly requires significant flexibility and strength. So please be cautious and don’t feel that you have to add them to your asana repertoire. In fact, there are several other safe and simple inversions that bring similar benefits without the risks.

Where We Get Our Protein Matters

One of the main things I hear when people talk about cutting meat out of their diets is that they’re afraid they won’t get enough protein. But so many foods in a vegetarian yoga diet pack a protein punch—beans, nuts, whole grains, tofu, in addition to a variety of plant-based “chicken” strips, tofurky, veggie burgers, and other mock meats that are now widely available.

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