Exercise might be the last thing on your mind when you’ve got your period, but some gentle yoga will relieve your aches and pains as well as relaxing the nervous system.
We asked our resident yogi Helen Faliveno from You Are Here Studio to create a restorative yoga sequence that can help when you’ve got your period. Try these poses when you’re feeling crampy, bloated or lethargic. You can even do this routine from bed. Lovely.
Sitting stretch (sukhasana with extended arms)
From a seated position, interlace your fingers and stretch out your arms over your head. Relax the shoulders down, un-crumple your body and wake it up for a little bit of active exercise – nothing too strenuous. Here you’re opening out the shoulders and lengthening the spine.
Sitting side twist (parivrtta sukhasana)
Next, take a gentle twist over to your right side and then to your left side. Don’t stretch too far though, this isn’t an exercise for the abs, but simply to get a release in your lower back. You might feel a few pops and clicks, so only twist as far as feels comfortable.
Forward fold (janusirsasana)
Bring the sole of one foot to the thigh, lengthening out your other leg. You’re opening out the hip of the bent leg, allowing gravity to pull your body to the mat. Then, using a stack pillows from your bed or cushions from the sofa, place them on your stretched out leg and gently fold over. Maybe move one sit bone to the side to feel more comfortable, and then the other side for balance. This fold is lovely for opening out the hips and easing lower back pain in a very gentle way. A forward fold also massages those internal organs so make sure you breathe nice and deeply into the belly, rather than breathing into your top rib. Do this pose on each side for five to ten breaths.
Cat cow pose (marjariasana)
Make a tabletop position on all fours with your hands stacked underneath your shoulders and knees aligned underneath your hips. On your inhale, lift your chest, lift your sit bones and drop your belly. On your exhale, round your spine and let your shoulder blades slide apart. Don’t extend to your full range of movements here, you’re just gently articulating the spine – warming it up a little. This pose is great for getting the blood flowing in the lower back and relieving any pain there.
Downward dog (adho mukha svanasana)
Next, move your body into the downward dog position. Don’t worry what your pose looks like, just make a nice generous bend in the knees and prioritise lengthening your spine and shooting your hips upwards. This pose is really good for lifting your mood so it’s great if you’re feeling a bit lethargic. Feel free to shake out your head and shake out your neck, letting your head hang heavy.
Child’s pose (balasana)
This is a wide leg child’s pose so take your knees as wide as you can and let your big toes touch. Sit back on your heels, pull some pillows up towards your belly area and relax forward. This is such a restorative pose, so really great if you’re feeling sick. It also opens the hips and the lower back. Release onto the pillows and take a few deeps breaths – don’t hold the pose just allow it to be as it wants to be.
Backbend (setu bandha sarvangasana)
Lie back and pull your heels towards your sit bones making sure your feet are hip distance apart and parallel. Take a block, rolled up pillow or a stack of books and place under the flat part of your lower back – the sacrum. This is a lovely restorative backbend that brings relief to the lower back. Place your arms out sidewards, with palms shining upwards to release your shoulders. Close down the eyes and try not to look around while your neck is in this position. Keep everything calm and still and stay here for between five and ten breaths.
To finish this pose, bring your legs to your chest, hugging your knees into the armpits so that you open the hips. By making little circular movements with the knees you get a self lower back massage which can feel nice on the kidneys and your sides. Do this for as long as you like, going one way and then the other.
Knee twist (jathara parivartanasana)
Place pillows either side of you, hug the knees into the centre of your chest and then allow them to drop to the right – opening out the shoulders in a cactus position. This is great for wringing out the spine and massaging those internal organs. Again, you might hear a few pops and clicks so just go gently. For a bit more weight you can rest your hand on your knee. Repeat this on the left side too.
Reclining goddess pose (supta baddha konasana)
Lie back, place the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop outwards. You can use pillows under the knees to keep them supported and relieve any tension there. This pose opens out the hips and stretches the groin and abdominals so can help with any pain you have in the area.
This pose is all about getting comfy. Roll a pillow under your knees and use one to support your neck. Stay in the pose for a full five minutes, or longer if you choose, and really think about calming your mind and relaxing your whole body. Notice where you’re holding the tension and see if you can breathe through it and release.
Do the full yoga sequence with Helen by following our video: