Those cramps in your abdomen every month are probably the first sign of what’s coming next: your period! Menstrual pain, also known as dysmenorrhea, usually happens before and during menstruation and can be quite a challenge for many women. 

Hot water bottles, painkillers and even dark chocolate can come in handy. But the fact is that it’s not always feasible to use heat pads. Painkillers can cause long-term side-effects. And eating too much chocolate in the name of “healing foods” can lead to weight gain. 

 Yoga for period pain Part 1: Five yoga asanas to ease menstrual cramps and relieve tension

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Yoga can help with pain management without any side-effects. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2016 showed that all the subjects who tried yoga intervention to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms actually ended up taking fewer painkillers during their period. What’s more, they also experienced improved physical function, decreased abdominal swelling, tenderness in the breasts and abdominal cramps!

Here are five yoga asanas you must practise regularly for a comparatively pain-free period.

1. Bhramari Pranayama or Honeybee Breathing

While skipping vigorous pranayama like Kapalbhati is a good idea when you’re menstruating, you can start your yoga session with Bhramari Pranayama. This breathing exercise helps to release anxiety, tension and anger and puts you in the right frame of mind for yoga. 

  • Sit up straight, close your eyes and smile gently.
  • Place your index finger on your ears, resting the finger on the cartilage between the ear and the cheek. Block your ears by pressing down gently.
  • Inhale deeply and while exhaling, make a loud humming sound like a bee.
  • Engage your stomach and throat while making the humming sound.
  • Breathe in again and repeat three times.

2. Balasana or Child’s Pose

This asana gently stretches the spine, arms and ankles, and relieves back as well as neck pain. You should not try this pose if you have diarrhoea or a knee injury.

  • Sit on your heels with your knees placed slightly apart or hip-width apart (whichever you are comfortable with). 
  • Raise your arms slowly and gently bend forward.
  • Once your forehead touches the ground, gently press your chest on the thighs.
  • Hold this position for a minute.
  • Place your palms near your shoulders and gently sit up. 

3. Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose

This asana stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen while strengthening the spine. If you have a back injury or carpal tunnel, do not try this pose.

  • Lie down on your stomach and gently stretch your feet so that the top of the feet, thighs and pelvis firmly touch the floor.
  • Place your palms under your shoulders.
  • Inhale, and gently push your palms against the floor to straighten your arms and lift your chest.
  • Maintain the height of your chest for 15 to 30 seconds. Arch back slightly while making sure that your pelvis, thighs and feet are firmly placed on the ground.
  • Exhale, and release slowly.

4. Dhanurasana or Bow Pose

This asana stretches the entire body and can help relieve abdominal pain, fatigue, anxiety and constipation.

  • Lie down on your stomach with your arms placed along your torso, palms up.
  • Exhale, bend your knees and bring your heels as close to your buttocks as you can.
  • Reach back and hold your ankles. Make sure you don’t hold the feet and that your legs aren’t more than hip-width apart. 
  • Inhale and lift your heels away from the hip. Gently lift your thighs, upper torso and head upwards too.
  • Centre your body’s weight, breathe normally and gaze forward.
  • Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, and release gently. 
  • Lie back down on your stomach, breathe normally and relax.

5. Matsyasana or Fish Pose

This asana stretches the shoulders, chest and spine and can relieve menstrual pain, anxiety and fatigue. You shouldn’t try this asana if you have a lower-back or neck injury. 

  • Lie down on your back and place your hands under your hips with the palms facing down.
  • Inhale, lift your head, shoulders and chest off the mat and tilt your head back. Gently place the top of your head on the mat. 
  • Put minimal weight on your head and neck, and make sure your legs are straightened out on the floor. 
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Exhale and lift your head and shoulder. Now gently lower your upper torso and head back to the mat. 
  • Once you’ve mastered this basic pose, you can try doing the Matsyasana while sitting in Padmasana.

End your yoga practice with the savasana for complete relaxation. Lie down on your back on a mat. Let your arms and feet drop to the sides. Let the body go completely limp. Lie there with your eyes closed for at least 5 minutes.

While all of these asanas are gentle and can be done by beginners, it is a good practice to work with a trained yoga instructor who can guide you on the correct posture, breath and gaze for these poses.