PMS is just awful. There’s the erratic mood swings caused by dramatically shifts in hormone levels, the bloating, the cramps, headaches, and more. But, there are some things you can do that may help.
According to numerous studies, foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, thiamine (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) can help symptoms. Consider adding these foods to your diet the week before your period: Oatmeal, flax seeds, kale, spinach, eggs, dairy, almonds, quinoa, edamame, and (in moderation) dark chocolate.
Also, getting moving may help reduce cramps, while focusing on your breath and form lets you find relief from those unpleasant emotions. Below are 9 yoga positions that may help you feel better. Hold most of these of as long as you wish. If you feel you need to place a pillow or folded blanket underneath you as you do these, please do.
9 Yoga Moves to Help with PMS
1. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
This is an amazing restorative pose to do before bed. Many yoga teachers caution against inversions (going upside down) while menstruating, so this is a nice, gentle way to reap the benefits of inverting without having to go into a handstand. Placing your legs on the wall stretches the lower back (making it great for relieving those cramps) and the hamstrings. Add a heating bad to give some extra love to sore areas of the abdomen.
How to: Sit next to the wall with your feet on the floor. Breathe out and lie back so that your legs are parallel to the wall. If necessary, shift your body so that your legs touch the wall and are perpendicular to your torso.
2. Seated Forward Fold with heating pad (Paschimottanasana)
This forward fold stimulates the abdominal organs, including the ovaries and uterus. It also helps digestion, which can alleviate puffiness and bloating. You’ll also get a nice stretch for the spine and improve posture, making you feel nice and tall, even when you might be feeling moody and fatigued.
How to: Sit and place your legs straight out in front of you. Inhale, reach your fingers toward the ceiling, and bend forward toward your toes. Lean forward from the hips instead of bending at the waist. Bend forward as far as you feel comfortable. Hold onto the outside of the foot if you can, or simply hold the shins. After a few breaths, try stretching a little bit further, but be mindful of what feels safe and comfortable for you.
3. Yogic Squat (Malasana)
Poses that ground and calm the body do wonders during PMS. A squat helps shift energy downward which can help reduce anxiety. It also stretches the lower back, easing cramps, and the gentle pressure applied to the abdomen from your legs provides a subtle tone to the belly that stimulates the uterus and ovaries.
How to: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Turn your feet so the toes face slightly outward. Bend your knees into a squat position until your hips are lower than your knees, keeping your chest up and making sure your knees do not go over your toes. Bring your palms together and place your elbows on the inside of your knees. Hold this pose for 1 minute or less. If this position is hard on your knees, place a small stool or block under your hips and sit down on it during the squat.
4. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This is another restorative pose to do before bed. It supports circulation, stretches the groin area, and is said to be restorative to the nervous system. A heating pad can feel great to ease cramps, but resting a pillow on the belly is also very comforting and relaxing for abdominal pain.
How to: Lie down on the floor on a mat or blanket, face up. Bend your knees and place your feet together, moving them as close to the groin area as is comfortable. Place your palms on the floor next to your hips. As you breathe, tighten your abs and shift your tailbone so that it is close to the pubic bone. This shift helps to stabilize the spine.
5. Wind-Relieving Pose (Pavanamuktasana)
Give this pose a try if you’re suffering from bloating and puffiness. This is also a great pose to open up the lower back and the hips, which can get tight and tired during PMS.
How to: Lie down on the floor on a mat or blanket, face up with your legs stretched out. Breathe out as your bring your right knee into your chest. Use your hands to bring your knee closer toward your chest. Inhale, release your leg, and place it back on the floor. Repeat the movement with the left leg.
6. Reclined Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
This twist stretches the upper back, shoulders, neck, hips, and spine. It stimulates digestion and reinvigorates the body, which helps to combat the fatigue associated with PMS.
How to: Lie down on the floor on a mat or blanket, face up with your legs stretched out. Tighten your abs, inhale, and lift your feet off the floor, legs touching. Place your arms out to the sides in line with your shoulders, palms against the floor. Raise your heels just slightly higher than your knees and slowly lower both legs to the left, keeping your hips and legs together. Once your legs are on the ground, aim to have your knees parallel with your hips and your feet close to your sit bones. Turn your head to the right. Repeat the movement on the other side.
7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is arguably one of the best parts of any yoga class, but it’s especially nice during PMS. Gentle pressure on the abdomen is great for cramps, and the slight stretch of the spine alleviates lower back pain as well.
How to: Kneel on your hands and knees on a mat or blanket. Untuck your toes and separate your knees so your legs are hip width apart. Breath out, lower your sitz bones toward the heels and fold forward. Place your arms on the floor stretched out in front of you or by your thighs.
8. Reclined Head-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
The reclined variation of this pose lets you reap its restorative benefits while stretching the lower body, improving digestion, and with it, easing bloating and cramps.
How to: Lie down on the floor on a mat or blanket, face up with your legs stretched out. Breathe out, bend your right knee, and bring your thigh toward your chest. Press your left leg into the floor, extending your heel toward the wall. Loop a strap around the arch of your foot and straighten your leg toward the ceiling. Move your hands up the strap until your arms are fully extended (if you’re very flexible you can use just your hands for this). Press your shoulder blades toward the floor to keep your chest wide. For a deeper stretch, slowly bring your leg toward your forehead, keeping your leg straight. Repeat the movement on the other side.
9. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
If you’re feeling sluggish and heavy, bow pose is a great way to wake up the body, and give yourself a little boost. In addition to lengthening out the front body, it’s a good pose for strengthening the back, improving posture, and relieving those pesky cramps.
How to: Lie down on the floor on a mat or blanket, face down, with your legs stretched out. Roll your shoulders, pulling your shoulder blades closer to one another. Bend your knees toward your sits bones, keeping them hip width apart. Wrap your hands around your ankles, keeping the knees apart and your feet flexed. Breathe out, lengthening the lower back and press the feet away from the hands, to help lift your body off the ground. If you are feeling knee pain, make sure your feet are flexed and your legs are hip width apart.
For more soothing yoga poses, check out Beachbody’s video series 3 Week Yoga Retreat where four yoga experts guide you through the foundations of yoga.