Cramps, bloating, and PMS can make you want to curl up into the fetal position. Fortunately, there are plenty of more effective, meaningful yoga poses for period pain to try when discomfort strikes. In fact, a recent review of 15 studies concluded that yoga offers relief from common monthly cycle complaints such as cramps and premenstrual syndrome. Try these traditional yoga poses for period pain the next time your Aunt Flo arrives.
Pose 1: Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Helps with: cramps, lower back pain
- Begin in a kneeling position.
- Move your knees about six to 12 inches apart, allowing your rear end to drop down and rest on your heels.
- Walk your arms forward until they are almost entirely extended (your rear end may lift up a bit off your heels).
- Rest your forehead on the floor and allow your arms to relax.
Variation: Place a bolster beneath your belly for extra support.
Why it works: “We naturally want to curl into our cramps, so this pose fits the bill while still opening up the lower abdominal area—especially the wide-knee variation,” says Charlynn Avery, RYT 200, yoga instructor and aromatherapist with Aura Cacia.
Pose 2: Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Helps with: cramps, lower back pain
- Begin on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping both feet planted firmly, push down into the floor with your feet, and use your core to lift your hips off the mat. “Imagine the hips being drawn up toward the ceiling, but keep the knees in a line without allowing them to splay wide,” Avery recommends.
Variation: Place a block under your sacrum (tailbone area) for added support, especially if your back pain is intense.
Why it works: It helps make the pain feel like it’s being drawn up and away from your lower core.
Pose 3: Knees-to-Chest Pose (Apanasana)
Helps with: bloating, excess bleeding
- Begin by lying on your back with legs extended out.
- As you exhale, bend your knees toward your chest with your feet together, toes pointed, and core engaged.
- Wrap both arms around your knees as you draw them together and toward your chest.
- Gently roll from side to side, moving with your breath.
Variation: Beginners can do one knee at a time, keeping the other knee bent with the foot pressing into the mat.
Why it works: In Sanskrit, Apana is the downward flow of energy, explains Roni Shapira Ben-Yoseph, Ph.D., CYT 200, CCYT95, a yoga instructor based in Highland Park, Illinois. This pose facilitates the elimination of various bodily byproducts, including carbon dioxide, urine, stool, and menstrual blood. “Your knees end up gently massaging your abdomen, and as your low back rocks against your mat, it gets its own little massage, too,” she says. Apanasana pose will move anything that may be bugging your belly, including gas, so it may be best to save this one for home if you’re feeling skittish.
Pose 4: Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
Helps with: digestion, stress, lower back pain
- Lie on your back with your legs actively extended and feet flexed (like you’re in Mountain Pose, but on your back).
- As you exhale, bend your left knee toward your chest, grabbing hold of the big toe with the two peace fingers on your left hand, and extend the leg up, keeping the right leg long and grounded on your mat.
- Hold for several breaths, releasing on an exhale. (Breathwork is helpful for overall well-being, not just menstrual discomfort.) Repeat on the other side.
Variation: Loop a yoga strap over the sole of your foot, holding both ends of the strap with the same side hand. This is helpful for less flexible yogis.
Why it works: “This pose relieves stress and calms the mind while supporting digestion and relieving low back pain,” Ben-Yoseph says, adding that in the yoga tradition, “touching a teacher’s foot is a sign of reverence, and this pose is a great way to show yourself some love.”
Pose 5: Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Helps with: cramps
- Begin by sitting on the floor with legs butterflied and soles of the feet pressing together.
- Grasp the skin, ankle, or big toe of each foot with the first and second fingers of your hands.
- Keeping your back straight and spine lengthened, allow your thighs to fall toward the floor. Feel an opening of the hips.
Variation: Sit on a bolster or folded blanket if your hips or groins are tight.
Why it works: Opening the hips and pelvic area allows for deep belly breathing, which can alleviate intense pain. This is also a good pose to diffuse the ache that can travel down into the legs with cramping, Avery says.
Bonus tip: Consider diffusing clary sage essential oil as a pairing to this pose “to bring a dose of positive, happy, feminine energy into this sacred time of the month,” Avery suggests.
Pose 6: Garland Pose (Malasana)
Helps with: anxiety, stress
- Begin in Mountain Pose, holding your hands to your heart.
- Lift up onto your toes, bend your knees, and slowly lower into a squat with your heels lifted.
- Now, let your tailbone drop and heels descend toward the ground, with your elbows pressing into your knees, hands at heart, chest up, and space between your shoulder blades.
Variation: Extend your arms in front of you. Then, wrap them in front of your shins, grabbing opposite hands or a strap, or cupping your heels. For a gentler variation, put a wedge or folded blanket under your heels, and keep your hands at heart center.
Why it works: “This pose works wonders for anxiety and stress while sharpening focus,” Ben-Yoseph says. “It [also] alleviates menstrual discomfort and low back pain while improving balance.”