Your yoga mat is probably the last place you want to be during your monthly cycle and that’s perfectly alright. This is the time to take a step back, relax, breathe and reconnect with your body. In fact, from the time PMS (premenstrual syndrome) starts a few days before itself you may not want to practice yoga. If you’re experiencing headaches, fatigue, back pain, nausea/ vomiting, mood swings, increase or decrease in appetite, you’re likely to want to curl up in bed and rest it out.
The good news is you don’t have to practice yoga asanas. There are many other yoga practices that are deeply relaxing and soothing for the system, especially when you’re dealing with PMS conditions or period cramps. While certain restorative yoga asanas can stretch cramped muscles and relieve conditions like back pain, doing simple practices can de-stress the system, calm the nervous system and help you relax. Let’s look at what these relaxing practices you can do during your period.
Relaxing Practices During Period
The guided relaxation technique, known as Yoga Nidra, is extremely beneficial in relaxing the mind and body, alleviating pain and reducing stress. Yoga Nidra works on the subconscious and unconscious mind helping you let go of old impressions that your system is used to. The practice is done by lying down on the back, in Corpse pose, which is itself very relaxing for the back. During this practice, all you have to do is lay still, listen to the teacher or recording and breathe deeply. You’ll notice the deep relaxation and tranquility flowing through your system.
Practicing meditation is also extremely beneficial at this time. Your awareness is also heightened and stronger during this time. A few types of meditations you can do are body-scan meditation, visualization, breath and Ajapa Japa, among others. Apply Mudras such as Chin Mudra and Jnana Mudra for deeper focus and simply allow yourself to sit in silence and observe your thoughts.
Mantra chanting is another deeply soothing practice. The vibrations from the chants will induce a tranquilizing and relaxing effect. Om, Mahamrityunjaya, and the Gayatri mantra, among others are a few useful practices. You can also combine mantra chanting with Mudras. Doing a guided practice is useful where you can play a recording of the mantra of your choice while sitting in a meditative posture and applying Chin or Jnana Mudra.
Practice deep Ujjayi (Oceans or Victorious Breath) Pranayama without any Kumbhakas (breath retention) or Bandhas (locks). Start with 8-10 rounds of deep Ujjayi breathing. You can do this in a seated posture or lying down. You can also combine Ujjayi breathing with meditation and mudras. Place the palms in Chin or Jnana mudra. Ujjayi is known for its calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulates the vagus nerve, reducing stress and tension from the body.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Another deeply relaxing Pranayama is Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana. This breathing exercise is also known to reduce stress and tension, soothe and relax the mind and body, and helps release blockages. It also brings about balance and harmony. Same as Ujjayi, practice this without any Kumbhakas or Bandhas. Start with 8-10 rounds and gradually increase it if comfortable.
Humming Bee Breath
Known as Brahmari Pranayama, this breathing technique is known for its stress-relieving impact. It reduces headaches and tension, relieves stress, and has a soothing and tranquilizing effect on the system. The vibrations from the practice raise the vibrations in the body and mind, improving energy levels and leaving you with a revitalized feeling.
Deep Abdominal Breathing
If you're not up for anything else, a simple practice of deep Abdominal Breathing is also soothing and relaxing. Sit in a meditative posture or lay down on your back. Simply focus on your breath as you inhale deeply into the abdomen and exhale fully. Allow your lungs and abdomen to expand fully with every incoming breath and observe your body relaxing completely with every outgoing breath. Do a few rounds of this and notice your body and mind getting calmer and more relaxed.
Practices to avoid during your period
Remember to avoid dynamic, vigorous and heating exercises during this time. Avoid Shat Kriyas (cleansing techniques), Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), Surya Bhedan (Right Nostril breathing), Kapal Bhati (Frontal Lobe cleansing), etc. These practices add pressure on the abdomen and increase heat in the body. Avoid inversions, fast-paced yoga asanas, posture that put pressure on the abdomen and those that require strength and stamina to get into the posture and to hold the posture.
It’s perfectly accepted to allow yourself to slow down and take it easy during this time. Listen to your body, do as much as you can and rest when needed. Even if you completely take a break and come back to your practice after your cycle is completed, it’s perfectly okay. Even if you practice yoga regularly through the month, you're already balancing your system and preventing irregular periods. So during your cycle, take the time to do what serves you well - your body will thank you for it!