When you’ve got period cramps, the last thing you probably want to do is exercise. Curling up under the covers with a pint of ice cream and binge-watching the new season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sounds like it’d be much more enjoyable when Aunt Flo pays her monthly visit. But it turns out that movement—yoga, specifically—can actually ease some of your period-related pain. Here, top yoga instructors share their go-to poses for relieving the period cramps.
- Reclining Butterfly Pose
This restorative pose, also known as Supta Baddha Konasana, is a favorite of yoga instructor Lauren Eckstrom. “I especially love this pose because it helps open the belly, release the hips, and open through the pelvic floor,” says Eckstrom. “I’m prone toward backaches during my period, so I especially love the addition of a bolster under the spine for additional back pain relief and support.”
How to do the pose: Sit on the floor, bringing the soles of your feet together with your knees out to the sides so that your legs make a diamond shape. Then, lie back on the floor and use a bolster if necessary. Stay in the pose for five to 20 minutes, suggests Eckstrom.
- Bridge Pose Variation
“This posture will help relieve tension in the pelvic region as well as relax the ovaries,” says Rebecca Dalley, yoga instructor and trainer at Red Mountain Resort.
How to do the pose: Lie on your back and grab your ankles. Inhale, lifting your hips as high as you can, then exhale and lower your hips back down to the floor. Dalley recommends doing this for at least a minute.
- Child’s Pose
Child’s pose isn’t just good for when you need a break during a yoga class—it’s useful when you’re on your period, too. “This shape calms both the mind and body and stretches the lower back, great for easing any cramping in the back body,” says Beckie Warren, yoga instructor at The Studio at Primary. “Since the pose itself is not too strenuous, most people can hold this shape for a good amount of time—three to five minutes—which allows for a deep release in the low back as well as the hips and shoulders.”
How to do the pose: While sitting on your shins, spread your knees wide, keeping your big toes touching and bow forward. Your forehead should touch the floor, your arms should be extended long, and your butt should touch your heels.
- Deep Squat
“This posture will help release pressure on the lower back and stretch the inner thighs and groin area,” explains Dalley. Ahhh, sweet, sweet relief!
How to do the pose: Stand with your legs slightly wider than your hips, turn your toes out slightly, and release your body into a deep squat. Dalley suggests resting in the pose for several minutes.
- Standing Forward Fold
“Cramping in the uterus often leads to pain that radiates down the backs of the legs,” says Warren. “By simply folding forward at the hip creases with a slight bend in the knees, this pose lengthens the spine and stretches the hips, hamstrings, calves, and back.”
How to do the pose: Begin standing up in mountain pose with your hands on your hips. Bend forward at your hips. While you’re in your forward fold, grab opposite elbows and let your head hang heavy. “This allows gravity to do some of the work,” says Warren.
Think about how good your back feels when you do cat/cows. “This posture will create movement that will help release stuck energy and tension in the abdomen and the back,” says Dalley. “It will also facilitate movement of Prana [life force] as you focus on the breath.”
How to do the pose: Get down on all fours and inhale as you release, arching your back and lifting your chest while you look up. Exhale and round your spine, bringing your chin toward your chest. Do this pose for several minutes, says Dalley.
- Legs Up the Wall
“Our bodies are exhausted when menstruating, so it’s nice to be able to get some circulation going without going into a full blown inversion like handstand or headstand,” says Warren. “The pelvic muscles naturally release and relax in this position elevating menstrual cramping.” Inverting your legs and feet can also help reduce swelling and pain your lower extremities, says Warren.
How to do the pose: Set yourself up a few inches away from the wall with a bolster or other support. Swing your legs up onto the wall and lower your back to the floor so that your shoulders and head are resting on the floor. Stay in the pose for five to 10 minutes.