Written by Taerim Lee
We all know that staying in bed, bingeing your favourite show along with a hot water bottle and a tub of ice cream, or maybe some chocolate bites are the go-to ritual during your period. To make your mood even worse, menstrual cramps don’t help either. But this is the time there are in fact a variety of exercises you can practise to brighten your day and lighten the pain.
Which Exercise I Best During Your Period?
Periods should not stop you from practising your favourite sport, and we do have some tips about exercise performance and the menstrual cycle. The physical and mental benefits of exercise do not stop just because of your period. But during this timeframe, progesterone and oestrogen are at their lowest point in the cycle, which can make you feel like you have no energy. This means that just staying in bed will not save more energy, instead, trying new less strenuous workouts can be a great alternative! One of the most recommended ones is yoga, which helps to decrease period symptoms like fatigue and mood swings, and relaxes your body to reduce the pain.
How To Choose What's Best For You
There are many types of yoga to choose from, all with various focus points and benefits. For instance, Vinyasa yoga offers a sequence of classic yoga poses, like the sun salutation sequence. Here, you “flow” between movements, and this fluidity helps to sync your breath with your body’s movements, creating a calming effect. You could consider it as “moving meditation”. This could be a great one to choose during your period, as it warms up your body and helps to light up your mood.
Another option would be Ashtanga yoga, which is similar to Vinyasa, but it offers a more strictly set sequence of poses and a greater emphasis on meditation. So, if you’re looking for a mental health boost, this would be the one to go with. Ashtanga yoga would be a great choice two weeks into your menstrual cycle if you frequently experience brain fog. But if you want to target period pain relief, Iyengar and restorative yoga would be the best option. They offer slow-style yoga, poses for long periods, including props, like yoga blocks and straps. It is also a great choice for those who do not have full-body mobility, as it helps with alignment. It is great to practise during and two or three days before your period, as it would relax your body to lessen the cramps to reduce further symptoms.
It all depends on what you want to target, but syncing different yoga routines with the menstrual cycle would be a great choice to benefit from all!
What Exercise Should Be Avoided On Your Period?
There are other interesting types of yoga that are loved by many but should be avoided during your period. One of them, called hot yoga, is based on a series of 26 poses practised in the heat. It is known for its mood boost, detoxification, and weight loss, but might also cause dehydration, dizziness, light headedness, and difficulty in breathing. These negative effects might affect you even more during your period, and it would be safer to refrain from practising these types of yoga that are performed in different conditions during this part of the menstrual cycle.
If you don’t want to choose a specific type of yoga, how about creating your own personalised routine? The most common body parts to experience period cramps are your belly, pelvis, hips, and lower back. Pain relief in these areas can be targeted through yoga poses. These are three that you could try:
Balasana / Adapted Child’s Pose
This pose targets back pain, and you can position your knees farther apart than typical for more effective pain relief. To add something extra, you can move your head and arms from one side to another, for relaxed hips and gentle lower back stretch.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana / Pigeon pose
Start in an upright sitting position, bend one knee, and extend the other behind you, arch your back, and extend your arms over your head, bringing your hands together. If you feel comfortable in this position, you can bend the extended leg and touch your head (as seen in the picture). This pose helps to relax the hips, as they carry most of the stress of the menstrual cramps.
Chakravakasana / Cat cow
This pose targets the back and abdominal muscles. While you do this, keep an eye on your knees and hand, they should be aligned with your hips and shoulders! For the cat pose, curl your back, as if someone was pulling your belly upwards. For the cow pose, stretch your head upwards, as if your chest was looking at the sky. Breathing is also key, inhale in cow pose, exhale in cat pose.
All in all, regular exercise is great for your body and mind, and you can still keep up with this during your period. It is also important to keep in mind that periods should not refrain people from pursuing their sports interests. Fab Little Bag joined forces with We Are Girls in Sport to campaign free period products in sports venues! We are working to create more environmentally friendly and welcoming conditions for people during periods. So just keep in mind: listen to your body, try different workouts, and celebrate what your body is capable of!