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When that time of the month rolls around, you know what that means: cramps. Well, at least that’s the case for some of us who experience PMS or any type of related discomfort. Thankfully, there are some exercises for period relief that may help you get past the worst of it.
Now, you may feel more tired or sluggish than normal while on your period — but we swear that exercise (and movement of any kind) can help relieve some of the pain commonly associated with your period.
“During your period specifically, light aerobic exercises (i.e., walking or light jogging) help increase blood circulation, which can ease menstrual cramps,” says Dr. Monica Grover, chief medical director and OB-GYN for VSPOT. “Activity helps release feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters, which eases menstrual cramps.”
Whether you like running, walking or some simple yoga moves, exercise is exercise no matter how you slice it. To get insight into some exercises for period relief, we’ve tapped a personal trainer and a yoga teacher for the moves, poses and instructions.
1. Cat-Cow Pose
Not in the mood to do any heavy lifting? Mimi Ghandour, founder of MimiYoga.com, suggests practicing some gentle yoga exercises for period relief during that time. “Cat-Cow is great to address period pain because it helps improve blood circulation in your pelvic region,” she says.
How to do it: Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with a neutral spine and your wrists directly over your shoulders and your knees directly over your hips. Inhale as you drop your belly toward the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling. As you exhale, come into Cat-Cow while rounding your spine outward, tucking your tailbone and drawing your pubic bone forward.
2. Downward Dog
For a little more of an active yoga practice, opt for Downward Dog as an exercise for period relief. “Downward Dog may help alleviate period discomfort because it stretches the abdomen and soothes the nervous system,” Ghandour says.
How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees, and lift your knees on the exhale and push your hips up toward the sky. Keep your hands planted and stretch your heels toward the floor. You can peddle out your feet, enjoying feeling the stretch at the back of your legs.
3. Forward Fold
When’s the last time you touched your toes? Try it again to help alleviate some pain next time your period rolls around. “Standing forward folds can help relieve period cramps by relieving tension in the lower back and soothing the nervous system,” Ghandour adds.
How to do it: Start in a standing position with your hands by your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart. On an exhale, hinge forward from your hips while keeping your spine long and your belly engaged. Try to bring your fingertips to the floor (or blocks) as you ground down into the balls of your big toes and your outer heels.
4. Seated Twist
Sarah Bradford, founder of Luna Mother Co and certified personal trainer, suggests a seated floor twist to help relieve period cramps. “The light compression from the twist massages internal organs, helps reduce bloat and releases the low back, which tends to hold a lot of tension during that time of the month,” she says.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you and your ribs stacked over your hips. Bend your right knee and cross your foot over your outstretched left leg. Place your right hand behind you and your left arm to press against your left thigh as you exhale, and twist your torso to the right. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
5. Child’s Pose
Whether you’re on your period or not, Child’s Pose is an excellent exercise to get in tune with your body and relax tight muscles — some of which may be contributing to period-related pain.
“This helps lengthen the spine and release back pain (common with menstruation),” Bradford says. “It creates space in the hips and pelvic floor, improves oxygen flow and helps reduce cramping.”
How to do it: Bring your big toes together and your knees wide. Press your hips back to rest on your heels and your forehead to the floor. Walk your hands out straight in front of you to deepen the stretch. Breathe and relax.
6. Supta Baddha Konasana (or Butterfly Pose)
You might have done this pose as a child, but it’s time to resurrect it when looking for exercises for period relief. “This pose lengthens the hip flexors, releases the low back, and improves blood and oxygen circulation, which can help reduce period pain and bloating and improve flow,” Bradford adds.
How to do it: Lie on your back and bring the bottoms of your feet together, making a diamond shape with your legs (knees bent). Bring one hand to your heart and the other to your belly. Breathe diaphragmatically with your core and pelvic floor relaxed and hold for a full minute.
7. Glute Bridge
Try adding some glute bridges into your exercise regimen to help reduce bloating and minimize back pain. “This helps strengthen the core and glutes, which can reduce back pain, get the blood flowing through the core and low back, and helps reduce bloating,” Bradford says.
How to do it: Lie on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Make sure you can skim the back of your heels with your fingertips. If not, walk your feet closer to your body. On an exhale, draw your pelvic floor in and up, and wrap your deep core like a corset around your torso as you press your hips upward, squeezing the glutes. Inhale as you come back down. Repeat for 60 seconds.