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There’s no denying it—that time of the month can be painful. If you’re experiencing period cramps, you may want to lay on the couch all day until you start to feel better. And while that is entirely permissible, gentle movement like yoga may actually help relieve your period cramps. Colleen Boland, a California-based yoga teacher, says that practicing poses that generate movement through your pelvic region during your period can help ease cramping in that area. Additionally, the effectiveness of this type of movement isn’t limited to those days when you’re stocking up on feminine products. Regular movement and activity throughout your cycle may also reduce the severity and prevalence of period cramps.
First, remember that your period is completely unique to you. Boland says it’s critical to listen to your body, and practice only in a way that feels right to you—no matter where you are in your cycle. You may crave an intense hot yoga practice or just want to sit in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) for a few minutes. Both of these choices are completely OK.
The days of your menstrual cycle can also help guide your practice. By day three or four of your period, when your cramps decrease, you may opt to increase the amount of movement you’re doing, Boland says.
By practicing pelvic movements and creating compression around the uterine area, you can stimulate blood flow to the pelvic area, Boland says. This type of movement can offer nourishment to pelvic tissue, which ultimately reduces cramping, she says. In addition to physical postures, Boland offers a reminder of how powerful your breath can be in alleviating discomfort. “Being able to listen to your body and tap into how you’re feeling begins with focused intentional breathing,” she says.
Boland says this is one of her favorite yoga poses for period cramps, especially if the cramps you’re experiencing are particularly intense. While in this pose, she suggests creating small circles to generate movement and awareness in your pelvic area. If you’re at the beginning of your period, this is a great pose to offer some relief—without requiring too much active movement.
If you would prefer not to do a seated twisting posture, Boland recommends trying Supine Spinal Twist on your back. With this gentle twist, you generate movement in your pelvic region—without being too strenuous on your physical body. If your cramping is less severe, you can twist a little deeper in this pose. However, if you’re feeling more pain or discomfort in your midsection, a slight twist will still offer your body relief.(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
You’ll want to grab a prop for this version of Child’s Pose. “Take a towel and place it at the crease of your hips and do a wide-legged Child’s Pose,” Boland says. “Just have that compression against the space just above your pelvis to really help nourish the tissue.” While this pose can feel a bit more intense than other gentle poses, Boland says it generates a lot of relief in your pelvic region.(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
Like Supine Spinal Twist, this twisting posture can generate movement throughout your midsection—and offer you some relief from painful period cramps. By contracting through your midsection with this seated twist, Boland says you’re supporting the health of those tissues. Remember to only twist as far as feels comfortable for you and your body.(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
If you’re craving a bit more movement in your practice, try Revolved Triangle Pose. Boland says this active posture replicates the benefits of seated twisting postures. In this pose, you’ll continue to support the tissue in your pelvic region, stimulating blood flow to help relieve those period cramps or pelvic discomfort.(Photo: Getty Images)
This pose is a great posture for opening up the pelvic region, Boland says. However, you may choose to pass on this posture if your period cramps are more intense—and that’s completely OK. On the other hand, if you’re craving a bit more activity, this pose can help support the tissue around the pelvic area, alleviating that period pain.
See also: On Your Period? Try This 30-Minute Practice for Chi Flow