Cramps. Many of us have experienced them in varying levels of intensity. If you’re here, chances are that you’re looking for some relief.
You may be wondering why anyone would want to get up and exercise(?!) when your body is hurting, during your period. Staying in bed, eating some good food, and binging a show might seem SO much more appealing right now, but, getting up and doing some simple stretches might actually help with pain relief.
Sounds strange? Here’s why it works—when you’re on your period, your uterine muscles begin contracting to push out the uterine lining (i.e. your period blood). This causes pain and inflammation, along with potential mood swings due to your fluctuating hormone levels.
Exercising, known to cause the release of endorphins, can help elevate your mood. It can also help in overall circulation, preventing the headaches and pain caused by inflammation, and it’s even said to help reduce fatigue!
So give it a shot! Here are five super simple stretches you could try at home. We recommend using an exercise mat or a carpet of some sort, so as to not hurt your joints!
1. Child’s Pose, or Widened Child’s Pose
This is a simple stretch, known to be good in relieving your back, hips, and thighs, and is particularly useful for lower back pain.
Bring your hands and knees to the floor or your exercise mat, and make sure the tops of your toes are touching the ground. Slowly, move your glutes back, bringing your stomach towards your thighs. Bring your forehead to the floor (or as close as you can) and rest it - you may use an exercise block, or a pillow if you need to. You should feel rested, with your knees folded under you, and your hands stretched out in front.
Stay in this pose and breathe deeply. You may also try repeating this pose with your knees spread wider, opening your hips up. Go as wide as is comfortable for you!
2. Cat-Cow Stretches
Known for helping with relaxation, this stretch rounds, and arches the spine. Each movement is linked to inhales and exhales, so remember to pay attention to your breathing!
Bring your hands and knees to the exercise mat and keep your shoulders and hips stacked on top (you should form a tabletop with your back). Inhale deeply, and arch your head and neck up, looking towards the ceiling (or the sky!). Hold for a few seconds, and then exhale, rounding your back, pushing its center upwards, and tucking your chin and head under. Hold for another few seconds and then repeat. You’ll start to feel more relaxed after just a few of these!
Photos from Yoga Journal
3. Pelvic Tucks / Supported Bridge Pose
Engaging your abdomen and glutes, this stretch can help release some of the muscle tightness caused by cramping.
Begin by lying flat on your back. Bring your feet towards your glutes, keeping them flat on the ground. Slowly, lift your hips upward, keeping your head, neck, and shoulders on the ground. Make sure you’re using your core muscles to lift, and not using too much force. Bring your hips as high as possible, so that the space under you resembles somewhat of a right-angled triangle, with the highest point being your knees. Hold for a few seconds, and then slowly lower your hips back down. Repeat as many times as you like!
Photo from Yoga Journal
4. Happy Baby Pose
Practiced frequently in pilates and yoga, this pose stretches the groin, inner thigh, and hamstrings, while also opening up your shoulders, chest, and hips. This, too, is a relaxing pose, and all things considered, perfect for when you’re on your period!
Begin by lying on your back and making sure your spine feels alright - not too curved, not too stretched. You’ll know you’re fine if your tailbone rests on the ground. Bring your knees in toward your chest, ensuring your hips don't lift off the ground. Flex your feet, so your soles are parallel to the ceiling. Bring your hands up and reach for your big toes. Ring your fingers around them, and gently pull in, bringing your knees further towards you. You can even rock back and forth gently, massaging your spine and deepening your stretch.
You should feel a nice pull in your hamstrings, and with some breathing, you’ll notice your hips open up. Don’t forget to breathe deeply through all of this!
Photos from Yoga Journal
5. Bound Angle Pose
This stretch is perfect for ending any exercise session, also aimed at relaxing while opening up the groin and hips.
Carrying on from the previous “happy baby” stretch, continue lying on your back. Bring your knees up with your feet to the floor. Slowly, let your knees drop down, towards the sides, while bringing the soles of your feet together. Stretch them as wide as is comfortable, and stay in this pose for as long as you can. Once again, remember to breathe deeply, slowly deepening your stretch with every exhale.
Photo from Yoga Journal
Phew! We hope you feel less crampy after trying these out.
Note that high-intensity exercise during your period may end up leaving you more fatigued - we recommend keeping it simple, but you know your body best! Remember, it’s important to constantly be listening to your body, only doing as much as is good for YOU.
Despite all the benefits of stretches and exercise, some days might just call for blankets and binging Netflix...
..and that’s okay too!