When you’re looking for natural remedies for period cramps, yoga poses that encourage circulation to the pelvis should be at the top of the list. Studies show that yoga can help relieve pain and aches related to menstruation, while also soothing the nervous system.
For maximum drug-free pain relief, take 1 tablespoon of raw honey and use a heating pad for 20 minutes prior to practicing these poses.
New studies show that honey lowers the production of prostaglandins, a group of lipid compounds that control inflammation and blood flow, which are largely responsible for period cramps.
Heating pads, meanwhile, improve circulation to painful areas and have proven themselves to be as effective as pain medication at relieving period cramps overall.
If the below yoga poses for period cramps don’t help, most doctors recommend taking up to 600 mg of Ibuprofen every six hours to decrease prostaglandin buildup, which in turn relieves painful cramps. But first, yoga.
Supta Baddha Konasana aka “Reclining Goddess”
Supta Baddha Konasana, also known as “Reclining Goddess” or “Butterfly Pose”, is a magic bullet yoga pose for ache-y lower back and belly. It is the most commonly recommended yoga posture for period cramps.
To get into this position, sit on the floor with the soles of your feet touching, then lay back onto the ground or a large pillow, letting your knees fall out to the sides. If you feel uncomfortable pulling in your inner thighs or groin, place pillows or yoga blocks under each knee. Hold the pose for 5 minutes or as long as you like. Just be sure to come out of the pose slowly.
Double the effectiveness of this cramp-relieving yoga posture by laying in this pose with a heating pad on your lower abdomen. You can also place the heating pad beneath your pelvis, depending on where your pain originates.
Even though it primarily loosens up the thoracic spine, Bitilasana Marjaryasana— also known as “Cat/Cow Pose”– can also help release tension and stimulate blood flow to the pelvis. This gentle yoga pose relieves period cramps while also releasing tension in the upper neck and shoulders.
To perform this active stretch, start on your hands and knees. Inhale to arch your back so that your head and pelvis tilt up towards the ceiling. (Your back should be arched so that if someone were to place a marble on your spine, it would settle in the middle.)
On the exhale, tuck your tailbone under to round your upper back and exhale, creating a dome-like a rising loaf of bread. On the inhale, repeat the first move, arching your back down so that your belly moves towards the floor and your spine once again creates a “U” shape.
Arch between these “cat” and “cow” postures 10-20 times, breathing with each change of shape. For a gentle guided yoga sequence, see the video, above.
Wide-Kneed Child’s Pose
Balasana, aka Child’s Pose, is one of the most frequently cited “comfort” postures in Yoga, as it is literally named after the fetal position. When you bring your knees slightly wider than your hips, it puts less pressure on your knees, hip flexors, and lower abdomen. Crawl your arms forward and stretch into the floor, reaching far away from your body with your hands. Hold for at least 2 minutes, breathing deeply.
To get more bang for your buck, do a Wide-Kneed Child’s Pose in a steamy shower. This is the ultimate yoga pose for period cramp relief, assuming your tub is clean enough to do it. (And no, you won’t choke on the water pouring down on you.)
Get in the shower and let the water warm up first. Then, when you’re ready, place your knees on the floor of the bathtub so that you are facing the drain. Lean forward into child’s pose so that the running water hits your lower back, almost like a massage jet. Your palms should be on either side of the drain. Hold the position for 1 minute.
Related: Try one of these 9 Free Guided Meditation Videos for coping with anxiety, which tends to spike at the beginning of each period.
Our Comprehensive Guide to Anxiety Relief also explains 25 research-backed ways to keep calm and carry on.
Recipe-wise, you may also want to check out this Healing Hazelnut Beet Salad or this Anti-Inflammatory Olive Oil Quickbread, which is vegan and gluten-free. (Both are from our Mood Recipes column and are great at targeting fatigue and the kind of inflammation that can lead to period pain. Remember: food is medicine!)