Yoga for PMS

Pregnancy comes with a unique set of woes: There's an alien in your body. Your body isn't yours anymore. Your body is huge and swollen. Your body is going to birth a child, impossibly (yet possible). But at the end of it, you get a sweet little snugly baby, so all the suffering feels earned. On the contrary, the mood-swinging, back-aching, cranky-making, cramp-inducing days before menstruation result only in, um, bleeding. Good times.

So if you're pregnant, please go ahead and pause for a moment of gratitude. No PMS! No period! At least for a while, anyway.

After S was born, it was over a year before my period started again. A joyful, joyful year. A year of equanimity and patience. A year of cute panties every week of the month. Your period can start as early as 6 weeks postpartum; I just lucked out. No one told me, though, that when it did return, it would be the Period To End All Periods. The first period was debilitating in terms of mood, cramps, and sheer volume (TMI). The second was only slightly better.

Much has been written about yoga and the poses that can help you find relief from PMS symptoms, and that's for a reason. Yoga does help. But unlike my pre-baby days, it's harder to fit in the self-care now that I can't do a 30 minute restorative yoga session that ends with ice cream and Netflix. I have to feed S and bathe her and cuddle her. I still have to be Mama, even when my PMS is making me an anxious mess, I ate Pirate's Booty and half a chocolate bar "for lunch," and I just called my husband a name I hope my daughter never, ever repeats. Yep.



When you don't have time to devote to a long practice, but you're in the throes of PMS hell, here are some tips.

  • Breathe. Yes, of course. Do that. In particular, deep, open-mouthed sighing can trigger your body to calm down if you're feeling anxious, sad, or overwhelmed.Sighing calms you, and deep breathing requires no equipment: you can experience the relief of big, calming sighs while changing a diaper. When you feel the intrusion of unpleasant or gripping thoughts, try a little sighing. (Also, when you're focused on your breath, it's harder to call your loved ones bad names.)
  • Child's pose, cat pose, or downward-facing dog at the wall can offer some low-back relief. Try moving into these poses and squirming your hips from side-to-side. Low-back tightness is a common PMS symptom, but the squirmy version of these low-back stretches can be especially relieving.
  • If you do have 10-15 minutes, practice some restorative yoga. In particular, legs-up-the wall (which Lauren discusses here) can help with cramps and bloating. I tend to always feel better after supported fish pose (pictured above), and others love supported bridge pose. Regardless of what you practice, resting in stillness will help.