At a time when a young woman needs to keep her body healthy and active more than ever, many young girls tend to abandon the sports and activities of their childhood and become more sedentary, often needing to spend more time focussing on study or part-time work. This of course becomes a Catch-22 situation because the more they suffer period pains and discomfort, the less they tend to participate in healthy activities. All yoga asanas are very effective for alleviating period pain caused by poor circulation, particularly the Shakti Bandhas series which focus on pelvic circulation. Whereas a teenage girl who is a bit embarrassed about her changing body might not want to go out for sport or exercise in public, some private yoga work at home in her bedroom might be a more acceptable option.
Sufferers of period pain also tend to be constipated. Constipation can be caused by poor diet as well as lack of exercise. And of course, around the time of first menstruation is when girls get particularly paranoid about body weight and their feminine shape. They have heard that “the hormones make you put on weight”, and “the shape you are during puberty is the shape you keep for life”. In avoidance of this, they tend to skip meals, eat too much processed rubbish, and take up smoking.
If the bowels tend to sluggishness during the non-menstrual phases of the cycle, then that predisposition increases the likelihood of more severe constipation at the time of the period when the body has to work twice as hard to expel two waste products. The remedy for this situation is attention to diet and exercise, not only in the days preceding menstruation but all throughout the month; cleansing techniques to get the bowels and blood flowing; relaxation to let go of blockages. Under guidance, it may also be appropriate to miss each evening meal for a few days prior to menstruation, as this helps to lighten the work load on the body when it is at rest.
Period pain experienced by an older woman, particularly one who has had children, may be an indicator of a more serious problem, but not necessarily. Persistent pain which gets worse with each cycle, particularly if accompanied by any breakthrough bleeding in the middle of the cycle, should be thoroughly investigated by a gynae-cologist. If a physical cause is found, then along with the medical recommendations, yoga can still be of great benefit. Possible causes may be: ovarian cysts, endometriosis, reaction to IUD’s, or cancer.
The uterus can also exhibit pain because of some mental blockage about the menstruation process. This can be linked to the mindset of “holding on” which some people do uncon-sciously to their bowels and bladder when out in public or at other people’s houses. Holding in faeces or urine when you are not near a toilet is one thing, but the uterus is a much less controllable organ, more programmed to doing its own thing, as women soon discover upon entering labour! To mentally try to inhibit what the uterus needs to do (during menstruation or any time) will cause conflict within the body, and thereby pain. Most child bearers have learned that one! But even a more mature woman can suffer with period pain that is psychosomatic. Stress, tiredness, relationship hassles, confusion about maternal desires, these sorts of things need honest self reflection and lifestyle reconsideration as well as some yoga, relaxation and meditation.
It is very important that sufferers of dys-menorrhoea follow a daily practice program of yoga right through each cycle, not just during the time of menstruation. For a full program of recommended practices See Prescriptive Yoga Program – “Dysmenorrhoea” on page 2014.
PMS is the generic name given to a collection of conditions some women experience in the days preceding the onset of menstruation. The approach of menstruation accompanies a strong change in the level of a woman’s reproductive hormones. Whilst oestrogen and progesterone both drop, there is a slight increase in the “menstrual clock hormone” FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone). This combined effect can cause an enormous number of physical and psychological conditions such as: PMT, pimple outbreaks, dry skin, sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, impatience, constipation, loss of appetite, food cravings, low libido, general headaches, migraines, tiredness, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, irrationality, abdominal bloating, insomnia, sore breasts, lower immunity leading to increased viral and bacterial infections, aching back, aching pelvis, aching legs, increased urination, and even more! One book I saw listed 50 symptoms!
For some women only a slight discomfort is felt, with maybe only a symptom or two manifesting, whereas for