PMS can be a pain. Fortunately, fitness can help!
Experts agree that different exercises can actually alleviate a woman's discomfort caused by her period.
Check out ten of the best exercises to use (below) when that time of the month comes rolling around.
How it helps: "The undulation of the spine gently stretches out and loosens the lower back (which tends to get tight and ache during PMS), and the abs gently contract and stretch so that the abdomen feels less tense," says Lara Hudson, star of the 10 Minute Solution: Pilates for Beginners DVD.
How to do it: On all fours, exhale and gently curl your spine so that your tailbone and the crown of your head point down to the floor and your stomach pulls up into your back. Then, inhale and arch your spine in the other direction, arching your back and bringing the crown of your head and your tailbone up to the ceiling. Repeat this movement eight times.
How it helps: This move is great for PMS because it stretches the low back and hips with a gentle twisting motion – both areas that tend to hold tension during PMS. The twisting motion also helps to relieve tension in the abdomen with a mild 'wringing out' of the uterus, Hudson says.
How to do it: Laying on your back, stretch your arms into a T shape, bend your knees, and place the soles of your feet on the floor, close to your hips. Inhale as you lower your knees to the right, doing your best to keep the opposite shoulder on the floor. Next, exhale and draw your abdominals in to bring your knees back up to center. Repeat by tick-tocking the knees to the left, and exhale again to bring them to center. Repeat the tic/toc motion 5 times on each side. "Be sure to keep the knees squeezed together as if you're holding a $100 bill between them, so that the tic/toc motion stretches all the way up into the spine," Hudson says.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana):
How it helps: Research shows that stress can make PMS symptoms worse. According to a study done by NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, women who were stressed up to two weeks prior to their period were two to four times more likely to report severe symptoms. Lessen your stress, and your symptoms, with this relaxing pose that can help calm the nervous system, suggests Ellen Barrett, star of the Yogini Workout DVD.
How to do it: Lie comfortably on your back and bring the soles of your feet together to touch. Allow your legs to 'flop' open and relax. Place the palms of your hands on the lower abdominal wall, and bring your attention to the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale. Hold for 1 -5 minutes, Barrett says
Forward Bend Straddle:
How it helps: Cramps stopping you in your tracks? This exercise is not only calming, but it can also help relieve cramps, Barrett says.
How to do it: From a seated upright position open your legs into a straddle approximately 3 feet apart. Inhale and sit tall, then exhale and hinge forward at the hips, using your arms like a kickstand. Bend as far forward as is comfortable and hold for 1-5 minutes, Barrett says.
How it helps: "Most women experience tightness in their low backs, and have lower abdominal pain before and during menstruation," says Lisa Hubbard, star of the new Element: Total Body Pilates with Mini Ball. And, if your abdominals are weak, it can make your lower back and hip flexors tight - which could make your PMS symptoms worse. This move helps mobilize the spine and focuses on hamstring, adductor (inner thighs), and abdominal strength, Hubbard says.
How to do it: Lying on your back with your knees bent, place your feet on the floor hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Exhale and draw your abdominals inward, tilting your pubic bone towards the ceiling and imprinting your lower back into the mat. Inhale to return. Repeat 8 times. (For an added inner thigh bonus, place a small pillow or a soft ball between your knees and hold it in place while performing this move).
How it helps: This move assists in spinal rotation and stretch of the spine and focuses on abdominal and oblique muscles, plus it feels great, Hubbard says.
How to do it: Lying on your back, bring your arms into a T-position. Bring your right leg up into a 90-degree angle and then the left. Keeping your knees and feet pressed together, inhale and rotate the hips to the right, maintaining the 90-degree angle of the legs, then exhale back to the center. Alternate sides. Repeat 6-8 times. For an extra challenge, place a small pillow or a soft ball between your knees and hold it in place while performing this move.
How it helps: PMS got your emotions running high? Does your back hurt? This move can help release tension and stress while you massage the muscles around the back of your pelvic area, says Lynn Anderson Ph.D., creator of Aero*boga™.
How to do it: Start sitting in a crossed legged position. Make fist with your hands, and lean forward and place your fists onto the lower part of your back. Next, lean forward and pound lightly with your fists, with your eyes closed. Do this for about 1 minute. Then sit up, and take in a deep breath, Anderson says.
How it helps: This pose can help relieve cramps, decompress the spine, and may also help eliminate upset stomachs, which are common with PMS, says Tamal Dodge, star of the new Element: Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners DVD kit.
How to do it: Lie face down, with your legs extended. Plant your palms on the ground by your sides so that your wrists are under your elbows. Take a big inhale and then press your hands into the floor as you lift your chest about 6 inches off of the ground, rolling the shoulders back and leading with your heart. Keep the elbows snug to your sides and the buttocks firm, but not tight. Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds breathing deep, and then release, Dodge says.
Dry Land Swimming:
How it helps: This move helps release pain-reducing endorphins and helps you focus your mind on coordination and breathing instead of your symptoms, says Karyn Klein and Gretchen Zelek, creators of Do or Die Fitness. It’s also a great way to develop back strength, which may help alleviate the lower back pain common during your period.
How to do it: Lay face down with your arms stretched straight out in front of you, shoulder blades pressed down and away from your ears. Extend your legs straight and together off the floor, with your head facing down. Pull in your abdominals, lengthen your spine, and then repeat a flutter-simulating vigorous swimming movement, alternating arms and legs (right arm and left leg, left arm and right leg), while inhaling for 5 counts and exhaling for 5 counts. Continue for 10-15 counts.
How it helps: "This pose helps you to eliminate the build up of anxiety in your body whether it be in your stomach, or even having a headache. Savasana is one of the greatest stress outlets in yoga which is optimal for women during PMS," Dodge says.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your legs extended out and your arms by your sides. Keep your eyes closed and let your feet, knees, and palms drop open. Start to deepen your breath into a slow rhythm as to relax the muscles in the body creating an even pulse. Hold the pose for 5-10 minutes, breathing slowly and deeply. "Savasana is about letting go of your responsibilities, obligations, stresses, and worries. It's about being the witness to your body and mind versus the participants, letting your body and mind recharge and rejuvenate from the insides out without any hindrance or distraction," Dodge says.