That time of the month can be a real doozy. Depending on your symptoms, it can come with muscle pain, abdominal cramps, whole body aches, digestive troubles, headaches, nausea, fatigue or all of the above. Naturally, this is a time when we feel like curling up with a heat pack rather than exercising. I am all for that, however, gentle exercise and stretching can actually help to relieve some of these symptoms and make you feel a whole lot better.
We are all pretty familiar with the fact that exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that relieve pain, reduce stress and improve mood. There is even evidence to suggest that exercising three times per week can reduce the need for painkiller medications. We talk about a ‘runner's high’ but you don't have to run to reap these benefits. Any movement will do and 5-10 minutes is all you need, so even though it’s the last thing you feel like doing, the science is there to tell us that it works.
In addition to the widespread effect of these endorphins, we also know that regular exercise helps mental health and mood. It’s normal to feel a bit flat during parts of our cycle and exercising is a great way to combat this low mood. Getting outside in the fresh air for Pilates or a walk is ideal, but even an indoor class near natural light will make a big difference.
Pilates can be particularly helpful in reducing period pain because you can focus quite specifically on the areas that feel tight and sore - the hips, inner thighs, lower back and neck. A lot of Our Pilates classes focus on stretching these areas, opening the hips and mobilising the joints of your spine. While you may not feel like doing any strong core strengthening exercises, any of the classes in our Calm category are ideal during this time.
My top stretches for relieving period pain:
Wide leg forward fold
Open your legs as wide as you comfortably can, sit up tall on your sit bones then fold forward reaching towards your ankles or feet. Hold for 5 breaths, focusing on expanding your rib cage each time you inhale. Repeat x 3
Sit with your legs in a Z position, aiming to get both sit bones as close to the ground as you can. Open your arms wide then place one hand on the ground beside you as you stretch the other arm over head. Hold for 2 breaths then tip over to the other side. Alternate x 3 each side, then swap your legs over and repeat.
Hip Flexor stretch
Start in a kneeling position, with one foot forward and both knees at 90 degrees (place a towel under your knee for comfort). Tuck your pubic bone towards your belly button to open the front of your hip, reach this hand towards the ceiling and your other hand towards the floor. Hold 5 breaths, x 2 each side.
Wide knee child’s pose
Start on your hands and knees, open your knees wide and keep your toes together. Tuck your tailbone under then sit your hips back towards your heels and reach your arms forward. Rest your forehead on the ground and hold for 10 breaths.
Start on your hands and knees, bring one knee forward and place your ankle behind the opposite wrist. Slide your back leg out long and lower yourself down slowly over your front leg. Stay up on your hands or lower down to your elbows or forehead depending on your flexibility. Hold for 10 breaths.
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