Get Sufficient Rest. If you do nothing else for yourself, rest during the first day or two of your period, and you'll be amazed at how much better you feel the rest of the month.
Be Selfish.The first day or two of your period is your time for quiet reflection. Don't use this time to cook elaborate meals or invite friends over. Do things that make you feel good about being you.
Exercise in Moderation.Unless you are plagued with debilitating cramps the first day of your period, exercise is fine; just don't overdo it. Walking or gentle yoga stretches work best. During the rest of the month, a consistent yoga practice and moderate aerobic exercise can help alleviate PMS and menstrual problems.
Beware of Food Cravings. If you crave sweet or junk food just before your period, Dr. Lonsdorf suggests pacifying the salt craving first as that sometimes mitigates the desire for sweets. But don't turn to chips and salsa; instead, cook something seasoned with salt—that should satisfy you longer. If you still crave sugar, she recommends a cup of warm water sweetened with honey.
Eat Pacifying Foods.Prepare warm foods that are easy to digest such as rice, cooked green vegetables, and beans. Avoid cold, raw foods, as well as ama-creating foods such as red meat, cheese, and chocolate. Sip warm water throughout the day to break up excess ama.
Modify Your Routine.Baths disrupt the natural rhythms of your menstrual flow, so shower the first four days of your period. After that, treat yourself to a warm oil massage or a facial to balance the nervous system and soothe the mind. Once or twice a month, rub warm sesame oil into your hair, leave it in for a few hours (or overnight), and shampoo it out. Whenever you can, wear menstrual pads, not tampons, especially during the first few days of your period, to encourage the downward flow of blood.
Linda Sparrowe is former managing editor and current contributing editor of Yoga Journal. This article is adapted from her upcoming book (with Patricia Walden) on yoga and women's health, to be published by Shambhala in the fall of 2002.