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Gentle Cycle

Try these restorative poses for comfort and acceptance.

By Rachel Brahinsky

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If you are like many women, the days before menstruation can be difficult. In addition to emotional swings, you may experience intense headaches, backache, and the abdominal cramping associated with premenstrual syndrome. Sometimes the physical distress is severe enough to make even the steadiest yogini lose her equilibrium.

"PMS creates discomfort. It's only natural to constrict and to want to make it different. Unfortunately, when we struggle against or avoid our pain, we simply create more tension and disharmony," says San Francisco yoga teacher Dina Amsterdam.

During your next cycle, try tuning in to your body before reaching for pain-relieving pills. Amsterdam suggests starting in supported Savasana (Corpse Pose) with your hands resting on your belly. Silently repeat "I am willing to be with myself as I am" as you inhale slowly into the belly, and, on the exhalation, let it fall completely. Practicing yoga with this accepting intention, Amsterdam explains, can help to "invoke greater ease and spaciousness within."

"Say the mantra as you would say it to someone you really care about," she adds. "PMS is really an opportunity to tune in and listen to yourself with more tenderness and intimacy."

In the following sequence, holding each pose for 5 to 10 slow breaths will soften the abdomen and encourage the hips and back to release. You can add another Balasana (Child's Pose) after a relaxed Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose) and any spinal twist that feels good just before Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose). Repeat as needed. "Cultivate a soft, open spaciousness, and allow whatever is congested to unwind," Amsterdam says.

1 Savasana (Corpse Pose), supported
2 Balasana (Child's Pose), wide-kneed variation
3 Bhujangasana(Sphinx Pose), passive variation
4 Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), passive variation
5 Any supine twist (optional)
6 Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), supported

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