If you're all too familiar with crying jags, sore breasts, angry outbursts, bloating, and chocolate cravings once a month, join the crowd. Almost 40 percent of American women go through the torture of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
But regular yoga practice helps prevent PMS symptoms in three ways. First, it releases endorphins, the body's natural mood-elevating compounds, says Linda Sparrowe, coauthor (with Patricia Walden) of Yoga for a Healthy Menstrual Cycle (Shambhala, 2004). Second, it calms the central nervous system and increases the flow of oxygenated blood to the reproductive organs. Third, it eases stress and encourages deep relaxation, which further mutes the symptoms of PMS.
Sparrowe recommends 30 minutes of active yoga, including standing poses and inversions—such as Handstand and Shoulderstand—at least four times a week. If depression is part of your PMS, she suggests opening the chest with gentle backbends. "Backbends lift the spirits," she says. However, for PMS days and the first two days of a menstrual period, Sparrowe recommends restorative poses instead.
To boost the effects of yoga, you can also experiment with Ayurvedic treatments for specific symptoms. In Ayurveda, PMS is considered an imbalance of apana vayu, the force that regulates menstruation, childbirth, urination, and moving the bowels, says Michele Khalef, a yoga therapist at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ayurvedic prescriptions vary depending on the doshic imbalance related to the PMS symptoms.
VATA VERTIGO If you suffer from mood swings and anxiety—vata imbalances—steer clear of cold and raw
foods. Instead, stick to soups, rice, and cooked vegetables.
PITTA PANGS If you find yourself becoming irritable and craving sweets—pitta imbalances—avoid foods that are hot and spicy.
KAPHA KARMA If weight gain, breast tenderness, and fluid retention—kapha imbalances—are on your list of PMS symptoms, skip dairy products and fried or oily foods, such as nut butters.
No matter what your type, you can further ease the discomforts of PMS by adding turmeric to your food and drinking fennel tea.
Poses for PMS Try the asanas about to ease your various ailments.