When you're suffering from PMS, you probably don't feel very radiant. PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a condition that affects a lot of women before the onset of their menstrual periods. Symptoms are as diverse as overall discomfort, bloating, backache, headache, irritability, food cravings, depression, acne, painful or swollen breasts, insomnia, fatigue, even uncharacteristically violent or suicidal behavior. Many women get a little emotional, uncomfortable, and hungrier, but everyone is different, and each woman may experience different symptoms from month to month. Some women experience no symptoms at all.
PMS commonly occurs during the week or two before the start of your period and can last until menstruation starts. Symptoms are generally attributed to the production of hormones related to the menstrual cycle. You may not care about the cause so much as a good remedy when you're in the throes.
How can yoga help? Be dedicated to your regular yoga routine during PMS. Your hormone-wracked body will appreciate the familiar routine and the exercise. The triangle pose (see Chapter 13, "What Do You Stand For?"), sitting poses to open the hips, and twisting poses for lower back stiffness are all excellent for PMS. Although all the asanas activate the body, poses that stimulate the glandular and reproductive systems are good to practice during PMS, such as the cobra, bow (both in Chapter 14, "Bending Over Backbends"), and bridge (Chapter 15, "Come on, Body, Let's Do the Twist") poses.
Also, step up your pranayama practice (Chapter 7, "Can You Breathe?"). As your body sheds its uterine lining, support it by cleansing the rest of your body through pranayama (deep-breathing exercises). Pranayama also eases irritability, depression, and moodiness. Mantra work, too, can be of great benefit when your emotions are changing rapidly (see Chapter 3, "How Comfortable Are You in Your
Wise Yogi Tells Us
When you're feeling particularly PMS-y, lie on your back with your buttocks against a wall. Put your legs up against the wall, separate them a bit, and lie there for a while—very relaxing.
Body?"). The steady flow and vibration of a mantra soothes your nervous system and can help transform negative outbursts into outbursts of pure inspiration!
Herbs known to help relieve the symptoms of PMS, such as bloating, pain, and depression, are evening primrose oil, dong quai, blessed thistle, cayenne, raspberry leaves, sarsaparilla, and Siberian ginseng. Look for these herbs in your local health food store, and take as directed. Recent studies show that increased calcium intake can also help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of PMS.
And no matter how bad PMS is, stress only makes it worse—just one more reason to keep practicing yoga! All of the stress reduction yoga performs on the human body can also help to lessen the effects of PMS. Don't forget shavasana (the relaxation pose in Chapter 19, "Dead to the World")—do it as often as you can. When you are feeling physically or emotionally uncomfortable, you'll welcome shavasana's utterly relaxed state, especially when you get so relaxed that you don't even feel your body anymore!
Meditation, too, can be helpful when you are uncomfortable but in a good frame of mind. Meditation, including shavasana, can help you move beyond your physical body for a while, to give yourself a break from the aches and pains.
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