The third topic in our yoga therapy series is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It’s widely talked about and has even appeared on Television series!
So, what exactly is PMS? Craving chocolates? Acting weird? Shouting? Complaining? Weeping? Well, it can be all of the above!
Formally though, it is a set of symptoms that are related to the menstrual cycle. It may start 7-10 days prior to a woman’s period. Generally, these symptoms last only till bleeding starts. They don’t show up in pregnant women and those going through menopause. The symptoms vary from woman to woman. To some, they are mild and just a cause for monthly dose of irritation while to others, it can be really bothersome. It can ruin their days and nights. PMS, when severe is called Premensrtyal Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
The exact causes of PMS are not known although several factors can be considered; such as:
– Vitamin and mineral deficiency
– Consumption of salty and highly processed foods
– Drinking alcohol and consuming caffeine (alters mood)
– Changing levels of oestrogen and progesterone due to the menstrual cycle
– Changes in the levels of Serotonin in the brain (caused by hormonal changes mentioned above)
– Lack of exercise and obesity
– Hypomagnesemia: lack of magnesium in the blood
There are more than 100 symptoms are recorded with regard to PMS! The most common symptoms are listed below:
Women may experience a mix of these symptoms at a time. The symptoms may vary in intensity each time. Generally they start like a week prior to bleeding. They disappear once the woman is on her period.
Hormones play a huge part in PMS
The changes that occur in a woman during PMS – the mood swings, irritability, cramps, depression etc. are usually in sync with the changes in the hormonal levels.
Progesterone and estrogen are the main reproductive hormones in females and it noticed that their levels in the blood soar in the premenstrual period causing uneasiness in some women.
Neurotransmitters serotonin and gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) act as “brain chemicals” that protect against the typical PMS symptoms like depression, irritability and mood swings. Interestingly, progesterone and estrogen are the regulators of the neurotransmitters. This shows the relationship between hormones and PMS.
Stress and estrogen dominance
Cortisol as you may know, is the stress hormone that is primarily secreted by the adrenal gland. Stress, when experienced in excess or for a long periods of time, can cause huge amounts of Cortisol in the blood stimulating feelings of fear, anxiety, rage and irritability.
In addition to this, it is a fact that Cortisol and Progesterone compete for the same receptors in body cells. With the increase in Cortisol, Progesterone loses out and Estrogen dominance can be seen. Hence, stress plays a vital role in PMS. Firstly, it produces Cortisol, the adrenal gland is worn out and estrogen dominance is created.
Starting off with actual therapy for premenstrual syndrome, the first technique we write about is Pavana Muktasana Kriya.
Eka-Pāda Technique: Lie on the back. Exhale and pull the right knee to the chest and bring the head to the knee. The left leg stays active and straight on the floor. Inhale and rest down. Repeat for left side.
Dwi-Pāda Technique: On exhalation bring both legs up. Hug arms around the outside or inside of the knees. Hips come up and the chin lifts between the knees. Inhale and release. Do not cross the legs.
We have previously discussed the Vipareeta Karani Mudra under the Yoga Therapy series for Dysmenorrhea. Vipareeta Karani is also helpful in case of PMS. It is instrumental in soothing the irritations and mood swings caused by the changes in the hormonal levels in the body.
In this article however, we introduce a slightly different version – Vipareeta Karani Kriya.
Regular practice is advised. However, it should be avoided during menstruation.
Assume the inverted posture of vipareeta karani asana. Keep the legs straight and together; tilt them slightly over the head so that the eyes look straight up at the feet.
• Close the eyes and relax the whole body. Fix the awareness at Manipura chakra in the spine, directly behind the navel. This is the starting position.
• Inhale slowly and deeply with Ujjayi Pranayama. Feel the breath and consciousness moving from Manipura to vishuddhi chakra situated in the spine, behind the throat pit.
• While exhaling, maintain the awareness at vishuddhi.
• At the end of the exhalation, immediately bring the awareness back to manipura.
• Repeat this a few times. When the position and the breathing feels comfortable enough, start skull shining breathing (Kapalbhati) while holding the same posture. Continue for as long as the asana can be comfortably maintained.
If pressure builds up in the head, end the practice.
In case of difficulty in assuming the Vipareeta Karani asana, you may take the support of a wall.
People suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, enlarged thyroid or excessive toxins in the body should not perform this practice.
Nada anusandhana or the practice of the inner sounds helps us connect with the universal truth, giving us a larger picture of our lives and hence calms our minds and nerves.
It is a very useful technique for those suffering from PMS. Start with sitting in any meditative posture. Close your eyes and keep your spine uplifted with a mild contraction of the pelvic floor. Release and relax your shoulder and facial muscles. Feel the presence of every single breath. Mentally prepare for chanting “ā” 10 times. After doing so, observe the changes in your body for about 2-3 minutes. Then chant “ū” 10 times before silently watching the vibrations and changes in the body again. Lastly chant “m” 10 times and pause for a couple of minutes.
In the final round, chant the 3 sounds together – “aaaaa…….uuuuu……mmmm”.
Continue to sit in the posture while gently bringing your awareness to the surroundings. Open your eyes slowly.
Common mistakes: Day dreaming – drifting of the mind should be avoided as much as possible.
Janu Sirsasana is one of those yoga poses very helpful for women in general. For PMS, it helps in calming the mind and hence there is a lot less irritability.
Technique: Begin with Daṇḍāsana. Fold the right leg, placing the
right heel against the left groin. Raise the hands up into Ūrdhva Hasta Daṇḍāsana. Extending from the trunk exhale and bend forward, cross the right hand and hold the left side of the left foot, and the left hand on top, holding the right side of the left foot, this helps to square the shoulders. Bring the chin over the knee, resting the chest on the thigh. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Once finished, extend the arms straight in front, inhale and raise the trunk and the arms upwards into Ūrdhva Hasta Daṇḍāsana. By exhaling,
release the arms down and with hand support release the bent leg back to Daṇḍāsana. Repeat on the other side.
In case of bad knees, back problems or neck problems – work carefully.
It’s a good technique as far as PMS is concerned.
Technique: Begin with Daṇḍāsana. Fold the right leg and place the right foot on top of the left thigh. The right heel should press into the lower abdomen. Make sure the right bent knee is on the mat. Inhaling, raise the hands up into Ūrdhva Hasta Daṇḍāsana. Exhaling, bend forward, folding from the hips. Catch hold of the left foot with the hands or you can cross the right hand and hold the left side of the left foot, and the left hand on top, holding the right side of the left foot for effective lengthening of the spine and squaring of the shoulders. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Inhaling, raise the hands back into Ūrdhva Hasta Daṇḍāsana. Exhaling, release the hands down. Using your hand support, take the right leg back into Daṇḍāsana. Repeat on the other side.
Note: Please note that this should not be practiced during menstruation. Avoid this in case of bad knees, sensitive ankles, back pain or abdominal hernia.