If you are dealing with painful periods, there are a couple of things you can do at home that may naturally reduce the severity of your pain. Most people find that a heating pad and moderate exercise help to lessen cramps. In this series, we offer two other techniques you can use at home. Here we talk about deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises with pelvic muscle relaxation, and in part two we’ll talk about DIY castor oil packs.
Take a Deep Breath: Breathwork for Painful Periods
When we experience pain, our respiration tends to become very shallow, causing us to breathe into our chest and rib cage rather than breathing deeply into our abdomen.
The muscle that allows us to breathe is called the diaphragm, which is a thin muscle that sits below the heart and lungs and above the stomach, contracting and flattening as you inhale to draw air into the lungs and relaxing when you exhale to push air out of the lungs.
Did you know your diaphragm and your pelvic floor move together? By slowing our respiration and breathing deeply into the abdomen, we relax the pelvis and the diaphragm and soothe our nervous system at the same time. This reduces muscle tension, soothes anxiety, and distracts us from the pain we are experiencing by turning our attention to how and where we are breathing.
Relaxing your Pelvis
Although uterine contractions cause menstrual cramps, the muscles of the pelvis often become tense and tight when period pain is severe. When we breathe deeply into our abdomen, the muscles in the pelvis begin to relax, which helps reduce lower abdominal pain and cramping.
Try this at home: Deep Breathing and Pelvic Relaxation for Period Pain
What you’ll need: Some pillows, a space to lie down (either the floor/a yoga mat or your bed), a blanket (optional)
- Get cozy. Choose a comfortable space where you can lay down and relax. (You can choose to sit on a pillow, yoga block or chair if that is more comfortable for you). You might place a pillow under your head or your knees, or you can keep your knees bent with feet on the floor if this feels better. While reclined, you could press the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall open, supporting them with pillows, blankets or blocks. This will create a soothing “reclined butterfly pose” that allows your pelvic muscles to gently open and relax even more. If you tend to get cold, cover yourself with a nice warm blanket.
- Take a deep breath.Place your hands gently on your belly. Inhale deeply into your lower abdomen. Try to feel your hands rise with your breath as your belly expands. Repeat this 2-3 times.
- Relax your muscles. As you inhale, bring awareness into the muscles of your inner and outer thighs, glutes, abdomen, and pelvic floor (while still breathing deeply into the abdomen). On the exhale, try to release any tension you might be holding in these muscles.
- Take your time. Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes practicing this deep breathing technique (or as long as you’d like!) If your pain levels increase at any point, try deepening your breath even further.
If you find a heating pad helps your cramps, you can also add that in to this relaxation. Check out our part 2 about castor oil packs as well!