Certified yoga instructor and social media star Jessamyn Stanley refuses to let her period slow her down. “And in order to own that, it means owning the bleeding, owning the cramps, and understanding that that’s a part of the power of femininity,” she says.
Sounds like a pretty badass take on something that usually sends women straight to bed with a heating pad, some aspirin, and a quick prayer that the headaches, cramps, and bloat will all disappear soon. But that’s exactly why Stanley partnered with U by Kotex Fitness—she wanted to change the conversation about periods, and make it crystal clear that a day spent in bed is not your only option.
Like many other women, for a while she felt like exercising on her period was something she shouldn’t do. Then yoga came along. The Instagram-famous instructor says that practicing on the mat helped her realize that movement actually made her feel better.
Now she simply modifies her routine, gravitating toward poses that help temper PMS. For her, that means easing cramps in the front-body and lower pelvis area, and decreasing low back pain. Below are the eight poses Stanley incorporates into her practice while she’s on her period. “All of these poses really center on the reproductive organs and give you the space to massage that specific area,” she says.
But remember, these are the movements that work for Stanley. “Everyone has a rhythm to their own body, and you should listen to your rhythm,” she says. So experiment and find what works for you, and consult with trained professionals to guide you along the way.
How-to: Kneel on the ground, butt on heels, top of feet against the floor, big toes touching, and knees wider than hip-width apart. Slowly bring chest to the mat, allowing your body to come between legs. Extend arms overhead, touching forehead to mat. Or lay arms alongside body with palms facing up if that feels more comfortable.
How-to: Start standing with feet just wider than hip width. Spin heels inward and toes out, then sink hips down into a deep squat. Place elbows on inner thighs and press palms together to draw heart forward.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
How-to: Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at sides. Keep feet parallel and hip-width apart, heels stacked under knees. Roll upper arms open to expand chest. Ground through outer upper arms, root down into heels, and reach knees forward to lift the hips off the floor. Shimmy your shoulders under your chest and interlace your fingers. (Hold onto the sides of your yoga mat to create more space if your shoulders are tight.)
How-to: Kneel with shins hip-distance apart. Rest hands on the back of your pelvis. Press down strongly into shins and reach up through the torso. Lift chest up as you stretch arms back to reach hands to heels. (To modify, curl toes under so you don’t have to reach as far.)
How-to: Lie facedown, then lift chest, arms, and legs off the floor. Bend knees and reach back to grab outer ankles. Lift toes and inner thighs toward the ceiling, and lengthen tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Spread and lift chest.
How-to: Lie down on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor, arms extended out in a “T” formation, palms facing up. Inhale, lengthening tailbone toward the ground. As you exhale, slowly lower both knees to the right, gaze to the left. Keep knees and feet together and press shoulder blades into the mat. Stay for a few breaths, inhale and come back to center. Exhale and slowly lower both knees to the left, gaze to the right.
How-to: Sit with both legs extended in front of you. Lift right leg, bend knee, and cross over left leg, placing foot on the ground next to left thigh. Bend left knee, bringing foot toward glutes on right side. Place right hand on the ground behind you, to use as a guide. Reach up with left arm, elongating the spine and sitting as tall as you can. Twist torso to the right, placing left arm and shoulder in front of right knee.
Bound Angle Pose
How-to: From sitting, bend knees and bring soles of feet together with heels drawn close to pelvis. Grab hold of your big toes with your thumb and index fingers, and press elbows into inner thighs to draw head to floor and belly to feet while pressing your sit bones into the mat. Try not to round spine as you fold forward.