Exercising while you’re on your period can seem uncomfortable, and it is the last thing that you want to do. But there are many benefits to it, including reducing the appearance of PMS symptoms.
Hot yoga is safe while you’re on your period as long as you replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water and choose a shorter class. You should also pay attention to your body the entire time, and stop if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous.
This article will discuss the basics of hot yoga, including the risks, benefits, and special considerations for practicing hot yoga while you’re on your period.
Hot yoga is a kind of yoga that takes place in a hot and humid studio, and it comes in many forms. The first and most famous form of hot yoga is Bikram yoga, which takes place in a studio with a temperature of 105° F (41°C) at a humidity of 40 percent. This program is ninety minutes long and involves standing in 26 difficult poses and positions for extended periods of time.
Bikram is derived from Hatha yoga, which is a traditional form of yoga that combines breathing exercises with various postures. However, Bikram is taught at a faster pace and is more demanding.
Many forms of hot yoga now take place at lower temperatures, more like 90° F (32°C). However, both Bikram and other forms of hot yoga are very demanding, increasing the heart rate and exercising the muscles while providing deep stretches for all the major muscle groups.
Although different hot yoga classes will involve different poses, there is a core sequence of Bikram yoga poses that are often incorporated into hot yoga classes.
First, a class will involve a series of warm-up poses, like the Utkatasana or Chair Pose. This involves standing in a seated position with your arms straight out in front of you and is designed to warm up all your major muscle groups while helping with the alignment of your spine.
Next, you’ll go through a series including more difficult poses, like the Dandayaman Janushirasana or Standing Head-to-Knee Pose. This posture requires you to stand on one leg with your other leg straight out in front of you, grasping your raised foot with both hands and bending at the waist so that your head touches your knee.
Some of these poses require great strength and balance, like the Padangustasana or Toe Stand Pose. This requires you to stand on the toes of one foot while crossing your other leg over your bent knee.
Most positions in a hot yoga routine involve standing or balancing on one leg, and some involve inverted positions where your head drops below the waist. Breathing through each pose is very important, as is paying attention to your body. These poses are designed to challenge your body, which is healthy to do, but not so much that your body can’t handle the stress.
For a demonstration of the entire Bikram yoga sequence, see this video:
Because hot yoga involves a large amount of stress on the body, it is important to consider the risks and benefits as well as your own condition before attending a class. You may even want to consult with a doctor before joining a class, especially if you are pregnant or have special health concerns like heart disease, dehydration problems, heat intolerance, or a history of heatstroke.
Drinking water before, during, and after hot yoga is important for minimizing health risks and increasing the benefits. You should also pay attention to your body throughout the workout. Feeling dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded is a sign that you need to step out of the room and rest.
Wearing minimal and moisture-wicking clothing is a good way to stay cool, comfortable, and dry in the heat.
Hot yoga, especially Bikram yoga, can increase the body temperature to dangerous levels, increasing the heart rate much higher than what it’d be to practice the exercise in a lower temperature room. This is especially dangerous if you have underlying conditions like heart disease or a tendency to react badly to heat.
The extreme heat essentially overwhelms the body’s ability to control its own temperature, which can even cause heatstroke. Heatstroke causes the shutdown of the heart, kidneys, liver, or other organs and can be fatal. However, a more common condition is heat exhaustion, a less serious problem that causes lightheadedness, dizziness, and cramping.
Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after hot yoga can reduce the risk of heatstroke and heat exhaustion as well as dehydration from sweating.
You may also be at more risk from hot yoga if you take certain kinds of medications, like antidepressants, antipsychotics, alpha-blockers, or beta-blockers. If you are taking any kind of medication, you should consult with your doctor before trying hot yoga.
Hot yoga can also create greater risks of infections since hot rooms allow for more bacterial growth. You should avoid sharing equipment like mats and towels, and keep your own equipment clean as well as cover any open wounds.
While hot yoga allows for deeper stretches, you should still be careful not to push yourself to the point of pain, as this can cause serious damage to the muscles and joints.
Hot yoga has many benefits, including improving your core stability and range of motion as well as reducing stress. Those who practice hot yoga are less likely to fall or break bones, have more balance, and stronger muscles throughout the entire body.
Hot yoga is especially beneficial during times of high emotional stress, which are common while you’re on your period. Rhythmic breathing and physical exertion calm the body and the mind, relaxing the muscles.
Because hot yoga is more intense than other forms of yoga, it burns more calories. It works out your cardiovascular and respiratory systems more than the same poses would at lower temperatures. It can improve circulation, bringing oxygen-rich and nutrient-rich blood to the skin, improving skin health.
Even though exercising while you’re on your period can seem like the opposite of what you want to do, it can help decrease symptoms like cramping and decrease your flow. Sweating decreases the amount of bloating you feel and produces endorphins, which feels good and distracts your body from noticing discomfort and pain.
Hormone changes while you’re on your period also decrease your body temperature, making you less likely to feel tired and more able to store heat. During this time, your body is more likely to be able to handle hot and humid conditions.
High-intensity training is especially beneficial when you’re on your period, and you’ll get more out of the exercise. The changes in hormones that you experience make it easier for your body to break down energy sources quickly, and so you’ll get more out of fast-paced workouts while you’re on your period.
Light and easy exercises can also be good while you’re on your period, reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow, which can help you feel better.
If you feel extreme levels of pain that prevent you from enjoying even gentle exercise while on your period, talk to your doctor. This may be a sign of a serious health condition, like endometriosis.
You should be able to do the same workouts you’d do at other points in your cycle that you can on your period unless you have bad cramping or fatigue that keeps you from wanting to do anything physical. In either case, gentle exercises like yoga, swimming, and walking are especially good choices when you’re on your period.
Because hormonal changes while you’re on your period lead to more tolerance for heat and humidity, it is an especially good time to try hot yoga. You’ll be able to handle more heat without getting as exhausted.
You’ll also be more able to handle the increased heart rate and circulation of hot yoga during your period because you have more access to quick energy and rely less on the slow breakdown of fat due to hormonal changes.
However, while you’re on your period, you may have less stamina for exercises that require lots of endurance, so you may want to choose a shorter yoga session than the standard Bikram 90-minute routine.
If you’re looking to try these more intense versions of hot yoga, you may do better waiting until the week after your period, when your body is ready for intense training and hormones are well-suited to muscle building. However, these differences are less pronounced if you take an oral contraceptive, which decreases testosterone levels.
The week before your period is a good time for high-intensity yoga classes. During this time, you’ll see an especially large benefit from exercises that increase the heart rate and decrease bloating, like hot yoga. You’ll also see a lift in your mood, which helps you start having PMS symptoms during this time.
You should also place an even greater emphasis on replacing fluids when you’re on your period because being on your period means losing even more fluids than you would through sweating alone.
Even if you’re in too much discomfort to think of high-intensity workouts, you could find relief in the relaxing, less intense poses or a shorter routine. Remember that you can always take a break or skip postures that are painful for you.
Some people find tampons uncomfortable while exercising, but there are many yoga-friendly options to try, including menstrual cups like the Lena Menstrual Cup and period-proof underwear like these Intimate Portal High-Cut Briefs.
Any yoga practice that involves stretching combined with meditation and breathing exercises can help you’re on your period. However, some poses are especially good for decreasing the amount of cramping that you feel.
- Baddha Konasana or Cobbler’s Pose, decreases the heaviness you may feel in the bottom half of your body during menstruation. This pose involves bending your knees in a seated position and bringing your feet together in front of you, then holding your feet with your hands and assuming a slight forward bend.
- Janu Sirsasana or Head to Knee Pose, involves bending one leg and laying the other straight out in front of you in a seated position, then reaching to your outstretched leg with both hands.
- Upavistha Konasana or the Seated Straddle, involves stretching both legs out in a seated position, opened wide. Your hands should rest in front of you, and you may choose to lean forward for even more of a stretch.
- Paschimottanasana or the Seated Forward Bend, involves stretching both legs in front of you, reaching for your toes, and bending your elbows to provide a deep torso stretch while keeping your head raised.
- The Supported Bridge Pose allows you to ease back pain by lying on your back, then raising yourself into a bridge supported by your feet and shoulders. Your knees should be bent at a ninety-degree angle, while your arms are outstretched against the floor underneath you.
- Supta Baddha Konasana, or the Goddess Pose, relaxes the groin as you lie on your back with your knees bent, hips wide, and feet together, with your arms outstretched against the floor on either side of you. This is, in a way, a modified Cobbler’s Pose.
If you want to practice exercises like hot yoga while you’re on your period, you should make sure that you’re also taking care of yourself in other ways so that your body is in good shape and your mind is ready to take on the challenges and stress of exercise.
There are a few basic things that you can do to remedy PMS symptoms and give you the most health and comfort possible during your period, which will allow you to handle more strenuous exercises.
Hormonal changes during your period can mess with your sleep cycle, and so it’s wise to take preemptive steps to improve your quality of sleep. This includes sleeping in a room with cooler temperatures and taking steps to relax before you fall asleep.
Meditation and music are good ways to relax before bed and get yourself into a sleep-ready state. You can also use aromatherapy, with essential oils like lavender to help your mind and body relax.
A few light yoga poses before bed can also help you get into a good state for sleep, but you should avoid anything too strenuous. The goal is to reach a state of peace, not rev your body up. Breathe steadily through easy stretches instead of pushing yourself hard late at night.
Warming your body can ease muscle cramps caused by your period and relax you while increasing blood flow. All of this is beneficial, known as heat therapy.
You can either apply heat directly to your abdomen with a heating pad or wrap like the Mighty Bliss Heating Pad, or warm your entire body with layers, a hot shower or bath, or warm beverages like tea. Even a hot drink like herbal tea can help to ease your symptoms.
Although you may crave carbohydrates and desserts while you’re on your period, this can cause a range of negative symptoms and make it harder for you to get in your usual exercise. A bad diet can make you more tired and more bloated, less able to concentrate, and more anemic or iron deficient.
These are some of the best foods to eat to stay motivated and energized while you’re on your period:
- Fiber-rich foods like nuts, fruit, and whole grains
- Vitamin-rich foods or supplements containing B vitamins, omega-3s, magnesium, and iron
- Lean proteins like fish, nut butter, and poultry
Drinking enough water can also help you to have better digestion and regulate your hormones better. Ideally, you should be drinking 64 oz. (2 L) of water per day.
Exercise is a good way to take care of yourself while you’re on your period because it improves your mood and reduces stress and anxiety, and because it can ease cramps and headaches.
Light cardio and yoga that involves breathing, stretching, and meditation are especially good options, although you can also see benefits from improving blood circulation with higher intensity workouts.
Ideally, you should be getting thirty minutes of activity three to four times a week, both when you’re on your period and when you’re not.
Hot yoga is not only safe to do while you’re on your period but can also be especially beneficial. Your body will be more able to handle the heat, and you’ll see benefits from the enhanced relaxing effects. However, you should choose a shorter class that requires less endurance and be especially careful to replace lost fluids.
- Mayo Clinic: What Is Hot Yoga?
- Livestrong: What is Bikram Yoga? Bikram Benefits, Safety and Poses
- Mayo Clinic: Menstrual Cycle: What’s normal, what’s not
- WomensHealth.gov: Your Menstrual Cycle
- Cosmopolitan: The Best Workout to Do When You Have Your Period
- Health: 5 Things to Know about Exercising During Your Period
- Bikram Yoga Poses Guide: 26 Postures/Asanas in Great Detail
- Consumer Reports: Dangers of Hot Yoga
- Healthline: 8 Benefits of Sweating It Out with Hot Yoga
- Women’s Health Connecticut: Practicing Self-Care to Feel Your Best During Your Period
- Very Well Health: 6 Yoga Poses for While You’re on Your Period
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