Yoga could ease stress, cramps and even anger

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Women suffering from premenstrual tension (PMT) could ease their pain and mood swings with yoga.

A scientific review has found the stretches beloved by yummy mummies may actually help with period pains.

The exercises and breathing techniques are believed to cause brain changes that improve people’s tolerance to stress and cramps.

According to instruction manuals, head and shoulder stands, beloved by celebrities including Naomi Campbell and Sadie Frost, are not the best poses during a woman’s time of the month.

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Yet, a review of 15 studies found cobra, cat and fish poses appear to make symptoms better.

The review, conducted at King’s College London, found every relevant study of yoga over 20 years demonstrated improved PMT, and irregular and painful periods in women aged 13 – 45.

The participants also saw a reduction in back ache, cramps, anxiety, stress and anger.

They even found themselves better able to concentrate afterwards.

Author Dr Jennifer Oates, said: ‘This is so interesting because yoga is a form of exercise which most people have access to through lessons or online tutorials.

‘They can practice it anywhere, without needing specialist equipment, and it doesn’t need to cost money.

‘The research covered quite intensive yoga regimes, but it can make us optimistic that this may offer potential hope to people with PMT, irregular or painful periods.’

Yoga was found to change hormone levels in the body, which may affect women’s periods.

It may also make people better able to deal with stress and mood swings through forcing them to focus on their breathing and poses.

Previous studies have shown yoga cuts levels of the stress hormone cortisol and limits the inflammatory responses in the body, which may leave people better able to tolerate pain.

The reviewed studies, taking in women aged 13 to 45, rated their pain according to a scale and asked them how they felt.

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Yoga teachers recommend the downward dog for women during their time of the month, as well as the ‘bridge’ and ‘bound angle’ pose, where they angle their legs at 90 degrees, with bent knees so that the soles of their feet touch.

But the scientific evidence, from studies looking at the cobra, cat and fish pose, found these also worked for menstrual problems.

The cobra involves arching the back like a snake, while the cat requires exercisers stretch the body into a table-top shape. The fish involves bending the torso back to rest your head on the floor while sitting.

The length of the yoga practice sessions differed from 10 to 90 minutes across the studies, lasting from two to 16 weeks.

The study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, concludes: ‘The reduction of menstrual disorder symptoms (as reflected in pain or wellbeing scores) may be due to a generic effect of yoga on pain tolerance and stress reduction, rather than an impact on underlying causes of menstrual disorder, such as hormone imbalance, for example.’

It offers a potential new strategy for women, often reliant on painkillers and hot water bottles to ward off the period pain, which affects up to 91 per cent of females.

The study states: ‘Yoga practice is growing exponentially, particularly in the population most likely to experience menstrual distress – women of childbearing age.’

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