If you suffer from the world’s worst period cramps (? ? ? — FML), lying around for five to seven days may seem like an A++ way to cope. But a new review, recently published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,suggests you might be better off on your yoga mat, particularly if you practice regularly.
In the review, a London-based researcher revisited 15 existing studies on yoga’s effects on menstrual symptoms, including pain, quality of life, stress, mood, and mental health among women between the ages of 13 and 45. Across the board, women who began practicing yoga for as few as 10 minutes per day reaped benefits when it came to their periods, reporting less discomfort and moodiness. Yoga FTW!
Existing research hints at why: Simply put, yoga rejiggers your body’s stress response. The practice may encourage the body to release natural painkillers and change the way pain is experienced and interpreted, as review author Jennifer Oates, PhD, a lecturer in mental health nursing at King’s College London, told Time.com.
Still, more research is needed to nail down the perfect yoga prescription for alleviating period woes. That includes learning which type of yoga practice is most effective, how often you’d need to practice to benefit, and when during your cycle you benefit most from finding your flow — particularly since the studies Oates reviewed used inconsistent testing techniques. Plus, some studies included subjects who hit up daily classes, with some practicing up to 90 minutes per session (who’s got the time for that)?
Another thing: None of the studies looked at long-term effects of yoga, so it’s unclear if the women who took up yoga reaped the benefits several cycles after the studies they were enrolled in ended.
Nonetheless, if your period makes you hate your life once a cycle, Oates recommends giving yoga a shot. She suggests trying a Hatha class at least once or twice a week for up to several months to accurately assess the benefits.
And if the idea of doing yoga when your period’s at its worst still makes you want to curl up in fetal position? Go ahead. Just call it child’s pose, and you’re good to go.