Painful Periods?

For some women, menstruation can be particularly painful. Sometimes it is for me, too. There have even been a few days when Ive curled up in a ball on the floor unable to do anything else until the waves of pain, lightheadedness, and sweating receded. Im not complaining. I understand periods are a natural part of being a woman. I could take ibuprofen when I know Im about to start, and that wards off my discomfort. I choose not to do that.I dont like to take any medicine I dont absolutely have to take.

Yoga has helped a lot. Ive found pavana muktasana, the wind releasing pose, to be one of the best asanas for relief. There are different versions of this one. In mine, both knees are brought to the chest while lying on the back. The head is brought to the knees and the focus is on manipura lotus at the navel. Concentrating on this area of subtle energy is an important aspect of pavana muktasanas benefits. I hold this pose for at least three minutes when Im having the worst bouts of pain.

During menses, whether hurting or not, I include bhadrasana (bound angle),  pascimottonasana (seated forward bend), viparita karani (legs up the wall) and savasana (corpse) in my daily program. Sometimes I add bhujangasana (cobra), matsyasana (fish) and marjari asana (cat) poses. I find them all to be helpful.

In a recently published study from Iran, the latter three were shown to be effective for preventing painful periods in a group of fifty young women aged 18-22. The women practiced these three asanas all during the luteal phase of their cycle, which means the entire second half. For the average 28 day menstrual rhythm, the first day of a period is the first day of a cycle. Count 14 days in and there you have the beginning of the luteal phase. Compared to a control group of 42 women who didnt practice any Yoga or have any other intervention, there was a significant decrease in the pain intensity of menstruation. When each womans pre-Yoga rating of pain was compared to their own post-Yoga rating, there was also a significant reduction.

Yoga decreases the pain of menstruation and helps women to cope with residual discomfort. No specific asana is necessarily better than any other. What matters is what works for you. If you suffer from dysmenorrhea, the medical term for painful periods, consider trying the Yoga poses mentioned above.

Yogas not just about asanas though. Its also a lifestyle, and a big part of a Yoga life is making an effort to eat more pure, nutritious vegetarian food. A vegetarian diet with limited dairy and an increased amount of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to lessen menstrual pain.


  1. Rakhshaee Z. Effect of Three Yoga Poses (Cobra, Cat and Fish Poses) in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2011 Apr 20. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Hurlock D, Bertron P. Diet and sex-hormone binding globulin, dysmenorrhea, and premenstrual symptoms. Obstet Gynecol. Feb 2000;95(2):245-50.
  3. Harel Z, Biro FM, Kottenhahn RK, Rosenthal SL. Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the management of dysmenorrhea in adolescents. Am J Obstet Gynecol. Apr 1996;174(4):1335-8.

How to Stop Ear Pain Naturally

From a yogi friend:

I have an ear infection that started 2 weeks ago. I havent had one in years, and last time I had it just passed after 3-4 days.  I keep treating it as recommended by websites and friends with garlic oil, hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil, till yesterday when its started getting worse. It feels like it felt 10 days ago blocked ear, a bit swollen, pain if I touch the ear, and general weakness. No fever though.”

Okay, so it’s not exactly a question about Yoga or the Yoga lifestyle and health, but it’s from a friend I know through Yoga – one that loves to live a simple, green lifestyle and avoid medications whenever possible.Otitis externa is a common problem. I get questions about it all the time. “Otitis” means inflammation of the ear, and “externa” refers to the outer, or external, portion. It’s common in swimmers or others who get water or other liquids into the ear canal. Sometimes it comes without any apparent precipitator.

The external portion of the ear generally becomes very tender. It may hurt to lie on the side of the affected ear. If you grab the outer ear and rotate it around in a circle so that it pulls and tugs, it should elicit pain.

The ear may feel “blocked” or “clogged.” Sometimes hearing is a little impaired on that side. There may be some yellowish/brownish/greenish drainage. And there should be NO FEVER. If you have a temperature of more than 100.4 (that’s 38.0 in Celsius), a healthcare practitioner with an otoscope needs to get a look inside.

The best natural remedy for ear infections (otitis externa) is a solution made of up equal parts of vinegar (at least 3%) and water. Put a quarter of a cup of each in a bottle and shake it up. Then settle down into a lying position on the non-affected side with the painful ear up in the air. Fill the entire ear canal with a few drops of the solution and remain resting in this position for five minutes. Repeat this treatment at least twice a day for three days. If you’re getting better, continue until the pain is resolved. If you’re not, consider a visit to a healthcare practitioner for a look inside.


While you’re using the vinegar solution, don’t put anything else into the ear canal – no tea tree oil, no garlic, no Q-tips, no nothing. That means no water too, so no swimming and take care in the shower.

My yogi friend took my advice. He’s cured.

A recent analysis of the medical literature states, “Acetic acid (vinegar) was effective and comparable to antibiotic/steroid at week 1.” From Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20. The authors note that severe infections extending beyond one week likely need the addition of a steroid drop and possibly an antibiotic ear drop. For those who want to avoid antibiotics and steroids whenever possible, there’s no rush to the big guns.

Yoga for Acidity and Heartburn

When it comes to prescription drugs, medicines that help to control stomach acid and the reflux of it back up into the esophagus account for the second highest dollar amount in revenues for pharmaceutical companies.

Try Yoga for heartburn and treat GERD naturally.

The problem with these disorders is a relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve at the junction of the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach) and the upper part of the stomach itself. When that sphincter is relaxed and open, it allows food and acid to go backwards. With the reverse flow of caustic materials, the esophagus is burned and damaged. Sometimes the partially digested food in its acid matrix refluxes all the way back up to the throat and then down into the lungs through the trachea, causing asthmatic symptoms and destruction of the lungs. Acid chronically irritating the esophagus and other tissues can lead to cancer.

When it comes to a Yoga diet, the gurus in the old texts advise us to eat moderately, not filling the stomach more than one half to one quarter full. Overeating, filling the stomach too full, puts a lot of back pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, forcing it open. That causes more reflux.

As the Gheranda Samhita suggests, try eating two moderately filling meals daily. Don’t eat all the time. Some GERD sufferers are told to eat six small meals a day rather than three big ones. This grazing strategy is thought to avoid the over-filling back pressure of simply eating until you’re too full, but it has its own problems. The lower esophageal sphincter normally opens up to five times within the hour after every food ingestion. If you’re eating all the time, a little something every hour or two, then the sphincter is never at its tonic resting state.

Many beverages, particularly caffeine, relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Juices can do it as can sodas and coffee. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika recommends drinking pure water. That makes a lot of sense.

Both the Gheranda Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Prakipika advise practitioners against eating spicy foods, another known trigger of lower esophageal sphincter opening.

Stress and anxiety worsen GERD and heartburn symptoms. In a 1994 study published in Gastroenterology, relaxation training reduced symptoms of reflux and acid exposure. Yoga has been shown in several studies to relieve stress and anxiety and it promotes and teaches relaxation techniques.

For vegetarians especially the use of natural means of reducing acid reflux is important. Aggressive, long-term suppression of stomach acid by pharmaceutical medicines can decrease the absorption of vitamin B12. Many vegetarians, particularly vegans who do not eat eggs and dairy, do not get enough vitamin B12 as it is.

Inhibition of the absorption of vitamin B12 is one side effect of prescription medications for GERD and heartburn that we know about, but for every side effect of which medical science is aware, there are likely eight or nine others insidiously working in some detrimental way. Now that vast numbers of people are taking these drugs chronically for many years, others will likely be discovered.

Avoid prescription medicines when you can. Treat naturally. Self heal with Yoga for acidity and heartburn.