Alleviating Menstrual Cramps by Titsa Costalas
Menstrual cycle problems from a TCM perspective means an imbalance of yin/yang (water and fire Qi). Qi is either deficient or in excess. It is not normal to have painful menstruation. In western society, we have come to accept the symptoms of painful cramps and mood swings as “normal.” The majority of women experienced heavy periods with clotting or scantiness accompanied by pain. These are clear alarm bells of a problem that needs addressing. Our body is a miraculous biosystem that has the capability to heal. Qigong, pressing specific acupressure points, and consuming certain foods have proven to be ways in which the body is able to bounce back to reach homeostasis.
When I practice Qigong, specifically the Meridian warm-up sequence, I feel energized and opened up. My spine and hips are supple again and I can begin my day refreshed with plenty of energy. When the Qi flows unimpeded throughout the body then there is no room for disease. According to how my body feels, I adjust the Qigong that I do for that specific body part. For example, I always have a tight lower back, so I make sure to do backbends and toe touches. Bending the body forwards and then stretching back, moves the spine into concave and convex positions molding it into bamboo flexibility and greatly easing stiffness in the lower back. This exercise not only works on the spine but also activates the Large intestine when you bend forward and the kidneys when you bend backward. It is important to massage the kidneys with this exercise as a warm-up followed by Deer I from 5 Animals Qigong.
I focus on the kidneys first because it is the source of all fire for all the internal organs. It houses the Zhi, the power to survive. It is where our Jing Qi is stored. The Qi we were born with. The health of the female menstrual cycle is regulated by the Kidneys, Spleen, and Liver. The meridians of the spleen and liver run through the pelvis. When Qi is stuck or insufficient, pain can result. I have personally experienced the ease of pain and even no more pain when practicing Qigong. Truth be said, I also did not eat any raw foods a few days leading up to my period, as this creates extra work for your digestive system to break down the food. When you give your stomach less to do, there is more energy in the body to use for healing. Qigong has become my lifestyle and an essential part of my life. I urge you to cultivate the habit of practicing Qigong prior to getting your period because you can minimize and, in some cases, eradicate the pain completely. Having said that, it is also important to note that, when you have your period and if it is especially heavy, it is not advisable to practice qigong as it can increase the blood flow.
The Liver is the Chinese Medicine organ that’s strongly influenced by the menstrual cycle. The biological function of the uterus is affected by the Liver. This is because the Liver controls energy and smooth blood flow. It also stores blood. But stress can cause Qi stagnation. When Qi stagnates, energy cannot reach other organs and tissues.
To maintain Qi flow specifically in the spleen, liver, and kidneys, it is important to tonify and detoxifies these organs. Part one of my prescription is to do the 14 Meridian warm up as it opens up all the meridians that pass through all the major organs and then practice specific stances from the 5 animal series.
The stances I recommend are Monkey I, Monkey turns to look at the moon. This stance targets the Liver and gall bladder. The bending and twisting movement of the torso to the right squeezes the spleen on the left. The liver is squeezed on the right side of the body when you twist to the left. When we twist or coil we literally stop the flow of the blood to the organ and then when we uncoil, fresh oxygenated blood flows to that organ.
Practicing the 14 Meridian Warm-ups, Deer I and Monkey I daily for the first week will help lay down the foundation for the body to develop muscle memory as our fascia adapts to the new instructions and actions. Part 2, 3, 4, and 5 prescriptions will follow in the next articles to come.
However, when you are in pain, for direct and quick relief, you can press on two points on the Foot and Hand. On the top of the Foot, there is an acupressure point between the big toe and the second toe. On the hand, there is a point between the web of your thumb and forefinger. You press firmly till slight discomfort and hold for 30 seconds.
Painful cramps are not “normal” as we were brought up to believe. It is possible to alleviate menstrual pain and now you have some tips on how to self-regulate for long term benefits!
Check out the 5 Animal Qigong course Trailer.