Women's Moon Wisdom Podcast Intro - Rebecca Rankin (00:01):
Stories, teachings and guidance. Welcome to the Women's Moon Wisdom podcast with your host, Rebecca Rankin.
Rebecca Rankin (00:18):
Welcome back to the Women's Moon Wisdom podcast. In today's episode, we're gonna touch on the use of breathwork to help minimize period discomfort and period cramps. We'll even do a breathing practice together that you can do when you're experiencing period cramps, or honestly, anytime you just need to calm your body and mind. Now, period cramps. Why do we have them? What's going on? And period, cramps can often be one of the main inconveniences and, and discomforts of having a cycle. I get it. It's not comfortable. It's not fun. Period cramps are definitely an inconvenience and quite uncomfortable at times. And maybe just understanding a little bit about what is happening, you know, within your, your body can help shine the light on ways to help minimize period cramps. And when you understand a little bit about what's going on in your body, then I feel that you just have a better ability to use the tools to help navigate those discomforts and those inconveniences.
So in today's episode, we're gonna dive a little bit into using breathwork and how breathwork can help us work through cramps, work through those sensations. So during your menstrual period, your uterus contracts in order to help expel its lining. So during our whole cycle, the, the lining starts to build up and then our period comes and we expel the, the lining. So hormone-like substances called prostaglandins help trigger the uterine muscle contractions. So these hormone-like compounds are helping your body eliminate the endometrium. So menstrual cramps, like the painful ones, are most commonly, they're most likely caused by an excess of prostaglandins that are released from the uterine lining as it prepares to be shed. Now, I just wanna say this prostaglandins aren't a bad thing at all. They help the uterus contract and relax so that your endometrium can detach and flow out of your body.
They're definitely a necessary part of the process, but just like anything in life in excess, they can cause some issues and they can cause some pain and discomfort. So when the uterus contracts strongly blood flow is reduced temporarily and the supply of oxygen to the uterine muscle tissue decreases, which causes that cramping sensation. Now, why do some people have more cramps than others? There can be many factors, one of which can be inflammation. So inflammation may play a role in why some people experience just more painful menstruation than others. So prostaglandins, those hormone-like substances, so prostaglandins are involved with pain and inflammation, and because inflammation may play a role in our experience of, of painful menstruation or cramps, people who experience more menstrual pain have also been shown to have higher levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. So the production of prostaglandins is related to inflammation and inflamed tissue tends to produce more prostaglandins.
So you can then think that getting inflammation under control can help reduce, minimize, and maybe even prevent and eliminate menstrual cramps. And inflammation has also been linked to the worsening of other premenstrual symptoms like mood changes. So addressing inflammation in the body through lifestyle factors like nutrition, exercise, stress management -can help reduce some of these more discomfort within our period. I also wanna say this, if you experience life disrupting symptoms and really severe menstrual cramps, there might be an underlying issue that you want to bring up with your healthcare provider. When it comes to menstrual cramps, it's really important to advocate for yourself like period cramps that are severe have been really associated with medical conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis, and PCOS. So be sure to stand up for yourself and communicate your pain levels to your doctor.
So let's say you're just navigating the general period discomfort and cramping that's uncomfortable, and most likely just inconvenient. A simple way to navigate those days before your period and the few days of your period is with stress relief techniques. And using stress relief tools can really help ease period cramps in a lot of us. Research has found that people with high levels of stress are more than twice as likely to report having painful menstruation, whoa, like more than twice as likely to have painful menstruation, that's a lot. And a simple technique that you can do wherever you are, is deep breathing. That deep breathing practices can actually help regulate the heart rate and blood pressure, which helps regulate the pain response in the brain. So deep breathing also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a wonderful tool to help manage pain. Pain travels via the nerves from the area of the body, to the brain's sympathetic pain response, sympathetic meaning it automatically occurs.
So the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing pace, all increase with the onset of pain. This leads to an increase in the stress arousal, so the part of the brain where the fight flight freeze response is created, it leads to increase in that area of the brain, so the result is an increase in the pain experience. And we know that a cognitive shift takes place when pain is invoked, right, and enhances just this threat perception and it aggravates the fear and other negative feelings and emotions that honest, that honestly make the pain experience even worse. So in, in other words, controlling the physical reactions help us control the mind and helps us regain control of our experience of pain in our body. So think of the last time that you had period cramps, or maybe you're experiencing them right now, or even honestly, any sort of pain in your body. My guess is that your respiration tends to get a little bit more shallow, which causes us to breathe into our chest and rib cage rather than breathing deeply into our abdomen.
And the muscle that allows us to breathe is called the diaphragm, which is this thin muscle that sits just below the heart and lungs and just above the stomach. So with shallow chest breathing, it, it prevents us from getting a good deep breath, this results in just less oxygen transferring into the blood. And diaphragmatic breathing allows for more oxygen into the lungs and into the blood and stimulates the relaxation response and affects the vagal nerve. As the name suggests, this type of deep breathing comes from the diaphragm, not the chest. And really interesting - did you know that your diaphragm and your pelvic floor, they actually move together by slowing our respiration and breathing deeply into the abdomen, we relax the pelvis and the diaphragm and sooth our nervous system at the same time. So this reduces muscle tension, soothes anxiety, and honestly distracts us from the pain we're experiencing by turning our attention to how and where we are breathing.
So although the contractions of the uterus are the cause of the period cramps themselves, and that discomfort, the muscles of the pelvis often become tense and tight when we experience period pain. So when we breathe deeply into our abdomen, the muscles and the pelvis actually begin to relax, which helps reduce that, that lower abdominal pain and cramping. So really just by taking deep, full breaths through the abdomen can really allow us to find some, some ease and, and comfort in what might be a more uncomfortable time of our cycle. Now, some people find that even just 10 minutes of deep breathing helps get them through their cramps. Part of it is that slowing and deepening the breath, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which can calm down the pain signals to the body. And part of it is simply just the distraction. If you can consciously turn your attention toward the physical sensation of your breath, of you breathing, you're at least partially turning training away from the discomfort itself, from the cramps themselves.
Now, whether you're experiencing period pain in this moment or not, I highly recommend doing this breathwork practice to tap into just a more calm state. If you're experiencing any type of pain, whether it from menstruation or honestly, any type of chronic pain, you may find this practice especially helpful, and keep coming back to it as a tool to lean into. And if you have a friend who could use this practice, be sure to share this episode. And two more things before we dive into the practice itself. First, if you wanna watch this rather than listen, you can head over to my YouTube channel to enjoy it. I'll put the link in the show notes. And second, if you're looking for more breath work, meditations and movement practice that support and shift with you each and every day of your cycle, I cannot recommend the Cyclical Living Self- Care course enough. It's amazing. It's 60 practices to choose from. You have enough practices to do both the meditation or breathwork and movement practice each day for 30 days. It's so good. I even use it. And is that kind of weird for me to take my own class? Anyways, I love it and I, I really hope that you will love it too and dive into it. So I'll put the link to that as well in the show notes. All right. So here is your Apana breathwork practice. Enjoy.
Welcome to your practice. This breathing exercise that we'll work with is all about pulling energy up from the earth and then sending the energy down through the pelvis, through the legs, down through the feet, down to the earth. So it's called an Apana breath. And so that can roughly translate to breath that moves away. So you can think of this as just moving the energy away from us, right? Moving that downward energy down, back the earth from which it came. So finding your way into either a seated position with the spine tall, you can lean against a wall, in a chair, um, or sitting on the floor, or you can even take this line down on your back. And constructive rest is nice with your feet apart and your knees resting against each other. So as we inhale, a lengthened inhale, pause just for a moment, and then the exhale will be slightly longer than the inhale and we'll kind of pause at the end. And as we do so I'll guide you in some visualization, but I want you to kind of visualize like, as you inhale, pulling the energy kind of up from the earth, filling yourself with that energy. And then as you exhale, kind of visualizing that you're sending the energy down through the pelvis, through the legs, through the feet, back the earth. All right. So when you're ready, find your way into your comfortable position and go ahead and lower your gaze or close your eyes so that it feels appropriate for you.
And just taking the next moment here to just get yourself grounded in your body. Feel just your normal everyday breath. I'm not gonna say shifting our breath yet. You're just noticing it.
Let's begin. Inhale here. Lengthen the breath, fill yourself all the way to the top. Pause. Then just slowly exhale it out all the way out. All the way. Pause. Inhale again. Pull energy from the earth. Fill yourself all the way to the top. Pause. Exhale, send the energy through the pelvis, the legs, through the feet, down to the earth in which it came. Pause.
Inhale here, fill yourself all the way up. Fill up with the energy, up through the chest and then exhale. Send the energy down through the legs, through the feet, to the earth from which the energy came. Pause.
Inhale, slow in inhale. Fill all the way up. Pause, exhale slowly, exhale all the way out. Pause.
Inhale all the way to the top. Pull the energy, hold it. Exhale slowly, send the energy down to the earth from which the energy came. Pause.
Inhale, lengthen the breath. Fill up, pause, exhale. Sending the energy down, back the earth from which the energy came. Hold.
Inhale. Hold. Exhale.
Rebecca Rankin (13:31):
All the way out.
Inhale, draw the energy up through the spine. Up to the top. Pause.
Then exhale it out. Slow the exhale. Send the energy down, hold.
Inhale. Draw the energy up. Hold. Exhale, send the energy down, empty it out. Hold.
Inhale, drawing the energy up through the spine all the way to the top. Pause. Exhale, just slowly exhale, send the energy down through the legs, through the pelvis, down through the feet. Pause.
Hold. Inhale. Draw the energy up. Hold. Exhale, send the energy down, down through the pelvis, the legs, the feet, to the earth. Hold.
Inhale, draw the energy up. Hold. Send the energy, exhale down, deep exhale. Hold.
Inhale, draw the energy up. Hold. Exhale, send the energy down through the pelivs, shedding that, sending that to the legs, the feet to the earth. Hold.
Inhale, pull the energy up, fill all the way to the top. Hold. Exhale, send the energy down. Through the legs, to the feet, to the earth. Hold.
Inhale. Fill up with the air. Pull it in. Hold it. Exhale it out. Slow the exhale all the way empty and hold. Inhale. Draw the energy, that air in. Fill all the way to the top. Hold. Exhale all the way out.
Hold. Inhale. Draw up from the earth. Fill up with the air. Hold. Then exhale. Send the energy through the pelvis, through the legs, down through the feet, down to the earth, grounding you. Hold.
Inhale. Draw the energy up, pull it in, hold it here. Exhale it out.
Come back to the breath. Just a normal everyday breath.
Just let yourself breathe. Normally without holding, without creating any tension, just feel your body breathing.
Just noticing what you need to notice, feeling what you need to feel, no judgment at all. Just being aware of our body breathing.
And if it feels right for you, when it feels right, feel free to take some movement. If that's what your body's craving.
And only when you're ready, opening your eyes and just noticing how you feel. Thank you.