Every woman understands that PMS and the symptoms that go hand-in-hand with our monthly cycles can quite often be a pretty horrid business.
Breast tenderness, bloating, anxiety, mood swings and the dreaded cramps are just some of the issues faced by women for at least five days out of every thirty, and let's be honest, it can get rather tiresome.
Thankfully, there are some ways that you can alleviate rubbish PMS symptoms without resorting to chocolate/wine/box sets. Top London yoga instructor Julie Montagu believes that practicing yoga can help soften the PMS blow when that dreaded cycle rolls around...
'Being a mother of 4, I certainly know a thing or two about hormones! And I’ve also certainly found that yoga can be hugely beneficial to everyone when it comes to rebalancing hormones as yoga is great for restoring the natural balance and thereby helping to keep our physical and mental health in check too!'
'The endocrine system, which is made up of a collection of hormone producing glands, is essential to practically every function in the body. These functions range from energy levels to growth and development as well as metabolism and sexual function. When you are struggling with a hormonal imbalance you could suffer with a wide range of symptoms. However, you are likely to experience headaches, skin problems, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain and mood problems. Therefore, it’s easy to see why keeping the endocrine system working at an optimum rate is essential to ongoing good health!'
'Certain yoga poses can stimulate the hormone producing glands, helping to maintain optimum function. This in turn leads to consistent production and distribution of these hormones around the body. The focus in yoga on breathing in these poses is also beneficial for stimulating the endocrine system, helping it to function more effectively.'
1. Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana)
'This pose works to stimulate the thyroid and the parathyroid glands. It is also believed to help combat depression. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and secretes hormones which regulate growth and metabolic function. The parathyroid glands are also found in the neck and control how much calcium is released into the body. If the hormone balance of the parathyroid glands is not balanced as it should be then this can be detrimental to calcium distribution.'
'To get into this pose, start by sitting on your heels in Hero Pose. You can then extend your arms back and hold onto the soles of your feet. Tuck your chin inwards towards your chest as you round your body forwards, hinging your body at your hips. At this point your head should drop towards the floor as your forehead touches your knees. Lift your hips upward slightly as the crown of your head rests on the floor and rest comfortably for five deep breaths. You can then slowly return to Hero Pose. Repeat three times.'
2. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
'The Cobra Pose serves to massage the adrenal gland. When the adrenal gland is affected in this way it is better able to function, which can enable your body to better combat stress and release tension.'
'Begin by lying flat on your stomach with your legs together and your palms flat on the floor besides your shoulders. Your head will start resting flat on the floor and you can then lift your head and chest upwards. Hold this pose for up to one minute, inhaling and exhaling deeply, before lowering yourself back down towards the ground. You can then repeat this pose a few times to really enjoy the benefits of doing so.'
3. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
'Camel Pose is popular due to its wide range of known benefits, not least of all its ability to help regulate your hormones. As you hold this pose it works to stimulate your internal organs, especially in the neck region. As we now know, this is where the thyroid and parathyroid glands are located, meaning they enjoy the benefits of this pose!'
'To get into Camel Pose start by kneeling on the floor and keep your knees hip-width distance apart. Move your thighs slightly towards each other and bring your hip bones up slightly towards the torso. At this time, your shins and your toes should remain firmly on the floor. Bring your hands to rest on the back of your pelvis with the palms of your hands touching your body. Use your hands to push your tailbone down gently as you push your thighs backwards to counteract your body from moving forward. You should then breathe in deeply as your shoulder blades move towards your ribs. Lean backwards slightly and relax your ribs before pulling the lower ribs up towards your chest and away from the pelvis. Bring your hands down to meet your heels and move your arms outwards. Hold this position for 30 seconds before you lift your torso up, bring your arms forward and return to the original position. Try repeating this pose several times to really reap the benefits.'
Julie Montagu is one of London's top yoga and nutrition teachers. Julie is the star of recent US Bravo TV and UK ItvBe 'Ladies of London', brains behind her new online nutrition and yoga courses The Flexi Foodie Academy (www.theflexifoodie.com), author of 3 books: Superfoods, Eat Real Food and Superfoods. Follow her on Facebook/Twitter at @juliemontagu / Instagram @theflexifoodie