What Causes Abdominal Cramps During Primary Series?

Transcript of: What causes abdominal cramps during primary series?

Hey everyone! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. You can submit your own question by going to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. So, this month’s question comes from Steve. He asks about abdominal cramps during primary series.

The Question:

Hi David,
When we’re working on our series and one of the asanas causes what feels like a cramping in a section of the abdominal region, such that it feels rock solid to the touch and is very slow to release or relax, do you have any idea what is causing it? And perhaps more importantly, what could we do to deal with it? I’ve been practicing for several years and this has only happened three or four times, which isn’t that often, but it’s pretty scary when it does.

The Answer:

So, it’s a good question. Abdominal cramps during primary series have happened to me as well. You didn’t mention which asana it was that caused this, and when you say our series, I’m going to assume that you mean the Ashtanga primary series. Of course, there’s a lot of forward bending in the series. The pose that brings up abdominal cramps in primary series the most, at least in my experience, is kurmasana and particularly supta kurmasana, with garbha pindasana being number two.

So, when you look at that posture, or those postures and those positions, what we’ve done is we’ve flexed the spine quite strongly. The abdominal muscles are contracted. Two things that cause cramps generally speaking are holding a position for a long period of time — you might think five breaths or ten breaths is probably not that long — you need to hold that in the context of all of the other forward bends in practice that have happened prior to that. So, there’s the holding of the position.

The other thing is over-contracting the muscle, or we could almost go as far as saying a muscle strain, and I don’t mean injurious, I just mean a muscle contracting to the point where it goes into that state of contracture or spasm as you describe it. And then layer all of that on top of a very common cause, a general cause still, which is dehydration. By the time you get three quarters of the way through, depending on your hydration level prior to starting or what you did the night and day before, mix all of that together and it’s probably a mixture of those things coming together and making that small area of spasm happen in your abdomen, which you could experience as abdominal cramps during primary series.

Alright? I hope that helps and gives you a little clarity. At least it gives you a few things to kind of think about, test, or think back on regarding the last time it happened.

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