Should you practice yoga during your period?

A lot of women have this question: Should I practice yoga while I have my period?  Or maybe this thought has never occurred to you!  After all, we live in modern American.  We have tampon commercials that promise us we can ride horses, wear bikinis, and never even notice we have a period.  So why not practice yoga? Why we should stop ignoring and start loving our periods is a blog post for another day (in fact, it’s written right here.)

But let’s assume that you, the wise and enlightened woman you are, want to work with your body and not against it.  Should you practice yoga during your period? And if so, are there certain kinds of practices that are better or worse to do?

“SHE SAID IT DIDN’T MATTER”

One of my clients once told me that her yoga teacher said there were no changes that needed to be made to her practice during her period, and there were no poses that benefitted a healthy cycle or fertility.

Well, Geeta S. Iyengar (daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar – an entire style of yoga) says that’s simply not true. She’s dedicated her career to helping women overcome painful periods, illness connected to cycles and womb health.   She says in her book The Women’s Yoga Book,

“Yoga is meditation in action.  If you organize your practice in response to all phases of your menstrual cycle, it will provide you with the power and comfort of ritual and will add stability to your life by reestablishing your link with nature’s cycles.”

I agree.  So, if we know that there are certain poses to practice during certain times of your cycle, we know that during your period you want to select poses that enhance the energy that’s already happening.

APANA VATA

Apana is the downward flow of elimination that is associated with eliminating anything unwanted from the body, including shedding the uterine lining.  If we want to work with this energy and not aggravate it (and cause symptoms to worsen or appear) we want to choose poses that are:

  • Gentle.
  • Don’t compress the belly, uterus or ovaries.
  • Don’t reverse the blood flow (i.e. inversions).
  • Help reduce swelling, cramping and fatigue.

Some teachers recommend you don’t practice at all during your cycle, and you may find that this rule works well for you.  But if you choose to practice during your cycle choose a home practice so you can tailor your postures to your needs.  Follow these general guidelines:

  • Avoid standing poses – they generate too much heat that’s already being created from menstruation.
  • Avoid twists – they over tax your organs and can cause flooding or clotting of menstrual blood.
  • Try gentle seated bends – they can help reduce swelling.
  • Use seated forward folds (leaving room for belly or gently compressing on belly can bring relief from cramps depending on what feels right in your body.) They quiet the brain and reduce fatigue.
  • Avoid inversions – they reduce that apana vata flow of mala or bodily waste like menstrual blood. Can contribute to problems like heavy bleeding and endometriosis.
  • Reclining poses are wonderful – they help with feelings of pelvic pain and fatigue or headaches.
  • Avoid backbends – they overtax the system.  Gentle supported backbends like an elevated supta bada konasana are exceptions.
  • No seated pranayama- too challenging on nervous system.  Choose gentle breaths in reclining positions.

Jot down how you feel or take note of what poses feel best during your cycle. Click here for my favorite yoga poses for fertility enhancing!

sandra yoga period

Mama Wellness Tip- Spring yoga pose for happy hormones

For this Mama Wellness Tip you will start in utkatasana by stepping the feet to touch.

Bend into your knees, slightly tuck your tailbone.

Inhale and raise your arms, exhale and bring your palms to touch at your heart

as you twist to your right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee.

Check that your left knee hasn’t moved forward (keep both knees in line).

Repeat for other side.

Especially useful for PMS, PCOS and endometriosis sufferers.

(Avoid this pose if you are pregnant, bleeding, or are past ovulation in your cycle.)

Interested in learning more about how yoga can improve your hormonal happiness,

schedule your breakthrough session with Sandra. 

mwtyogahappyhormones

 

Take Your Practice into Winter

 

Winter Yoga Practice

As the weather turns colder, your practice will change as well.  A season of drying and cold, it’s important to include poses that are warming, grounding and nourishing to your thymus and lymph system.  The pose pictured above, legs up the wall or viparita karani, is wonderful for reversing lymph flow and increasing circulation.  If you’re pregnant, prop up your upper body or your hips to take pressure of the vena cava nerve.

Other poses that are useful for winter might include: ujjayi breath (the victorious breath), camel pose (stimulates thymus and throat chakra – beneficial when bronchial problems are abundant!), warming sun salutations and plenty of time to meditate.

Bonus! The pose on the right (fierce pose or chair pose) is great for enhancing fertility by increasing circulation to the pelvis!

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.11.15 AM 9 half squat

Twist for Release – Yoga Pose for Detox

Yoga Pose Tip: Marychasana C

This deep twisting pose is incredibly cleansing for your internal organs.
If you’re suffering from PCOS, blockages in your fallopian tubes or bad PMS symptoms this pose is great for you. It compresses (cutting off prana and blood flow to) the liver, ovaries, womb, and then releases, flooding with fresh energy and oxygen!

If you cannot get your elbow to the outside of the knee, just hold that knee with your hand. Don’t strain to turn the head, let it be the natural extension of the pose. Keep the straight leg active.

When to do it:

  • After you’ve warmed up your spine and practiced some breathing exercises.
  • In the morning before eating or at bedtime (on an empty stomach).
  • During the first half of your cycle (pre-ovulation) if you’re trying to conceive, or all the way up to your period if you’re not.

When NOT to do it:

  • When you’re actually bleeding.
  • If you’re during retrieval or implantation days if you’re using those methods.
  • If you’re pregnant (you can modify by sitting in easy seated pose and just gently twisting to each side with one hand behind you and one hand on your knee.)
  • The second half of your cycle (post ovulation) if you’re trying to conceive. (You don’t want to continue to overstimulate the ovaries, instead focus on poses that encourage implantation!)

ENJOY!

How to Squat with Purpose

malasana garland pose yoga squat

Malasana or garland pose is one of those classic poses that a lot of people can do, and has a variety of benefits. Here are a few that will likely apply to you!

  • Creates a feeling of being “grounded” and safe (as it deeply activates and connects you to the root chakra).
  • An easy pose to locate and strengthen your pelvic floor.
  • Relieves lower back pain. Especially for people who sit at a desk all day and have poor posture!
  • Opens your hips and pelvis for conception and birth.
  • Enhances circulation to the pelvis and womb.
  • Lubricates knee and hip joints.
  • Encourages deep breathing.

Here are my tips for maximizing the benefits of malasana!

  1. Use a support under your perineum (especially if you have Symphisis Pubis Discomfort, are late in pregnancy,or have knee issues. )  This helps increase that feeling of connectedness, earthiness and grounding.  You can use a blanket, pillow, block or bolster.
  2. Use your breath (in and out through the nose, or ujayyi breath if you’re familiar with it) to really use your pelvic floor. One of my teachers used to call them “elevator kegels“!  On either the inhale or the exhale, lift up on the pelvic floor (that sensation like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine), and then use the opposite breath to slowly release.   See if you can continue without pause between breaths or movements of the pelvic floor.
  3. Lean against a wall while doing this for a whole other world of support.  Allow everything to totally release.
  4. Relax your jaw.  The hips and the jaw are intimately connected to each other.  Notice what happens if you tense up your jaw, where else in your body do you feel that tension?  Now notice what happens if you release it?  Pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana) is another great posture to notice the hip-jaw connection.  This is especially important to practice if you’re trying to get pregnant or are pregnant!  It’s why we kiss before sex – it loosens everything up down there.  The throat chakra (being able to express ourselves and our needs well) is related to the root chakra (feeling safe and provided for).  It’s much easier to conceive (i.e. welcome a new being into our bodies) when we feel that we are safe to be able to express our needs and have them met.
  5. Practice daily and hold the pose through any feelings of discomfort (emotional or physical).  *Pain and discomfort are different things.  If you feel pain, especially in your knees, stop! And ask your teacher how to modify or if you should skip the pose.*  Humans tend to carry a lot of feelings of disappointment in the pelvic/hip area, and women even more so.  Notice what emotions come up for you, acknowledge them, breathe with them, honor them, and let them go.

Like Whole Beginnings on Facebook so you get tips every week!

Yoga Poses for a Heavy Period

If you’re one of my mamas suffering with heavy periods, or painful periods (especially associated with Endometriosis or PCOS).  These few poses are for you!

It’s an easy sequence of just 3 main poses you can do at home.  Make sure to breathe, breathe, breathe,  in through your nose and out through your nose!

Click here for more Yoga Poses for Fertility or here, for 5 Ways to Love Your Period.

Top 10 Reasons to Do Yoga for Fertility

yoga for fertility

Wondered how yoga can help fertility?

Top 10 Reasons you should practice yoga for fertility!

1. Allows for the body to communicate well with your mind. Studies have shown that Mind Body practices, especially when combined with one-on-one guidance, increase chances of conception.

2. Deepens connection with embodied wisdom (that part of your intution you can feel in your body.

3. Increased blood flow to pelvis and uterus.

4. Helps to nourish the endocrine system (the locations of the chakras line up with parts in the endocrine system: pituitary, pineal, thyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancrease and ovaries/testes.)

5.Increases focus (studies have shown that increased focus (less distraction) leads to greater feelings of happiness.

6.Balances the yin/yang energy (the masculine and feminine energy, the sun and moon energy).

7. Increases Apana. The energy that eliminates not only physical wastes but anything undesirable or threatening to good health. It supports the immune system and helps keep the mind free of destructive forces.

8. Increases Samana. When samana is healthy, we benefit from strong digestion, vitality, and balance at every level. When samana is weak, we struggle with assimilating and digesting not only what we physically consume but also our mental and emotional experiences.

9.Increases circulation and decreases inflammation and balance of estrogen/progesterone (associated with Endometriosis and fibroids)

10. Helps to balance sugar in the body (associated with PCOS – a major cause of infertility).

Join a Class! or Schedule Your Abundant Mama Breakthrough Session for private guidance on your conception journey.

3 Ways to Relieve Stress in Pregnancy (Without Going Broke)

Maybe you tried really hard to conceive, maybe you waited patiently.  Now that you are pregnant and experienced that immediate sense of relief “whew! we did it!” that stress has started to creep back in and you’re wondering how to handle it naturally as well as effectively.

Maybe you were surprised when you got that pink line on the stick and now you’re feeling stress you hadn’t planned on.  Sure you’re happy, but whoa so many things to work through and plan now!

Maybe you wanted this pregnancy but birth seems daunting even intimidating.  Your last birth was traumatic and you’re scared it will repeat or be as horrific as your friends have told you it will be.

Why does it matter?

relieve stress in pregnancyI probably don’t need to tell you the risks associated with stressed out mamas.  Too much stress in pregnancy can cause little disurpitons like headaches, insomnia, indigestion.  It can also cause much more serious complications like low birth weight, pre-term labor, long labors, increase in interventions during labor, difficult breastfeeding, or even Hypertension (preeclampsia).

Should you quit your job and crawl into bed for the next 9 months? No!  A certain level of stress is actually useful. Labor is actually quite stressful on baby but it serves the purpose of teaching their lungs to compress (as contractions squeeze and release), turns on oxytocin (to bond with mama) and norepinephrine (to be alert to meet mama).

A certain amount of stress for adults is useful too – it pushes us, causes us to motivate and take action.  So you don’t need to eliminate all stressors to decrease your chances of complications.

What to do?

How can you be a wise mama and find some joy, some stillness, some good old fashioned stress relief without getting a massage everyday or moving to an island?

1.  Use food.

relive stress in pregnancyWe tend to have a love/hate relationship with food as women. We use it as punishment or reward.  We count it.  We fear it.  We indulge in it. What if you decided for the season of pregnancy and postpartum you would enjoy it?  You would use it to build up yourself and baby and you would choose foods and ways of eating that you enjoy?

Walk away from the list of scary “no” foods in pregnancy and try this exercise:

  • What foods make me happy? (Not give me a brief sugar high but actually make me happy.) Something my mom used to make? My favorite spring dish?
  • What foods am I afraid of?  Why?  What would happen if I stopped labeling these foods as “good” and “bad”?
  • How do I usually eat? Alone? Quickly? With family? How does this likely affect my digestion and nutrient abosorption?

2. Practice yin enhancing poses.

relieve stress in pregnancyWe live in a culture of yang.  Masculine, heating, fast paced.  And while we of course need some yang energy in our lives (otherwise we’d all become lazy, loafing noodles) we need it to be constantly moving in balance with yang energy: feminine, slow, cooling.

Choose yoga poses that can be supported with blocks or bolsters, forward folds and seated poses and stay in them a bit longer than you usually do.  Make the challenge to see not how deep you can get into a pose physically, but how deep you can get into a pose by surrendering and staying put.

3. Stop googling stuff.

I mean it!  So many searches can turn into a rabbit hole on the internet.  You come up for hair 2 hours later more confused and stressed than when you began!  It’s true, we need info and support and most of our care providers aren’t equipped to give us holistic advice on nutrition, emotional well-being and “alternative” approaches.  But too long online and you will find information but not necessary the education or support that you’re really looking for.

Instead, choose a tribe or a single guide to take you through your personal needs as a mama-to-be.  Make that a private and sacred relationship and keep the googling to a minimum.

Are you in need of a wellness guide?  Let me help you.

Mama Wellness Wednesday – Get Body Labor Ready

get body labor ready

Freedom to move in labor has been shown to reduce:

  • Need for pain meds
  • Fetal heart abnormalities
  • Complications during and after birth.

Get ready for the rhythmic movement of labor by getting in touch with your body now. Especially practicing deep squats that open the hips, help you strengthen and connect to the pelvic floor and feel grounded.

Don’t have your  {free} Empowered Mama Guided Meditation yet?  Click here.

The Truth About Stress and Fertility

According to my research,  7.4 million women have used infertility treatments between 2006 and 2010.  That’s a lot of women who are seeking help of one form or another to get pregnant.  It’s definitely something on our minds.

There are a lot of reasons why this might be happening.  I don’t have time to go into all of them here, but the list includes things like: waiting longer to attempt pregnancy, endocrine disruptors in our environment, endocrine disruptors in our food, high levels of chronic stress, synthetic hormones, lack of adequate information on our cycles and disconnection from the natural lunar rhythms that our bodies respond to.

fertility stressWow. That’s a lot to take in. And that list certainly isn’t decreasing anyone’s stress level. One mama I spoke with yesterday said “I spent hours online yesterday when I got my test results back. I can’t think why this would happen to me.  I feel dirty or broken in some way.  I’m overwhelmed!  There’s chemicals in my skin care, poison in our food.  And am I also supposed to leave my job that I enjoy because it’s a high stress job??”

Oh I feel for you, mama!  It is overwhelming and beginning is usually the hardest part isn’t it?  Let’s start here, with some big questions about stress and fertility.

1. Do I need to leave my high stress job and meditate in an ashram for a year?

Short answer is, no.  Long answer is – there are a lot of other follow up questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you love your work?
  • Why are you at a high stress job?
  • Define “high stress”.
  • Is there another line of work that you would prefer to do and you’re not for some reason?
  • Do you use your work as an excuse to avoid self-care?

“Stress” is a relative term.  Each woman experiences stress differently and tolerates or even enjoys different levels of stress. Many stay-at-home mamas would call their work “high stress” and yet they don’t have the option (nor do they want to) quit!  Being on-call as a doula presents a certain amount of stress into my life.  For me, I choose to attend only a few births a year and focus on my coaching and yoga programs. Other doulas enjoy being at births all the time, and for them, the trade of “higher stress” brings higher reward. fertility stress

On the other hand, I worked with a pregnant mama who quit her job because she felt the negativity there was interfering with conception.  Turns out she was right- she conceived a short time after leaving.

This question can only be answered by you.  LIsten to your intuition, pray about it, seek out the counsel of other wise women. And explore options that might not be as drastic or black and white as work there or don’t work there.

2.  If I keep my “high stress” job, will yoga even help?

Yes!  If your active or stressful job creates lots of yang energy in your life (masculine, busy, active), your yoga practice can and should introduce the complementary yin energy (slow, introspective, soft, receiving).  There isn’t a magic potion for balance (i.e. 3 yoga classes negates 3 crazy work days) the yin/yang symbol represents the constant flow of the two energies where sometimes one is dominant for a reason, and other times the other takes over.

Fertility is achieved most often with a healthy dose of yin/yang energy – masculine and feminine.

3. How can stress actually interfere with fertility?

This one is a bit more complicated in that there are many factors involved.  The general idea is that high levels of cortisol and adrenaline (from stress) disrupt your adrenal function, which in turn disrupts the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) system.  When your body believes it is under attack for long periods of time, the rest of the endocrine system is interrupted.

We often respond to stress by ignoring our normal signals to eat properly.  Lack of sleep and high stress has been shown to increase feelings of sugar cravings.  (This is why we joke about eating too much chocolate when we’re stressed out.) When we eat the sugar we get a little buzz that soothes it temporarily but sets us up for a nasty cycle of cravings.  When insulin levels are too high in the body they mimic ovarian hormones and cause the ovaries to be confused and stop producing estrogen. This can also decrease your chances of fertility, especially if you’re overweight or under weight.

And then there’s the inflammation. A great deal of infertility is due to blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids and endometriosis.  All of these are related to inflammation in the body.  And all are aggravated by stress.  This is why research has shown that a yoga practice, and decrease in inflammatory foods helps to decrease pain and symptoms as well as heal some of these conditions.  chakras christianity happy chakras happy womb

In Western philosophy the factors above allow stress to breakdown your healthy endocrine system. In Eastern philosophy stress interrupts the proper flow of prana or life energy throughout your body, and emotional factors play a huge role.  For example, we carry feelings of disappointment in our hips, and often feelings of anxiety in our heart chakra.  Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda (the yoga health science) both believe that there is an energy channel between the heart and the womb.  If you have experienced a great deal of disappointment and anxiety (who hasn’t?!) and have not adequately dealt with it or found healing there, this channel will be blocked and conception will be very difficult.

4. The Biggest Question : Where to start managing stress for fertility?

Breath.  Breath and more breath.  Pranayama or breathing exercises provide a myriad of different things for you.

  • Increase oxygen flow.
  • Decrease cortisol levels and adrenalin levels.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Bring body awareness.
  • Minimize pain.
  • Decrease inflammation in the body.

The best part about breathing?  It’s free.  It can take as little as 2-3 minutes a day. Wanna get started?  Download your complementary Abundant Mama Guided Fertility Meditation here!

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