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 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:
- 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!