During Women’s History Month and always, it’s time for us to look at an important issue that comes up for yogis with female anatomy: doing yoga on our cycle. There are so many different takes on whether we should practice yoga while menstruating.
One of my teachers, Saraswati Burman, said menstruating is like a cleanse. You’re supposed to take it easy during cleanses. That means you let the body do its thing without interfering. You focus on receptivity and being rather than giving and doing. Allowing yourself time and space to reflect can go a long way for many of us. It’s also a time when others should be there for you. Yes, we can take care of ourselves, but this is an opportunity for others to be of service to us. So invite a loved one to bring you tea, make you dinner, or just listen to you without offering advice.
However, another teacher I trained with said the opposite. She taught that we should just live life as we usually do while menstruating – that doing yoga while menstruating doesn’t matter one bit.
Over the years I’ve worked with different yoga therapy clients. Some say practicing while menstruating is more than uncomfortable. Others report feeling better if they practice yoga.
Perhaps part of the reason doing yoga while menstruating affects some of us deeply and others not at all is because we may manifest different intensity in our apana vayu. Apana vayu is like a downward current of energy in our body that aids with elimination or release in numerous ways:
- digestive elimination
- release through menstruation
- release of the breath through exhaling
- release of mental, physical and emotional energy that no longer serves us
If a person has a forceful apana vayu they might be able to practice inversions (any posture where the head is lower than the heart) while menstruating without interruption of their flow of elimination. But if one’s downward current is less forceful then practicing yoga with inversions might prolong or interrupt one’s menstrual cycle.
Whether caused by doing inversions or something else, if your menstrual flow goes up instead of down and out that means you’re likely experiencing what some doctors refer to as retrograde menstrual flow or reversed menstruation. In severe cases, reversed menstruation can result in bloody cysts that irritate organs, pelvic pain, or endometriosis (1).
As with most things in yoga and life, it is important to listen to your own body rather than any teacher telling you what to do. If you feel better practicing on your cycle, I don’t think anyone should stop you. If you don’t then take a break. Another option during your practice while menstruating is to avoid inversions (any pose when the heart is lower than the hips). Many inversion poses work to reverse apana vayu. No matter what we choose to do while on our cycles, it’s a beautiful time to celebrate our body and its rhythms.
- Reversed menstruation, http://www.womens-health-advice.com/endometriosis/causes.html#periods