There are many different opinions in the yoga world as to if a woman should practice yoga while on her period and if so, how she should practice.
On one end, some say to avoid inversions such as shoulder stand, headstand, plough pose and handstand. Others say to only do restorative poses. And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, some say to completely refrain from yoga practice all together.
The fact is that every woman experiences her period differently making it difficult to make a definitive rule that applies to everyone. However, listening to and understanding what is going on inside the body during this special time of the month can help us make intuitive decisions about our practice.
Why it could be a good idea to avoid inversions:
An inversion refers to a posture where the lower body is above the heart. During menstruation, the body is using energy to cleanse the reproductive tract from the inside out. Doing powerful inversions at this time such as headstand, shoulder stand or handstand divert the energy from the reproductive system to the muscles necessary to do these postures. And, why is this bad? It’s not necessarily ‘bad’, but it does stress the reproductive system and can be taxing for the body. The result could be a running out of energy and fatigue.
Philosophically, the downward flow of menstruation represents ‘apana vayu’ or downward flowing energy. This energy is said to nourish reproduction elimination and digestion. Some say that doing inversions during this time disrupts the natural flow of this energy.
Restorative poses that could be helpful for alleviating menstrual symptoms such as lower back pain, cramps and mood swings:
- Reclined bound angle pose: for stress relief, grounding and helps sooth menstrual cramps.
- Cat and cow pose: provides a gentle massage to the vertebrae and belly organs.
- Sitting forward fold: relief of menstrual discomfort, stretches spine and helps headaches.
- Legs up the wall pose: helps relieve minor backache and helps calm the mind.
- Child’s pose: calms the mind and helps alleviate cramping.
- Supported corpse pose (with pillow under knees): provides relaxation for the entire body.
Why it could to be good to refrain from doing yoga during your period:
If you happen to have a very heavy flow or are extremely tired during your period, perhaps the best pose is rest and relaxation. There’s absolutely no shame in it and your yoga mat will be patiently awaiting your return.
I have experienced both the desire for a more active yoga class while on my period and have sufficed with gentle sun salutations, and I have also felt my period was the perfect time to slow down and completely rest. So, the best advice I can think of is to sincerely do what is most optimal for you and your body.