In our fast-paced globalized world that is heavy on masculine yang energy, there seems to be very little space for menstruating persons to honor their menstrual cycle. We’ve long lost the habit to plan our life, from month to month, according to our cycle, respecting and benefitting from the varying energy levels, moods and personalities each phase of the cycle gifts us with.
We’ve become masters of ignoring, controlling and eliminating our menstruation. The ease with which doctors prescribe hormonal contraception without educating their patients, often very young, about the true impact of the pill and its side effects speaks for itself.
MENSTRUATION AS TIME TO SEEK INNER KNOWLEDGE AND SELF-RENEWAL
It hasn’t always been like this. As Bobby Clennel explains,
“Menstruation has not always been considered either a curse to be feared and reviled or a biological necessity to be ignored. In profeminine cultures, menstruation was seen as a precious time for seeking inner knowledge and self-renewal.”
Across the world, we can find various beliefs and “rules” when it comes to menstruation and what women can and cannot do during their period. In India, monthly bleeding is a sacred event. That’s why in the Indian tradition, women are excused from family life and from cooking during their menses. This is not an act of oppression, but a welcomed pause for women to rest, care for themselves and protect themselves when their energy levels are at their lowest.
GET TO KNOW YOUR CYCLE AND USE IT FOR YOUR BENEFIT
What can you do to befriend your period, especially if it comes with lots of discomfort? If you struggle with scanty, painful or heavy periods, I suggest that you start tuning into your cycle. Most of us probably already use some sort of period tracker. I still remember using a paper period calendar as a teenager. Now we have the advantage of easy to follow apps that provide good overview of our cycles.
The different phases of your cycle affect your productivity, creativity, and ability to focus, not to mention strength, balance and flexibility among other things. Knowing your cycle gives you the power to use it to your advantage.
Start observing how your moods and energy levels change. This affects your productivity at work, creativity and ability to focus, among other things. If you have established yoga or workout practice, you can even notice changes in your strength, balance and flexibility along your cycle.
In the Western world, people perceive menstruation as an obsolete disturbance from their fast life, particularly work. How about allowing your cycle flourish and using what you’ve learnt about yourself during each phase in your favor. What do I mean?
During the days leading up to ovulation
For example, I’m doing my best to schedule creative work from few days after my period until past ovulation. My uterus had a chance to recover, energy levels rise and I’m ready to take on the world. That’s when I create programs and workshops and put myself out there. If you have the opportunity to schedule important meetings to this time until around your ovulation, go for it.
Time to quieten down and turn your senses inwards
Do you have an important decisions to make? Take time to reflect during the days leading up to your period. Your introspection is at its highest and you’re more connected to yourself. Leave the actual decision making for after your period.
Period is time to rest
Any important or high impact stuff coming up to deal with during your period? If you have at least the slightest possibility, reschedule.
Allow your body to rest and minimize effort during the heaviest flow. You may not be able to take a few days off each month, but you can schedule easy, energy preserving tasks for the days of your bleeding.
When you start working along with your cycle, you will not only enjoy the benefits of knowing and taking advantage of your varying energy levels and moods. You will know yourself better and little by little you can introduce more changes to better align with your cycle and genuinely look forward to your period free from discomfort and pain.
MENSTRUATION AND YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
During menstruation, we may feel sluggish, exhausted and in pain. This in itself is an invitation to rest. Take your days as easy as possible. Reschedule meetings and activities, sleep more or take naps, eat freshly cooked, warm and nourishing meals. Keep yourself warm.
Exercise helps to reduce uncomfortable symptoms such as pain, swelling, bloating and tension. Although this is a personal preference, I suggest that you skip your workout and any high impact activity at least during your heaviest flow. If your asana practice is usually physically demanding, shake it up by moving slower, closer to the ground and choose appropriate poses.
Choosing the right practice appropriate for given day or period, even though our mind and/or ego fight against it, is true yoga.
What poses you should practice during your period
Take your practice to the ground and connect with the Earth. Seated and supine poses are your best friend.
Seated poses and seated forward folds are most recommended during your period. They are introspective, calm down the nerves and rest the brain. Some of them may help reduce heavy bleeding. Try asanas such as Upavista Konasana, Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottanasana, Virasana or (Parshva) Adho Mukha Swastikasana.
Supine (reclining) poses are brilliant, as they reduce pelvic pain and abdominal cramps, relax the nerves and fight off fatigue. Practice more passively, yin-style and relax your abdomen generously. Poses that you should try are Supta Badha Konasana, Supta Virasana, Supta Padangustasana II, or Viparita Dandasana.
Use abundance of props to support your body. Include bolsters, folded or rolled blankets, strap and do not hesitate to use household items such as pillows or beach towels.
And what yoga poses to avoid
Standing poses are too strenuous during your period. Skip them for a few days and bring them back to your practice after your body recovers from bleeding. We have the tendency to tighten our abdomen when practicing standing poses, but this is stressful for the uterus. Exceptions are Utthita Trikonasana and Ardha Chandrasana supported with wall or a table as they can relieve low back pain, bloating and cramps.
Seated deep abdominal twists are not recommended during menstruation as they can pressurize the lower belly. Gentle twists can be relieving for your low back.
Backbends require lots of energy, which we don’t necessarily have during our period. Save them for later.
Inversions do not reverse the flow of your menstrual blood.
Inversions and whether they should be practiced or not during period have been causing plenty of controversy in the yoga world. As with everything – try and see how it feels in your body. According to Ayurveda, however, inversions are contraindicated during period as they work against the energy needed to expel the menstrual blood from your body (apana vayu). It isn’t true that they reverse the flow of the menstrual blood, but they do disturb elimination.
YOUR CYCLE, YOUR YOGA
As with everything, there is no one size fits all. While some of us may feel good during our period and only slightly adjust their practice, others (myself included) need a complete slow down and heavy management of pain and fatigue. This may change during your life and even from cycle to cycle, depending on the season and what you’ve lived through in the month leading to your period. Take your time and stay patient.
I wish you a fulfilling discovery of your feminine cycle and insightful (and easy) periods filled with rest and connection to your source.
Yours in Yoga,