Is it good to practice yoga during menstruation? What should we avoid if we do practice? What are some other yogic methods we can follow to ease our menstruation symptoms off-the-mat?
These are tricky questions as there isn't a one size fits all answer. Our bodies are all different and how we feel and react to 'the time of the month' varies. However, in my opinion, I would say it's good to incorporate yoga practice during our menstruation cycle (given we know the limit of what our bodies can take at that time and which postures we should shy away from). I also believe that there are yogic methods off-the-mat that can help us to face and relieve our womenly issues every month.
Why is practicing yoga beneficial during menstruation (and at all times of the month):
1. It gets the blood pumping
I practice and teach Navakarana Vinyasa, a very dynamic flow of movements packed with intense strength and flexibility training. It is a low impact, yet powerful practice which gets the blood pumping and I usually walk out of the practice drenched in sweat. What feels better than having a bunch of endorphins pumped throughout the body?
2. It eases muscle cramps and pains
I generally experience some abdomen cramps and lower back pain when I'm on my period, so I can't imagine how much strain is actually going on inside my uterus. But, as with any muscle tightness in other parts of our body, stretching and doing gentle twists will help to release the tightness and assist with relieving pain.
3. It helps with getting rid of bloating
So many of us have 'fat days' pre or during menstruation. After all, it is in our human nature to store everything at that time of the month in preparation for childbirth. Indeed, even drops of water can be stored in the wrong part of your body. However, when you practice yoga, the deep stretches elongate your muscles and the strength training tones up your whole body giving you the ability to burn calories quicker which helps get rid of the bloating.
4. It removes sluggishness
I think every female knows how our period can affect us mentally - we can become negative in our thoughts, blow issues out of proportion and it may lead us to feel less beautiful and confident about our body imagine. So how can we remove this feeling through yoga? When we practice on the mat, our āsana (posture), prānayāma (breath) and dhārana (concentration) should all align. By getting the blood pumping we normally walk out feeling refreshed and rebooted, releasing our minds from the sluggish state.
Which āsanas (postures) are not recommended for you during your menstrual cycle?
Which postures to avoid really depends on how the body feels. My advice is to never force your body to do anything that is strenuous if you are feeling tired as you are more prone to injury that way. If you feel tired from your menstruation, stay with the postures that are seated, lying down or standing. I would also avoid full arm balances and inversions (half postures should be ok).
How we stretch also deeply affects our body, as I always mention to all my students in class, any forward fold postures should start from the hips, so for a forward bend, we bend from our hips to keep our back straight, our abdomen will reach out thighs, chest to knees and finally head to shin.
Not only is this the correct alignment for your spine, but the pressure between your abdomen and thighs can also help relieve period pain in your uterus and intestines.
Examples of āsanas to practice during menstruations:
From the yogic way of life, if you're not on the mat, what can you do to ease your period pain?
1. Drink room temperature or warm water during - cold substances may contribute to cramps in your abdomen area.
2. Get plenty of sleep, at least 7 hours a day - as I've mentioned earlier, we only feel the external discomfort, but what goes on within our bodies must be more stressful, so sleep is the best way to repair our cells.
3. Avoid caffeine - this is a hard one but I do try avoid caffeine during the few days of my cycle and it does help to minimize the cramps.
4. Eat warm food only - yes, this goes back to point 1 about avoiding substanc