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Menstruation: Do I need to change my yoga practice?


Should I change my yoga practice when I am menstruating? 
Is it safe to invert?
 

What types of postures would be beneficial during this time?
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. You must decide based on your own unique needs. Lori Gaspar offers the following helpful information to help you decide.


Menstruation

  • Menstruation is a normal, healthy body activity, not a disability.
  • Menstruation can make one feel bloaty, crampy, and uncomfortable.


Medical Evidence

  • There is no firm medical evidence that suggests exercise is harmful during menstruation, including inversions.
  • But few studies have been done and more are needed.


Culture

  • Some cultures have honored this time and allowed women to break from their work and use this time to restore themselves.
  • Other traditions, such as our western culture, have pressured women into believing they should be super women and do it all, all the time.
  • When something is forced upon you against your wishes, it can be harmful.
  • Sometimes you need to try a different approach; it may be just what you needed but did not know it.
  • Ultimately, IT IS YOUR CHOICE about how you want to take care of yourself. Be open for suggestion, but ultimately honor your own inner wisdom.


Lots of variability in the menstrual cycle

  • The little bit of medical evidence available suggests there is much variability in the menstrual cycle from individual to individual.
  • There is also a lot of menstrual variability from teen years to menopause.
  • There is variability within the cycle itself. You may feel discomfort on one day and feel fine the next. One day may have light flow and the next day the blood flow may be heavy.
  • One recommendation does not fit all!


Some people feel better when they exercise and some people feel worse.

  • If exercise makes you feel better, then go ahead and practice yoga, modifying as needed to keep you feeling good.
  • If you feel really lousy, be gentle with yourself. Honor how you feel and rest and do restorative yoga. If your life is super busy all the time, the healthiest choice may be to take it easy during this time.


Based upon my own experience and others shared input, we suggest:

  • Avoid actions that compress the belly, such as kapabhati breathing, uddiyana bandha, and deep twists.
  • Inversions tend to increase blood flow so avoid them if you don’t want to bleed heavier. But if your blood flow is light and you feel fine, you might give one a try and see how the inversion affects you. A perimenopausal woman might like increasing the flow of old blood and tissue that her changing body is not releasing efficiently at the end of her cycle, yet the same woman could have an adverse effect if she inverts earlier in her cycle when she is bleeding heavily.
  • The bottomline is not to overdo. Try short inversions first and notice their effects before you increase your inversion time.
  • If you feel lousy, go easy on your self.
  • Practice restorative postures that soften and open the belly, such as supta baddha konasana or savasana with calves resting on a chair seat.
  • Practice wide leg postures to help create space in the pelvis, such as upavista konasana with head supported on a chair seat or ardha chandrasana 2 with back leg supported up on a counter.
  • If your low back is achy, practice gentle forward bends, such as cakra vakasana, childs pose, apanasana or  janu sirasana with your head supported on a chair seat.


Most importantly, honor how you feel and observe the effects of what happens when you rest versus what happens when you are active:

  • Did you feel better?
  • Did your blood flow increase or decrease?
  • Did your mood stabilize or was it aggravated?