Yoga And Your Menstrual CycleFeb 25, 2022
I bow before the magnitude of the female menstrual cycle. I bow deeply; in gratitude, in love, in respect.
The womb holds an incredible ability to manifest, and create within our lives. An energy not to be reckoned with. So, it makes sense that in history we continuously see it misunderstood and misrepresented. Pushed aside and deemed somewhat of a nuisance, with women in some cultures banned from entering houses of prayer as they were viewed as ‘unclean’ during their shedding days. This isn’t uncommon. When you start doing a little bit of research into the history of the menstrual cycle and how the ancient cultures treated their females during this time; usually asked to leave the colony and live in huts on the outskirts. It’s safe to say that this “strange phenomenon” was not viewed as a symbol of femininity as it is today, but rather something like ‘witchcraft’, ‘not to be trusted’. But I mean, let’s be real, all females are powerful witches with the ability to create whatever the hell they want, so really, the ancients where right ;)
Within the realm of Traditional Yoga, these rituals follow through; women forbidden from temples whilst bleeding and even forbidden to practice during this time. Traditional Yoga dictates that Inversions during our menstrual phase is not healthy, claiming that it reverses the natural flow of prana and can cause issues with our periods long term.
I find this increasingly interesting because when one dives into the science behind it, one receives different answers. However, I believe this comes down to the energy levels of the individual woman. Inversions take a lot of effort, despite being a parasympathetic nervous system stimulator, active inversions require a lot of physical strain and during our menstrual phase, the winter season, usually day 1-7 our hormones are at their lowest point, which naturally brings our energy down and may produce an urge to return inwards.
Much like the winter period, it calls for slowing down, coming home and staying warm. So when we think about our practice during this time, it’s important to remember what your body is doing hormonally and maybe a strong, dynamic Yang practice might not be the correct support for this phase of the month. Slowing it down may feel incredibly juicy to you; sweet yin practices or a gentle flow into yin is perfect. However, every woman reacts differently to their shedding and that’s where the practice of Svadhyaya (self-study) so beautifully comes into play, the more you observe how you’re feeling, the better you’ll be able to listen, the better you’ll be able to react to what your body needs.
But what about all those other lovely symptoms that may come along with bleeding, in particular the cramping in the lower belly and the lower back pain?
Any asana that involves a passive forward fold (head to knee pose for example) to lengthen the lower back, are great. Butterfly and reclined twists, will help stimulate the blood flow in the abdominal area and will help relieve any of that tension. Fish pose, cobra pose or any soft lower back compression will also help relieve any tension. But my all-time favourite; legs up the wall, a beautiful parasympathetic stimulator and always seems to be there for me when times get tough! This will help reduce any inflammation in the legs, and calms the nervous system during periods of heightened emotions.
It’s often because of these sensations, that its usually a huge hell no to even moving. But getting some gentle blood flow through your body is super beneficial and I promise you, you will come out of it feeling a whole heap of pain relief. Together with getting your body into a relaxed parasympathetic state, which helps to balance your hormonal system as well as giving it a chance to regenerate. This is why it’s so vital that we find moments of rest during our menstrual phase, as our body physically isn’t producing its usual pockets of energy.
This is only phase one of our menstrual cycle. There are three more phases, which we can work with, and adapt our lifestyles to. However, during our menstrual phase, we are to take extra care of ourselves, after all we are bleeding from our goddamn vaginas! Imagine if we treated our menstrual cycle as we treated our children? Listened to it, held space for it to be, embraced it with every inch of our being, and always remained in a space of unconditionality?
How the relationship with the women by our sides would change, how our sisters would rise!