The menstrual Flow is on : To Yoga or not to Yoga, that is the question. Keep up the same practice or shake it up for this time of the month? How to honor your moons – and your feminine! – with yoga? Let’s see what flows best with the moony-moons.
Yoga or not during your period?
If you practice Astanga Yoga, there’s no secret. Astanga Yoga’s rule is: no practice during your period! Yep, you’re off! Astanga Yoga is vigorous and puts a lot of emphasis on Muladara Bandha (Pelvic Lock) and Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock). These locks cause Prana to go UP into the body instead of letting it go DOWN.
If you’d rather keep up the practice during your period, just adapt it! Go for a different flow (pun intended), a more Yin, restorative, internal practice. In short, 2 words : self-care!
How to practice yoga during your period? What postures to avoid?
I love that yoga gives us the possibility to adapt the practice and honor our moon cycle. In doing so, we recognize their place in our lives and in the natural cycles of the Earth and we nourish ourselves.
Here are the main ideas for going with the Flow:
1- Relax the belly and the uterus
How to relax the belly and uterus?
- Avoid active twists in the lower abdomen, such as Marichyasana C (sage Marichi’s pose), Parivritta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) or Parivritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose). Go for less intense twists (like the easy variation of Marichyasana C instead of the classic version).
- Go easy on the ab work: Plank, Chaturanga Dandasana, Navasana (Boat Pose), and arms balances (these poses usually involve engaging the deep abdominal muscles) like Bakasana (Crane/ Crow Pose), Eka Pada Koundinyasana (the “Flying Splits) and variants.
- Instead, opt for poses that help relax the belly, like Balasana or Adho Mukha Virasana (Child’s Posture), gentle forward folds like Pascimottanasana, and supine postures like Savasana.
- In a nutshell: when you’re flowy, go easy and soften your belly!
2- Go with the direction of your menstrual flow
How to honor the direction of the menstrual flow ?
- So, our periods flow … downwards, right? When the moons are on, we do our best not the go against gravity. That means no inversions – poses where the pelvis is higher than the heart, and poses with legs up in the air. This means Sirsasana (Headstand), Salambar Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and other inversions will have to wait a few days.
- Some yoginis avoid Adho Mukha Svanasana, (Downward Facing Dog) on the first couple of days of menstruation (because the pelvis is higher than the heart). Others do not (because Downward Facing Dog stretches the lower back and stomach and this can relieve menstrual pain). The best is to see what works for you.
- We also honor the downward menstrual flow by avoiding Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock), which very actively lifts the uterus. In the same way, go easy on Kriyas (purification exercises) like Nauli Kriya (Belly Churning) during the first days.
Self-Care during your period
Yoga is not just about pushing the limits with increasingly difficult postures. Yoga is also, foremost, an art of self-care. So when the moons come knocking, do yoga the way it supports you best.
I’m sure you know how to take care of yourself! Here are some yoga ideas for inspiration:
Change your yoga routine when you bleed!
If you go to class, maybe go for a gentle class instead of a very active one. Think Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga. If you are an experienced yogini, it could be a great time to attend a beginners’ class rather than your regular one.
Practice twists and abdominal strengthening poses gently, replace inversions by supine or seated poses. Ask! Your teacher can suggest alternative poses that go with his/her sequence.
Or choose a kirtan (chanting), gentle pranayama, or meditation class. This is a great time of the month to discover other ways of practicing yoga!
Practice a “special moons” yoga sequence
Are there specific yoga sequence to support menstruation? Yes! I’ll post a mini sequence for home practice soon.
In the meantime, here’s the Queen of all Period Poses! Supta Baddha Konasana, Supine Butterfly Pose (or Supine Bound Angle Pose) helps relax the stomach, uterus, ovaries, and overall induced deep relaxation. Now who’s the Queen?
Check out Pranayama (yogic breath exercises) that are a great way to honor yourself and your period.