Yoga during menstruation

Yoga and menstrautaion - healing yoga Yoga practice during menstruation is a controversial issue. There are those   who say that no woman should practice yoga during her menstruation, others   say practice everything. Some say practice inversions, others say avoid. Some   say a strong practice is useful, others say to practice restorative asanas.

All women are different with regards to menstruation. Some may not have any   side effects, low energy or feel at all different than they do during the   rest of the month, while others have such extreme pain, mood swings, fatigue,   bloating, irritability and so on that they have to stay in bed for the first   few days. Because no woman is the same there are no set rules regarding what   to practice during menstruation but there are some general guidelines that   can help. What is important is that we listen to our bodies during this time.

The menstrual cycle is very delicate. If we are stressed, travel; change our   diet and so on then our cycle can change. It is very important to be aware of   our cycle and to listen to our bodies. Those who do not may often have   irregular periods or no periods along with many other symptoms. The state of   our menstrual cycle reflects the state of our physical and mental health.   Therefore it is not just asanas that can have an impact on it but also the   mind, making meditation and reflection an important practice.

The menstrual cycle is very delicate. If we are stressed, travel; change our   diet and so on then our cycle can change. It is very important to be aware of   our cycle and to listen to our bodies. Those who do not may often have   irregular periods or no periods along with many other symptoms. The state of   our menstrual cycle reflects the state of our physical and mental health.   Therefore it is not just asanas that can have an impact on it but also the   mind, making meditation and reflection an important practice.

Menstruation time is a time of heightened awareness and sensitivity. Often   the problems that we have during the month become more real at this time and   affect us more strongly. At this time it is particularly useful to examine   these problems and find solutions. Menstruation is a time to explore and look   within. It is a time to nurture and heal the body and mind.

Again the way we look at our menstruation greatly differs between women. Some   women prefer to ignore it as much as possible, to pretend or detach   themselves from what is going on. These are generally the ones who are more   competitive and out to prove that they are just as strong as men. Strength is   good but we should also have the awareness of our bodies and give time to   listen to them. It is not to say that we can all hang around the house not   doing anything but we can treat our bodies with care and respect. We should   put in efforts to remain balanced and therefore cultivate inner strength.

Some associate guilt, uncleanliness or other negative emotions. These may   have come up due to the culture one has grown up, the views of one’s parents   or some other events in life. Relaxation techniques such as yoga nidra can be   very beneficial for these women in clearing away these negativities and   instead bringing acceptance and positivity of one’s self.

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The main reason why we may choose not to practice may be due to the   associated symptoms of menstruation. If a woman is having very extreme   menstruation then even the thought of practicing will cause negative   emotions. The best practice at this time is then yoga nidra and some gentle   pranayam such as bhramari (humming bee breath), anulom vilom (alternate   nostril breath), ujjayi (victorious breath) and deep breathing. Om Chanting   will also be very beneficial.

If we are not feeling too uncomfortable then a yoga practice can be useful to   help alleviate any period pain or back pain, balance the emotions – mood   swings, anxiety, anger, depression, irritability and gentle open the pelvic   region, relieving any congestion. Menstruation is a time to vary ones yoga   practice to look within and find the peace and tranquility.

In a yoga practice there are certain   asanas that should be avoided during menstruation. The main type of asanas   are inversions. These should be avoided throughout the menstruation. The   reasoning for this is that when we practice inversions one type of prana,   known as a apana, which normally flows in the downward direction from the   manipur chakra (naval centre) to mooladhar chakra (cervix), is reversed. This   is useful to help increase the prana in the body and to help awaken the   kundalini but when menstruating it goes against the natural flow. It can   therefore stop or disturb the menstruation at this time and lead to other   reproductive problems later on.

Another reason is that during inversions the   uterus is pulled towards the head and causes the broad ligaments to be over   stretched which cause partial collapse of the veins, leaving open arteries to   continue pumping blood. This can lead to vascular congestion and increased   menstrual bleeding. Previously people used to think that inversions could   cause endometriosis and infections but it is now thought not to be the case.

Secondly, any very strong asanas particularly strong backbends, twists, arm   balances and standing positions that put a lot of stress on the abdominal and   pelvic region should be avoided, especially if the woman is going through a   lot of pain at the time. The reasoning for this is very logical. If the   pelvic region is causing spasm and pain why cause more contraction and   pressure to the area. Also these positions need more physical strength and   exertion which can be lacking during this time and can be depleted further by   the practice. Strong vinyasa and power yoga should be avoided for the same   reasons. Surya namaskar, when done slowly and gently, can be useful, however   it should be avoided if there is a lot of pain or heavy bleeding.

Thirdly, bandhas should be avoided for similar reasons. On a pranic level   they move the apana upwards instead of down and physically they add more   contraction to an already tight region and in the case of uddiyan bandha   increasing the heat which can lead to heavier bleeding. It may seem like   there are many positions that cannot be practiced however this is not the   case. Many positions can still be practiced and many more positions that may   not be in ones daily practice can be incorporated and explored. It’s all   about listening to the bodies needs and accepting that this is a time of   introversion, acceptance and balance.

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Do remember that it is not necessary   that you have to practice asanas during your period. For the first two days   you may have a break from asanas. That doesn’t mean you cannot practice other   techniques such as pranayam, yoga nidra and meditation. All will have   benefits. It is important that if you decide to practice that you should be   aware of and listen to your body. Do not push or strain and instead do some   more gentle poses but hold them a little longer. Generally it is good to   practice positions that allow one to become more grounded, to alleviate any   emotional disturbances and to gain inner strength.

To warm up one can practice the preparatory movements 1 to 12, arm movements,   leg and knee movements. The pawanmuktasan series 1, 2 and 3 from Swami Satyananda   are also recommended. Surya namaskar (Sun Salutation) can be practiced if   there is no heavy bleeding or cramping. But it should not be performed in a   fast manner. Chandra namaskar (Moon Salutation) is another alternative which   is more soothing, harmonizing and calming at this time and helps to cultivate   the feminine aspects.

Gentle forward bends give a light massage to the abdominal and pelvic region,   helping to relieve congestion, heaviness, cramping and heavy bleeding. They   also bring calmness to the mind. Examples include Paschimottanasan (Forward   Bend),Ardha paschimottanasan (Half Forward Bend), Ugrasan (Ferocious Pose),   Vajrasan Yoga Mudra Type 1 (Child’s Pose), Shashankasan (Hare/Moon Pose) and   Janu Bhalasan (Standing forward bend). Practice these positions to 50-60% of   your capacity or with the support of cushions or bolsters. Do not strain or   do strong forward bends. Vajrasan Yoga Mudra Type 1 and Shashankasan can be   practiced with the knees further apart. Gentle twisting positions can remove   back pain, cramping and congestion. Examples include leg movement type 2,   vakrasan (Twisted Pose) type 1, preparatory movement 2 and 3 and gentle   twists in sitting positions. Avoid very strong twisting positions.

Menstruation and Yoga   - rajadhiraja yoga  - healing yoga

Gentle backbends, especially when supported, can alleviate back pain and   pelvic discomfort. Examples include Supta Vajrasan (Sleeping Thunderbolt)   (sitting on heels or with heels apart)and Supta Titaliasana (Sleeping   Butterfly) supported with bolsters. The Vajrasan series is also useful   especially for removing tension from the back and to remove pelvic   congestion. The whole series can be practiced or just a few of the poses.   Avoid strong backbends.

Leg up the wall poses help to remove stagnant blood from the legs without   lifting the pelvic region and help to open up the pelvic region. Legs can be   straight up the wall or separated to a comfortable distance or with the soles   of the feet together.

Other useful positions include Marjariasan (Cat Pose)and Vyaghrasan (Tiger   Pose) which both help to remove back pain and pelvic tension. Titaliasan   (Butterfly) to tone the pelvis, Sulabh Pawanmuktasan (Simple Gas Release   Pose), with knees apart, to relieve back pain, Sulabh Koormasan (Simple   Tortoise Pose), Simple Pigeon and simple supine spinal twists. This is not a   complete list as there are thousands of asanas to choose from but just   remember the guidelines and main points when choosing and practicing asanas.

Pranayam is very useful during   menstruation as it helps to balance the emotions and calm the mind. It can   also help one to deal with any pain. Do remember that there should be no   strain with the breath and also no kumbakh and bandhas as these will increase   the heat and redirect the prana in the upward direction. Deep breathing is   very beneficial, especially when practiced in Tadagasan (Pond Pose) or   Shavasan (Corpse Pose). Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath), Anulom vilom   (Alternate Nostril Breathing), Ujjayi (Victorious Breath), Sheetali (Cooling   breath through the tongue) and Sitkari (Cooling breath through the teeth)are   all useful practices.

Avoid fast breathing, Bhastrika (Bellow’s Breath), Surya Bedan (Right Nostril   Breathing) and Kapalbhati (Frontal Brain Cleansing) as they will increase the   heat which may cause heavier bleeding and will also put excessive pressure on   the abdominal region.

healing yoga - breathing - Rajadhiraja

Meditation is another useful practice   at this time particularly as one is more sensitive and aware at this time. Om   chanting and meditation on Om can be used. Antar mouna, the practice of inner   silence is a technique where one observes ones thoughts. Chanting of personal   mantra or mahamrityunjaya will give benefits as will simple meditation on the   breath or ajapa japa. Yoga nidra is also strongly recommended at this time.

Cleansing Practices

Some cleansing practices can be done   at this time but most should be avoided. Jal neti and Danda neti can be   performed as can Tratak but avoid Kapalbhati, Vaman, Lagoo Shankarprakshalan   and Poorna Shankarprakshalan.

Going to a Class

Menstruation and yoga - rajadhiraja yoga - healing yoga

Many teachers say it is better to do   your home practice during menstruation instead of going to a class. This is   because many times during class one may feel compelled to follow all of the   teacher’s instructions. One may push themselves more when their body is not   ready for it and one may practice inversions when these should be strictly   avoided. The main reasons for this are that one does not want to be the odd   one out and many women don’t want others to know that they are having their   period. Many teachers will give options to practice instead of inversions but   if not just substitute one or more of the recommended asanas for during   menstruation. Remember that you are practicing for yourself, not for your   teacher or a friend, so it’s always better to follow what you feel.

Example of a private practice during menstruation

remember you can   change it, add and remove positions, hold some for longer or shorter, just   listen to the body…

Tadasan (Palm Tree Pose)

Tiryak Tadasan (Swaying Palm Tree   Pose)

Chakrasan (Waist Rotating Pose)

Shavasan (Corpse)

Arm Movements 1, 2, 3

Knee Movements 2 and 3

Ardha Pawanmuktasan (Half Gas Release   Pose)

Supta Titaliasan (Sleeping Butterfly)   – 2 minutes with bolster behind back

Supta Vajrasan (Sleeping Thunderbolt)   – 2 minutes with bolster behind back

Vajrasan Series – holding for 20 seconds each   position

Vajrasan Yoga Mudra Type 1 (Child’s Pose) – 5 minutes   with knees apart and cushion under head if needed, plus releasing arms to the   side

Titaliasan (Butterfly) as an asana   and as a movement

Sulabh Koormasan (Simple Tortoise)

Ardha Paschimottanasan (Half Forward Bend) – with   cushion or bolster

paschimottanasan (Forward Bend) – with cushion or   bolster

Ugrasan (Ferocious Pose) – with   cushion or bolster

Marjariasan (Cat Pose) – 5   repetitions

Vyaghrasan (Tiger) – 5 repetitions on   each side

Vakrasan Type 1 (Twisted Pose)

Swastikasan (Auspicious Pose) and twist to side

Shavasan

Deep Breathing in Tadagasan (Pond Pose)

Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath)

Om Chanting

Yogic practices for the rest of the month to balance the menstrual   cycle

Many yoga techniques can be practiced   throughout the month to help balance the hormones, the menstrual cycle and to   prevent pre menstrual syndrome, period pain, emotional disturbances and other   associated symptoms of menstruation.

Asanas – Surya Namaskar   (Sun Salutation), Sarvangasan (Shoulderstand), Halasan (Plough), Matsyasan   (Fish), Kandharasan (Shoulder Pose), Ardha Chakrasan (Half Wheel), Chakrasan   (Wheel Pose), Bhujangasan (Cobra),Shalabhasan (Locust), Dhanurasan (Bow),   Paschimottanasan (Forward Bend), Ushtrasan (Camel), Viparit Karni (Inverted   Pose), Sirshasan (Headstand), Ashwini Mudra (Horse Gesture), Aakarna   Dhanurasan (Archer’s Bow), Marjariasan (Cat), Garudasan (Eagle), Veerasan   (Warrior), Trikonasan (Triangle).

Other – Yoga nidra, Antar Mouna, Om chanting, Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath),   Ujjayi (Victorious Breath), Uddiyan Bandha (Uddiyan Bandha), Moola Bandha   (Root Lock), Agnisar (Fire Breath).

Menstruation and yoga   - Rajadhiraja - healing yoga

Source Kate Woodworth
Kate is a senior   yoga teacher and yoga therapist from Yoga Vidya Gurukul (www.yogapoint.com),   she is teaching and practicing yoga for the last 10 years. She is also   Resident Officer at Yoga Vidya Gurukul. She is initiated into Karma Sannayasa   by her Guru Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

 

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