Yoga and Menstruation
The yogini´s view of the body is simple: “Your body is your temple” and is the vehicle for your soul. Although the view is simple our body is not always that simple. It can be a complex vehicle through which you can experience through life. Our body keeps on changing, reacting and adapting. In what does our body make us change? One of the big changings we go through as a woman is our menstrual cycle or as we called our moon cycle.
The philosophy of Yoga and the Moon Cycle
Change is a constant part of life, both within us and in a larger perspective, like in the universe or in nature. The seasons are changing, the earth, moon, planets and many more aspects of life. With each breath, thought and action your body system also changes. When a woman resists change in her body it is like resisting mother nature. One of the basic teachings of yoga in a woman is to be a woman, to accept yourself as a woman, to love yourself as a woman, including all the different stages your body goes through.
In the philosophy of yoga, women are often connected with the lunar energy which fluctuates, waxes and wanes. The men we compare to the sun, which is more constant. Similarly, thousands of years ago, women who noticed the connection between their own cycles and the cycles of the moon. The phase of the moon has been often related to the phases of the menstruation cycle. Our physical circle remind us to be women, our femininity and our strength. It reminds us how special this cycle is in our body, how special it is to be part of this cycle and how special it is that this is all part of mother nature! Through yoga, I love the fact of coming closer to this miracle of life, this miracle of our body and to start to appreciate every little part of the cycle.
The woman is the moon. It wanes and waxes. Everything grows because of the moon. Everything ripens because of sun. And everything is conceived because of the combination of the harmony and those two polarities of male and female, sun and moon - Yogi Bhajan
Connect with Yoga
As you practice yoga, you begin to pay more attention to the different sensations you feel in parts of your body. You start to connect more with your body, understand more of your body and allow yourself to feel and listen more to the body. When we take a moment to ask yourself how do we feel about our body? Based on your past, present, future, emotions, feelings, and so on. We can develop a unique relationship with our body. To give yourself the time to connect, to listen like a mother will do for her child will help you to create a better relationship with your body and with your moon cycle.
Practising Yoga during your Menstruation?
Besides of coming closer to our own body and our cycle. Another question that many women ask: Can I do yoga meanwhile my menstruation? A direct answer to this question is not always easy to give. Practising yoga during the period is not for everyone, but for others, it can be a great help to live a better and more balanced cycle and reduce discomfort associated with the period.
One of the main guidelines in yoga is:
- Listen to your own body
- Accept what you feel and don't judge what is there
- Be open to your body, it always speaks
- Trust your body
As we described before our body is always changing, from day to day, hour by hour, breath by breath. With this point of view together with the guidelines of yoga. Am I the one who can give the answer to this question or are you the one who should give this to yourself? I always like to ask myself this question, day by day, hour by hour, breath by breath. Do I practice yoga when I have my period? Yes, I do BUT only when my body answers me with a YES!.
Effects of Yoga on Menstruation
Stress relief may help ease period cramps in some cases. Research has found that people with high levels of stress are more than twice as likely to report having painful menstruation. And guess what? Scientists did research on what are the results of yoga and stress. They found out that the stress hormones do increase. Besides yoga also helps us in a physical aspect. If you feel that yoga on your period might be right for you, it can help to alleviate back pain and cramping by widening the pelvic opening. This helps to reduce any congestion. It is also beneficial for balancing emotions that may cause irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety or anger. A recent study found that yoga was able to significantly reduce moderate to severe pain, abdominal swelling, and breast tenderness associated with the participant’s menstrual cycles. Another study found that women that added yoga to their normal routine two times per week for twelve weeks, had significant improvement in menstrual pain, physical fitness, and quality of life. So yes yoga can be our natural medicine!
What type of Yoga is recommended during your Period?
During our period we can feel tired, having low energy, cramps, lower back pain and some other effect. When your body does give you these symptoms it is recommended to take it slow. To go slow like the moon. To connect with the lunar energy (the feminine energy) and to give your body the time. I love to do an easy soft yin flow where I use a lot of pillows, blankets, blocks to treat my body nicely. And the most important thing is to listen to my body extra carefully. Below we have some poses we would recommend you to try. But again, like we are all different, changing every day, every breath have a look and see which pose does feel for you the best?.
Some Recommended Poses
Legs against the wall
Benefits: It gives us relaxation, if you combine this with a controlled breath it can lead to a slowing down of the body. It increases circulation, relieves lower back tension, it is a relaxation for our pelvic floor.
Benefits: It releases tension in the back, shoulders and chest. It helps to decrease stress and anxiety, flexes the body's internal organs and keeps them supple. It lengthens and stretches the spine.
Benefits: Stimulates abdominal organs like the ovaries, bladder and kidneys. It improves general circulation. It stretches and releases tension in the inner thighs, groins and knees. Also helps to relieve symptoms of stress, mild depression, menstruation and menopause
Benefits: Cobra pose massages your ovaries and reproductive organs, maintains healthy circulation, and stretches your spine. this pose also massages your kidneys and can help relieve headaches.
Benefits: Bow pose is a full-strength for your spine. Feel the stretch across your belly and chest as you arch up. Bow pose stimulates the flow of spinal fluid, refreshing your brain. Bow pose is said to be powerful enough to help you adjust your mood right on the spot.
The easiest pose to do but the hardest pose to master. An asana to let yourself surrender. It had shown that it decreased signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression and it is as a great way to calm the mind, reduce stress and fatigue, lower blood pressure, relieve headache pain, and improve sleep. The bolster under the knees takes out the pressure of the lower back, which feels especially amazing when we have our period!
Poses to Avoid
Inversions are recommended to avoid. Inversions are postures that take you upside down. e.g. they bring the hips higher than the heart and the heart higher than the head.
Philosophically speaking, menstruation is considered to be Apana, meaning that energetically, its vitality is downward-flowing. The argument against inversions during menstruation maintains that inversions will disturb this natural energetic flow. However, inversions are recommended in some systems of yoga as therapy to improve elimination of excess Apana. Besides inversions also Boat pose is not recommended to do. It is an intense core-sculptor, which you might want to avoid. The strength required in this asana can increase the heat in your body and may cause even more bleeding as a result.
Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) (This works against the natural flow of the menstruation)
Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
Shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Full Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Boat Pose (Navasana)
Plow Pose (Halasana)
Written by our Yoga teacher and expert in deep tissue, relaxation and Thai massages Joyce Duijnam.
The photos were taken in the beautiful Yoga studio in Gràcia (Barcelona) Jardín de Hara.
- Woman´s Book of Yoga – Embracing our Natural Life Cycles
Machelle M. Seibel, M.D., and Hari Kaur Khalsa
-The yoga Guide