What a debatable subject. Mainly because each woman’s body structure, menstrual flow and pain intensity, differ in the most infinite number of ways. So how can there be only one answer to the above question that can apply universally to all women? There can’t be.
Some women are luckier than others. They are freed from the bloating, cramping and the bitchy-emotional hurricane before or during menstruation. They don’t need a million pads to survive throughout the week, or better 3 days, because that’s the length of their painless flow. Most naturally these women have no problem lifting weights at the gym and doing complex inversions during power yoga classes.
Less Lucky and Crampier Ones
However not all women are that lucky. And most importantly, I’m not that lucky. I’m on the other very extreme side of the pole. I’m that somebody who would vote to give women two days off work during period days. I get emotional, a tad bitchy and extremely fatigued. I need a trillion pads to keep me safe throughout the day and night. I get excruciatingly painful cramps that leave me no choice but to sit down (or better lie down) because it feels like I’m giving birth to a human. And no there is nothing wrong with me. It just runs in the family. My mum. My aunt. My grandma. They’ve all lived through the same ‘pain in the arse’ reminder of being a woman.
Time for Relaxation and Letting Go
No matter how painful my periods, I’ve actually learned to embrace them. Because I’ve realised how essential they are in cleansing, detoxifying and rejuvenating my organism. Because of a very busy schedule between juggling a sales job, regular workouts and yoga sessions, and blogging, it sometimes feels that slowing down is not an option. Fortunately, my period gives me no choice. It obliges me to restore and be still. To meditate. Read. Journal. And simply be in the presence of my own self.
Yoga or No Yoga
Finally back to the main question of this post: Should we ladies ‘Period Yoga’ or not? Frankly, if lying down in Savasana counts as yoga then I do a hell lot of it while on my period. My cramps and fatigue leave me no choice but to lie down whenever the occasion presents itself in front of me. If I’m extremely lucky and my cramps are not as painful then I head off to a #yinyoga class – which again is an occasion for me to lie down and rest.
After conducting some in-depth online research about the pros and cons of practicing yoga during menstruation, I’ve come to realise that Yin yoga really is the way to go. Most yoga journals and medical experts advise Yin and Restorative yoga and many experts disapprove of intense Power Vinyasa or Ashtanga flows, as they involve complex twisting poses and inversions, which provoke supplementary stress to the body. However, there is no medical evidence that practicing intense yoga during one’s period can have side-effects and dangerous consequences.
Online research was not enough. I’ve also decided to challenge my Instagram Yogis about the matter, by asking whether they continue their practice even on the low days. To my surprise, none of the ladies feel that their periods create an obstacle in continuing their daily yoga practice. Some say they even lift weights and do high intensity workouts on their first two days of the cycle. Most of them choose restorative yoga, and stay away from inversions. One instagrammer mentioned that torsions and challenging poses that put intensity on lower abs have proven to prolong her period by another week; hence she makes sure to avoid them.
After reading all of the feedback I started feeling a little embarrassed as I appear to be the laziest yogini out there. Although, I’m very good at listening to my body and deciphering the answer to the above question – I will always know what’s best, to yin yoga or to no yoga at all. The answer to whether yoga should be practiced during menstruation will vary from person to person, from body to body, from period to period. After-all if every woman’s period is different, then so should be our yoga practice.
Beneficial Poses: My Personal Favorites
1) Child’s Pose – Balasana
It is one of my favorite poses because it reminds me to let go and simply be. It stretches the back and opens up the hips, while massaging the stomach with every breath.
2) Savasana with Bolster under your Knees
This pose releases tension from your lower back – which is something that I personally struggle while on my period. I just lie flat on my back with a rolled-up blanket or a bolster under my knees, with my palms facing upwards, releasing any tension in my body.
3) Savasana with Tennis Balls
If you’ve got no time or money for a shiatsu massage then don’t despair you’ll only need 2 tennis balls to massage your own self in a very effective way. Simply lie down in Savasana (knees bent or not) and place each ball at the base of the neck, making sure the balls pressure the flesh and not the spine. Lie down and breathe until the tension or tightness in your neck and shoulders disappear. Then slowly start to gradually descend both balls along the sides of your spine, while lying down. Stop on the points where you feel most tension and observe that tension gradually disappear. This ‘tennis balls self-therapy’ can take from 15 minutes up to 40 minutes depending on the tightness and soreness of your back.
4) Spine Twisting Posture
I try to integrate this pose in every practice because it helps to reduce post-traumatic neck pain and to stretch out all of the muscles that run along the spine. To do this pose I simply lie on my back and drop both of my knees, or just one knee, to one side, and turn my head in the opposite direction, while actively pressing both shoulders to the mat.
Ladies, whatever pose you may choose to practice during your next period, don’t forget to listen to your body, and to not push it too hard if it’s asking you to take it slow and and get some rest instead.
Happy #metime , beauties!