There are many ways to describe the monthly visitor women get, but this one seems the most poetic. Yes, I'm talking about our beloved menstrual cycle. No matter how familiar we are to it, for whatever reason it can throw us off guard every now and then. What is important is to develop our heightened awareness around our cycle and find the best tools we can to support ourselves.
It is not uncommon during our premenstrual cycle that our emotions get the better of us. I once had a female teacher tell me that we are more intuitive before our period, making us more sensitive and augmenting our psychic abilities. Using that insight during practices like Yin can help us regulate our responses and create a calm and balanced state of mind. Yoga can be a wonderful practice during a women's menstruation if approached with care and mindfulness. The first thing to consider is that we are all different and our symptoms may be minimal to extreme. The information I am going to provide is taught in some yoga trainings and is also from direct experience.
The following suggestions are postures to avoid during your menstrual cycle
(Especially within the first 3 days of a heavy cycle)
Inversions eg. Shoulder Stand, Handstands, Forearm Balance
Why? When your upside down your flipping the natural cycle of the blood flowing out of the body.
'Kate Woodworth, a yoga therapist and teacher from Yoga Vidya Gurukul, says this also causes a heavier blood flow because the uterus is being pulled toward the head, causing the ligaments to overstretch and the veins to partially collapse, and the arteries, in turn, to pump extra blood'.~ excerpt from Bustle.com
Inversions that require lots of strength and energy to sustain, can be quite strenuous on your cycle. Your efforts could result in more intense cramping due to the unnecessary tension in the abdomen. Our menstrual cycle is a detoxification process that asks us to take it easy.
Avoid Deep Twists
Why? This is about putting too much pressure on the pelvic region and over stimulating the abdominal area.
The same to be said about taking half lotus or any postures that directly put pressure on your tummy.
If you feel like giving your lower back some relief try lying on your back, bend the knees with your feet on the ground and naturally let the legs fall to one side.
Gentle backbends great! Full Wheel not so much
Why? Finding a heart opener on your period can feel lovely, however it is recommended to leave out Full Wheel. Urdvha Dhanuarasana requires an extreme amount of energy, strength and engagement to enter, sustain and release. The intense stretch on the front core body and hips can be really hard on our ovaries.You may opt for postures like little bridge or a gentle camel or sphinx to open the chest and release shoulder tension.
Here is an interesting one I thought may be of interest for those of you who practice using Bandhas in your ujjiya pranayama.
(Translation: Subtle energetic lifts of the pelvic floor & abdominal area in combination to a heated breathing technique).
Why? '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 uddiyadha 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.'~By Sannyasi Bhakti Ratna
Postures to assist and support you during your menstrual cycle
Remember that this time of the month is not about pushing yourself to your max. Go about your physical movements with half the effort because your reproductive system is doing the other half.
Gentle forward folds offer a light massage for your belly and pelvic region. It also relieves a feeling of heaviness, congestion and heavy bleeding. Emotionally, it creates a peaceful and calming effect for your mind.
The next time you practice seated butterfly on your cycle, try this tip from Rae Christina Rosewarne. A little pressure point massage along the inner ankles in gentle up and down motions to stimulate blood flow and relief to the abdomen.
Reclined hero's pose & reclined butterfly are both gentle backbends that can alleviate slight back pain and discomfort in the pelvic region.
Legs up the wall aka: waterfall pose practiced without lifting your pelvis off the ground. This posture can help remove stagnant blood in the legs and open up the pelvic region. Keep the legs loose and natural, so the feet apart works well as long as your comfortable.
There are many more postures to choose from that can bring relief to your body and mind during your period. The above tips are a good place to start. As we approach a Full moon on Wednesday, many of you may have the opportunity to try these variations out this week. Remember, when you attend a class, it is of the utmost importance to move as your body is telling you. It is not necessary to engage into core exercises when instructed to. Instead opt for a variation that soothes YOU and find your remedy for when the clouds pass over the moon.