Periods & Yoga: What they said.
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
mmmmmmmmm, this subject is tetchy. I love it, men not so much
Some people run & hide & some people just don't even know why they think the words that they speak. This last statement can be true in many aspects of our life its called programming. Programming is what were are gifted with when we start breathing our own oxygen into our very own little lungs as we are squeezed into this incarnation. Thanks to mum, dad, extended family, school, friends (so their parents by default) It gets digitally downloaded from the news and any other people that regularly wave their influencer wands in our faces. In the olden days it was via the radio or the idiot box, that programmed language is courtesy of my dad lol. Today we have the Webbasorous Wrecks and Grammers who battle to be elevated to status of Insta Influencer.
I digress, This article is a continuation of my discussion on Periods and Yoga: To Go Upside Down or Just Go Lay Down. I will admit to getting a bee in my bonnaay when my man teacher told his class jammed full of ladies menstruating, or not- who knows, that if they were indeed on their moon cycle that they should lay down, no upsidedowning for bleeding yogis. Menstruating and defiant I went upside down just to spite him. I was a little chuzzy bananas.
After class I waited for a quiet moment, approached him and asked him respectfully, if he could please explain to me what his reasoning for his no upside-downing instruction was. His response "This is what my teachers told me so I am just telling you what they told me." WTactualF???? ok so I didnt say that but I Ally McBealed it in my brain, dumpster & all.
Instead I asked "so did they offer any explanation? Was there anything about Apana Vayu? Theories about energy shifting? Twisting instructions, historical references??
Out loud I asked "so what are your thoughts?" His response was "I don't have any, thats what my teachers said, don't go upside down, so thats what I am telling you"
My internal fire of rage was lit, externally I was a picture of calm.
He then went on to say "I am only telling you what they told me, I don't know & I am not really interested, its not my area of expertise" This guy has had girlfriends that were yoga teachers & students did this stuff not interrupt them opening the door for conversation???
In my pea size lady brain, I was running those brain cogs hard out. If this isn't your area of expertise why give the instruction at all?? Menstrual blood doesn't just fall out of our uterus(s) (uteri?) because of bloody gravity you know... I am pretty sure that uterine contractions push it out. Man, If you can't back up your instructions with with any theories at least make one up or phone a friend and come back to me!! What about BKS Iyengar he liked to prescribe inversions? Science, what about science, didn't you research your teachers teachings & qualify it ....because well 97.666% of your students are bleeders????
Men teaching other men, zero interest in the subject, let alone a willingness to discuss "it" Euphemistically naming it the moon cycle a reflection on its essence of darkness & witchery which we as women seem to have romanticised & elevated to marketable event status.
I could imagine the locker room talk. It would be crickets or would it be muffled dirty jokes and smirks, jerks. There was anger seething anger bubbling away beneath my calm exterior.
This is part of the problem, like a deep seeded us and them issue that remains unspoken. Men making the rules then expecting women to just abide by them.
My uterus my choice, period.
So many puns here and am gonna try to use every single one!!!
I wasn't there when the yoga rules were handed down, in fairness neither was my teacher. However I am asking the question now & I would expect that if he is giving that instruction now that he has some pretty good reasons to back it up. The answer "because my teacher told me so" destroyed his credibility in my eyes. I super enjoy his classes, but it left me wondering what other stones does he leave unturned????
I was calmer but that fire in my uterus was still lit. Immediately started gathering the period perspectives of every male yoga teacher that I knew. Poor buggers were on the receiving end of texts, Instagram and WhatsApp messages, I managed to accost two in person.
I leave it up to each individual, I have watched my wife go through the whole thing from menstruating pregnancy to child birth & beyond. I am amazed at what a woman's body can do!! She would say she loved inverting as it felt like she was shaking the vessel & getting things moving, other times she just felt like staying in bed. Its not in my experience & its rare that I will engage in a conversation about it with any one. But I say your body your choice.
I dont give any advice about periods and inversions. When ever a student asks me I tell them that I will NEVER know what its like to have a period & that they can do one of three things... 1) listen to their own intuition & bodies 2) seek advice form a doctor 3)Find a female yoga teacher or hand balancer and inquire as to their experience. I feel very strongly about don't teach what you don't know & as a man I just can't give any advice!
Teacher 4. "Oh I don't talk about that... can we change the subject? You deal with it" hahaha
Teachers 3 & 5 didn't even want to talk about it & they run inversion & teacher training workshops? Which I thought was a crap reposes quite honestly. What are they teaching their teachers?
I was also unpleasantly surprised at the number of women I talked to that were adamant that you shouldn't go upside down while menstruating, I asked them why?.... Can you tell that I was always the "but why?" kid at school??? By this stage I was used to the auto response "this was what we were told in class" I also got a "women are unclean at this time" my heart secretly ached for this woman. I was so surprised that women so readily gave up on their connection to themselves, their intuition & their control over their own bodies to instructions from male teachers!
Come on ladies, at the very least ask why? Be a yoga explorer.
Be like Kit, be the but why kid.
In a great article by Mark Stephens he writes "Until the late twentieth century most writings on yoga practice did not differentiate between men and women primarily because yoga was largely the province of men (and mostly men of the upper castes in India’s hierarchical social system). Indeed, across the broad span of yoga history, women were largely excluded from yoga, reflecting the “oppressive social and cultural context out of which the yoga tradition arose” in India, particularly during the Brahmanic period in which women, as Janice Gates reminds us in her wonderful book Yogini, were defined as “impure” and thus pronounced by male yoga gurus as being ill-fit for the spiritually enlightening practices of yoga. It is only much later that, with the development of yoga in the West, we begin to find specific guidance that addresses the special needs and conditions of women in yoga, albeit still often adhering to age-old patriarchal and sexist assumptions about women"
If you would like to read Marks whole article, I highly recommend it you can find it here Men Women Menstruation Yoga
I live in Bali a predominantly Hindu society, an ancient adventure turned cultural transplant to one island in this vast archipelago of Indonesia. In social and cultural context this exclusion of menstruating women appears here too, wome are forboden from entering a temple if they are bleeding. I am not saying right or wrong I am just asking - Where did this "rule" originate?? and why?? Further more who is checking?
In a fascinating conversation with a beautiful, creative, inquisitive Yogi here in Bali she mentioned to me a conversation that she had with a Balinese student of hers, which I loved! offering another perspective on why women don't go into the temple when they are menstruating. Often women are praying for fertility, the gift of a child, when women come together their periods sync up - so potentially the whole village could sync up. If a menstruating women enters the temple during these prayer times it may draw the other women out of the syncing & lessen the opportunity for conception .... the loss of treasured egg that could potentially be fertilised - I loved this explanation it was from the womens perspective with community, family and future top off mind - What a beautiful way to look at the "no entry" temple sign a complete paradigm shift!!!!! I felt such warmth & joy for this insight these conversations need to be had!!!!
This is like so many myths that have made their way into our yoga practice, like knees & ankles in high crescent lunge or low lunge Anjanay asana? "Don't let the knee go over the ankle" this one gets my goat lol Naturally I am there with a "but why?" What about when you are doing a quad stretch & your heel is at your butt?? Or king pigeon or mermaid or the endless list of other knee extension shapes? Hmph crickets again. The thing is do it for initial stability perhaps, but every body is different so why not test or challenge the range of your body? Who wrote that rule & handed it down? Its like a giant game of Chinese Whispers!!!
To the best of nay knowledge thus far there is no science that supports not going upside down, there may be some philosophical or spiritual instructions, enforcing them is dogmatic. Dogma is the very thing that we are challenging in a life in yoga where we take an introspective journey to connect with our heart centre, find our unique, creative soul print so we can sing our very own soul song and ultimately live a life of joy & happiness.
It seems that we have a long way to go, with this subject still being an uncomfortable one for women and we are most definitely a long way from normalising period whispers into man speak.
Mighty Menstruators you go upside down if and when you want!!
YOGIS CHOICE PERIOD.