To go upside down or just go lay down, periods & yoga
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
This week was a fat week. totally hideous, I shit you not. I actually asked the Circle K not to serve me if I picked up any mini Snickers, bloated & grumpy I did not feel good. The chocolate inhalation is always the giveaway.... So possessed was I by essence of sloth on Wednesday that I couldn't even practice giving my mat side eye like it was judging me!!! & boy was my self talk good that day NOT.
Then the lower belly pain set in the cerebral lights went on & oh yeah that time of the month. Bali is too hot to snuggle with a hot water bottle. Periods suck they are a source of annoyance & yeah sure we can deal with feeling like shit but the necessary kit tampons etc are still an expensive punishment. Not sure why we (read men) still think these things are luxury items a its a bloody girl tax in full effect. We (the collective we men & women) need to be a bit kinder to ourselves sometimes... me too, try as I might I simply can't be shiny, smiley, sporty spice every single day.
Every females experience is different I have been what I consider lucky....my daughter not so much she suffers from endo & occasionally turns green vomits like the exorcist, forced to stay in bed looking like death. I remember this experience as teenager watching one of my best friends suffer the same fate... panicked we nearly called her an ambulance. At least we have a diagnosis now.....back then it was considered a bit of BS.
The possibility of cramps, bloating, mood swings, lower back pain, fatigue, or pain beyond our pain thresholds, for some us it can be down right distressing. Sometimes we need to hide from the world but your practice may be a saving grace & super helpful to let flow go.
So yoga, whats the period deal?
Roll out your rubber rectangle my yoga friends it may provide you with some much-needed relief. Each of us is different, so our requirements & responses will be different. Apart from that one post snickers sloth day.... I love to practice a strong, sweaty flow pun intended to get me back to feeling normal & ditch the bloat. Some of us need a softer practice like Restorative or Yin Yoga to rejuvenate weary bodies & minds, some of us are inbetweeners for some of us it just doesn't feel good at all & thats ok to.
Plenty of yoga poses you can do when you're on your period that improve circulation throughout your body, & possibly decrease bloating & cramps. The meditative nature & mind-body experience of yoga can seriously assist get rid of some of our hormone-induced moodiness - note to self it may also diffuse the cravings for anything & everything containing sugar.
Going upside down was always a question for me..... I really was not comfortable with non menstruating men telling me not to shoulder or headstand & asking us girls to opt out if were bleeding - to be fair they generally & genuinely had a nicer way of wording it... but TBH I never wanted to be singled out as PERIOD GIRL & if I felt like head standing why shouldn't I??? The answer is that there is no reason why you shouldn't if you feel up for the inversion. One day post sloth I was handstanding in my vinyasa & it felt good.
Yoga philosophically speaking however, advises not to invert during practice whilst menstruating. This is because when we menstruate, the flow of our energy is downward - in yogic terms, this is known as apana. Traditional practitioners believe that by physically flipping the body upside down, we disrupt this downward flow of Apana energy.
Previously some practitioners thought that flipping upside down when aunt flow was trying to go could lead to retrograde menstruation, which could lead to endometriosis... Inversions do not change the flow of how our body functions. In contradiction to this , inversions are recommended in some systems of yoga to assist in the elimination of excess apana. In Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar recommends practicing inversions to help alleviate period woes such as heavy flows & irregularity.
This division of opinions stems from a cultural stigma in India, the birth place of yoga. Where there is a long held belief a woman menstruating is in a cleansing period & there fore should not participate in any spiritual practice - this is still a pretty common place practice. In earlier days & in some rural villages still today, menstruating women were seen as impure, & often not allowed to engage in prayer or any other religious activity. Entering a temple while menstruating was considered a sin, and it was even common that women were asked to leave their home and stay in a hut outside their village for the duration of their period. Even today there is a stigma for many girls around menstruating & much of the female population just don't have access to pads tampons or menstrual cups etc & if they did how do they pay for them? Quite often its old cloth thats either washed out or buried somewhere in the hope that no wild animal will dig it up. & here we are worried about whether we can handstand during practice... I ache for these girls just writing this.
Well that was depressing. If you want some good news .... thankfully there is good news. In the form of a documovie made for Netflix called Period End of Sentence It is a fabulous story so worth the watch & you can support their inspiring, amazing story & business in India.
Back to our western world sufferings.....What about twists you ask? I like a twist they help wring or flush out the internal organs but an Intense twist can put a lot of pressure on your abdominal area, which is probably already hurting a bit - thanks a lot PMS. See how you feel If your are on the move into a deep twist back truck up a bit....modify or maybe your body is telling you to skip it.
These few days may offer up moments where we are gifted an opportunity to learn the act of self compassion. Perhaps moving in a different way like water instead pushing yourself to the edge & beyond. See how you feel, go at 60% as opposed to your regular nothings gonna stop me 99% or full power......Don't let your ego drive your practice, be guided by how you feel ..... No yoga teachers word is gospel, so don't just do what we say because we say it. Be confidant to modify when you need to remember its your practice on your rubber rectangle. Believe me we modify stuff too.
Periods are also an awesome excuse for home practice perhaps a pyjama flow or restorative hug the pillow practice! At home you can make all kinds of noises, burp & fart as required. groan of need be even whinge out loud & go to the loo mid practice without any side eye!!!
Lets look at some good for us asana & modifications. This list is not the be all & end all its just a few suggestions that might help! Chat with your fellow yogis & other teachers maybe they have something that works for them!
Baddha konnasana - Bound Angle pose
Can combat PMS symptoms pop this posture in your practice until your period is over.
Setu bhandasana - Bridge pose
Take the regular bridge pose to relieve period symptoms or you can be a little more restorative supporting the body a bolster block or some cushions elevating the butt
Dhanurasana - Floor Bow
To massage the belly & relieve cramping & bloating.
Ustrasana - Camel pose Replace wheel pose -urdhva dhanurasana, with a gentle camel pose keep your toes tucked under so that your lower back will get some relief and hopefully feel cramp free. Downward facing dog & dolphin pose are very similar in set up with dolphin on the forearms instead of the hands palms as in DFD. you can even use a pillow under the head so that you have a supported variation. These may help relieve some of your annoying symptoms.
Utanasana - deep forward fold A standing forward fold bend a little in the knees & lay your body over your thighs feeling the lengthening through the back body & hamstrings can feel pretty good this is a personal fav.
Upavistha Konasana seated wide leg forward fold you might like to do the yin version supporting my upper body in the forward fold on a bolster if you are not up for attempting full pancake :)
Balasana - childspose knees apart or together pick variation that feels good maybe do a whole childs pose sequence resting & breathing in each variation. For the ultimate act of kindness to the self.
Happy bleeding practice my yogi friends, I genuinely hope that you don't suffer to greatly & remember its your body & your practice so you get to choose. Bigger political message intended wink wink.