Just because Aunt Flow has come to visit, doesn't mean that you have to stay away from the yoga studio. In fact, there are several yoga poses that are helpful to ease cramps and keep you chilled out when you're in the flow. Since each teacher has their own interpretation of what's safe, it can be hard to know which pose or style of yoga to practice.
What the Experts Say
According to Yoga Journal, practicing yoga while you're menstruating is not only safe, it's also encouraged. But since yoga is a broad discipline, it gets a bit trickier when you get down into the nitty gritty of the poses themselves. Since there is no standardized teaching methodology and very little actual research, it's really down to each style of yoga and individual teacher to develop their own opinion on which poses are safe. According to The New York Times, gentle and restorative yoga poses, along with meditation help to ease cramps, pain and mood dysfunction during menstruation. Currently there is no medical or scientific literature that deems any yoga pose dangerous for menstruating women.
The Debate About Inversions
The debate around the safety of yoga during menstruation specifically highlights the pros and cons of inversions. Inversions are any pose that positions your head below your heart and the most debated inversions are headstand, handstand and shoulderstand. Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D. explains that the common argument against inversions is that there's a danger of developing endometriosis because of the unnatural downward flow of menstrual blood back into the uterus and fallopian tubes. Modern research has found that endometriosis is not caused by backlogged blood, but rather from errant cells within the uterus. Currently there is no research that shows that inversions are beneficial or detrimental to your body during menstruation.
Yoga Journal columnist and yoga teacher Barbara Benagh, argues that practicing yoga while menstruating is a highly personal choice and really comes down to each individual woman to decide what is right for her. She goes on to further explain that some women feel high-energy during menstruation and may feel invigorated emotionally or physically with a vigorous yoga practice. Other women might feel tired, crampy, emotional and low-energy and would benefit from a gentle, more restorative practice instead. The take-away message here is to rely on your own judgement when choosing the style of yoga to practice while you're menstruating.
Yoga Poses to Ease Cramps
With the current research, there are no yoga poses that are know to cause any harm if you perform them while menstruating. But there are a few poses that are specifically recommended to ease cramps, pain and emotional distress. In her book "Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times," Judith Lasater recommends practicing both Legs-up-the-Wall Pose and Bound Angle Pose using soft and comfortable props. Also, if your body is too tired or uncomfortable to perform yoga poses, try easing your distress with a simple pranayama breathing exercise. To perform this exercise, lay on your back, placing the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to spread wide. Place both hands on your abdomen and take deep, full breaths right into your belly.