Your period affects your energy, mood and stamina. With hormones raging, you may wonder if you should even venture to a fitness class at this time of the month. Some practices do discourage you from doing yoga during your period, maintaining that it is a time for "renewal" and rest. Other practices steer you away from specific postures, such as inversions, as they direct your energy — which is headed downward during menstruation — in the wrong direction.
Really, though, if you want to go to yoga during your period, then go. It can help energize you, soothe cramps and relieve bloating. But, listen to your body. Take a rest from Asanas if you feel like it. Ultimately, whether you do yoga during your period is a personal choice.
All Women Are Different
Women experience their periods differently. For some, it's no big deal — they feel pretty much like they do any other day of the month. Other women have mild symptoms of cramping and bloating, while some may experience such serious periods that they spend a day or two in bed.
Because of these differences, there's no one prescription as to whether you can do yoga. Of course, if you feel up to it, you can. But, if you're feeling lousy and bleeding heavily, you might choose to skip on your worst days. Yoga teaches you to listen to your body, so use this skill when deciding whether to practice.
Types of Yoga
Your period might be a time you change your approach to your yoga practice. If you regularly practice an intense Ashtanga or Power class, you might opt for a Yin or Restorative practice for these few days of the month.
It's not necessarily that you'll hurt yourself in a higher-intensity class, but you might just not feel up to flowing multiple chaturangas and arm balances. Going to practice could make you feel negatively about your yoga practice, especially if poses you usually do with ease become an effort due to your discomfort and low energy. A less-intense class might be just your style when you're feeling mellow, fatigued and grouchy.
Going to yoga may actually help you feel better. In a study of 40 women who participated in a regular yoga program once per week for 12 weeks, those who attended yoga — versus the 20 in the control who did not — reported less pain and discomfort at the time of their menstrual period. The research, published in a 2016 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, did not specifically examine practice during the women's periods, however.
Another study, published in a 2011 issue of the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, supported the use of Yoga Nidra in treatment of menstrual disorders. The 150 women in the study experienced improvements in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and pain symptoms associated with their periods following 6 months of regular Yoga Nidra therapy. Yoga Nidra is a quiet, meditative form of yoga that is often descriped as Yoga "sleep."
Poses to Avoid
Some schools of yoga warn you away from certain postures during your period. Ultimately, what poses you do choose to perform is entirely up to you. However, if you want to be cautious, save the following for after your cycle:
Inversions, such as handstand, headstand and shoulderstand, shift your apana energy, which is believed to flow from your naval to your cervix, in a direction that you don't want during menstruation. Normally, reversing this flow in an inversion can increase your energy, but during your period, it's considered to be going against the natural flow of your body.
Even if you don't subscribe to this yogic philosophy, inversions do cause the uterus to shift toward the head, which can lead to overstretching and increased flow of blood — meaning a possibly heavier cycle.
You may also choose to avoid very strong postures that involve dramatic backbends (e.g. the wheel), arm balances (e.g. the peacock) and extreme twists (e.g. revolved bound side angle), especially ones that stress the abdominal region. These poses require a lot of energy and strength, which may be diminished during your period. Also, if you're suffering from cramps, the spasms of your contracting uterus could compromise your ability to perform the poses.
Poses to Celebrate
While no one pose is a cure for your menstrual symptoms, some postures may feel especially soothing during this time of the month. Consider holding the following poses for several breaths:
Supine Twist: Lie on your back and drop bent knees to the right as you rotate your head to the left. Repeat on the opposite side.
Child's Pose: Get onto all-fours and, while reaching your arms forward, sit your buttocks back over your heels. Support your forehead on the floor or a block.
Forward Bends: Sit on the floor with extended legs, or with your soles of feet together and knees to the sides like a butterfly, and fold forward over your legs.
Standing Half-Moon: Stand with your feet together or hip-distance apart and reach your arms to the ceiling. Connect your hands together and lean to the right to stretch the left side of the body; return to center and lean to the left.