Yoga practice during menstruation is a controversial issue. There are those who say that no woman should practice yoga during her menstruation, others say practice everything. Some say practice inversions, others say avoid. Some say a strong practice is useful, others say to practice restorative asanas.
All women are different with regards to menstruation. Some may not have any side effects, low energy or feel at all different than they do during the rest of the month, while others have such extreme pain, mood swings, fatigue, bloating, irritability and so on that they have to stay in bed for the first few days. Because no woman is the same there are no set rules regarding what to practice during menstruation but there are some general guidelines that can help. What is important is that we listen to our bodies during this time.
Asanas to avoid
In a yoga practice there are certain asanas that should be avoided during menstruation. The main type of asanas are inversions. These should be avoided throughout the menstruation. The reasoning for this is that when we practice inversions one type of prana, known as a apana, which normally flows in the downward direction from the manipur chakra (naval centre) to mooladhar chakra (cervix), is reversed. This is useful to help increase the prana in the body and to help awaken the kundalini but when menstruating it goes against the natural flow. It can therefore stop or disturb the menstruation at this time and lead to other reproductive problems later on. Another reason is that during inversions the uterus is pulled towards the head and causes the broad ligaments to be over stretched which cause partial collapse of the veins, leaving open arteries to continue pumping blood. This can lead to vascular congestion and increased menstrual bleeding. Previously people used to think that inversions could cause endometriosis and infections but it is now thought not to be the case.
Secondly, any very strong asanas particularly strong backbends, twists, arm balances and standing positions that put a lot of stress on the abdominal and pelvic region should be avoided, especially if the woman is going through a lot of pain at the time. The reasoning for this is very logical. If the pelvic region is causing spasm and pain why cause more contraction and pressure to the area. Also these positions need more physical strength and exertion which can be lacking during this time and can be depleted further by the practice. Strong vinyasa and power yoga should be avoided for the same reasons. Surya namaskar, when done slowly and gently, can be useful, however it should be avoided if there is a lot of pain or heavy bleeding.
Thirdly, bandhas should be avoided for similar reasons. 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 uddiyan 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.
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