But its not that black and white…Some women have very heavy and painful periods, while others have super lite nearly nonexistent periods with little to no discomfort or mess. So does one rule fit all? No. As a general rule of thumb, you want to take your heaviest day or two off from practice (i.e. your first day or two) and this applies to the ladies out there with very lite menstruation. For those with a medium flow, you might want to take 3-4 days and for those with very heavy and painful cycles I’d suggest 5-7 days of rest each month. It is YOUR body, and your practice so you should make the decision as to how long you allow your body to rest.
I know your next question: “Why on earth should I ‘take rest’ during my period? I hit the gym, I play soccer, I go to work, I care for my kids, I ride my bike during my period and it hasn’t killed me yet!” Practicing Yoga asana during your period will certainly not kill you. Let me break down the WHY:
- The energetic perspective: During your ladies holiday a downward flow of energy is occurring and we call this apana. From an energetic standpoint it is counterproductive to practice asana and work to create prana during menses. In todays world we women have really numbed ourselves to the inner workings of our bodies during menstruation and pregnancy because we want to carry our weight, be moms and wives and have full careers and do all the things men can do and more! I subscribe to the same magazine ladies but it doesn’t change what is going on inside of us each month.… It is neat to think back to when my mother was a child and women truly had many hands helping care for a newborn so the mother could actually rest her body and heal and recover after birthing a child. And in many places, long ago, during menstruation women used to have help tending to the kids and the chores. Times they have a changed and we have adapted and we push through and have gotten quite numb to the amazing inner working of our bodies and what goes on from within each month. Yoga asks you to start to listen to your body again; start to feel what is happening to you from the inside. And as you start to listen, you will start to become more sensitive inside and out. I know that many of us are petrified of being vulnerable, its a good kind of sensitivity to yourself and others.
- The physical perspective: You will not be able to engage Mula Bandha during menstruation. The PRIMARY focus of this particular yoga method is on deep breathing with sound and engagement/activation and mastery of mula/moola bandha. This bandha (lock) is an integral part of our Yoga method. You activate Mula Bandha by gently squeezing the vaginal walls (to engage the perineum) as you inhale to draw energy up from your lowest root lock. Over time, as you strengthen this lock, you will gain strength of the pelvic floor which will create tremendous stability for asana practice. It will also aid you in gaining deeper more controlled breathing in practice, help generate more heat through the body, aid in detoxification, mental focus, and mental and physical calm. During menstruation it is impossible to activate mula bandha and draw prana upward when your body is actually creating apana, or the downward flow of energy. Even if you eventually build up enough strength of the pelvic floor to actually activate the perineum muscles you will not be activating the energy behind the engagement. This can become problematic when you are doing advanced practice and NEED the pelvic control and stability from Mula Bandha to enter, perform and exit complex asanas. Injury could certainly occur if you were unable to engage Mula Bandha during asana practice. I’m not saying you can’t take practice during menstruation, not at all. I’m just saying it is harder to take practice without the ability to activate Mula Bandha. It is also harder to keep mental focus when you don’t have the tool of Mula Bandha to aid you in maintaining a one pointed focus in practice. And that could translate to a somewhat unpleasant mental practice.
- For some women, especially for those who have very low body fat percentage, practicing asana during your cycle could actually contribute to possible Amenorrhea. I speak from experience here folks and it is not pleasant trying to get your cycle to come back when it has disappeared prematurely.
For these, and other reasons, it is ideal to take the first few days to rest during your infamous ladies holiday. If you are a fully commited Yogini, and you take practice six days per week with the exception of moon days, your body will really need the rest during the heaviest part of your cycle each month. You are doing so much inner and outer work through asana and breathing and bandhas that your body needs to focus on menstruation those first couple days.
“Ok, so what do I do during my ladies holiday?”
REST! Take a long walk, take leisurely bike ride, garden, read, sleep in, meditate for a longer period of time, do pranayama that are not counter productive during menstruation. Take these few days each month to quiet the inside and outside, slow down and allow yourself to reconnect to the inner workings of your body and mind. If you are not currently meditating and would like help getting started please feel free to email me and I’ll be happy to offer some wonderful suggestions for starting a seated practice!