By BaliniSports Guest Blogger, Julie Bernier www.mahimatawellness.com
Every yoga teacher has their own yoga-during-menstruation theory. We're definitely not all in agreement. Some teachers say no problem! While some say avoid inversions. Taking the wisdom of ayurveda into account, I say take rest. Here's why.
According to ayurveda, the monthly cycle is a time of purification. During menstruation the body purges out excess doshas, which are the energetic forces that are responsible for disease. There's a lot going on within these few days: elimination, cleansing, and purifying. We women experience a sort of monthly detox. If you've ever done a juice cleanse or a dietary detox, you know that this is important to take rest so that the body can internalize its energy. The same rule applies during menstruation.
This includes taking a break from your asana practice. Yoga (especially rigorous styles like Ashtanga, power, or vinyasa) can put physical stress on the body. Rather than asking the body to undergo any extra challenges during menstruation, I recommend that you allow your body to devote its full attention to the work hand at hand. A couple of PMS-relieving asanas here and there are certainly okay, but a full-blow yoga session should be avoided. Plus, flipping upside down in any sort of inversion goes against the natural downward flow of menstruation.
According to ayurveda, the force behind this natural downward flow is a sub-dosha called apana vayu. Apana vayu is responsible for all downward movements, including moving urine and the bowels. It becomes especially active during menstruation. Apana vayu literally helps our flow to flow, and we don't want to oppose or impede it's action during such an important time of detoxification. Converting your cycle into a time of rest can take some adjustment.
As a recovering yoga addict, I know from experience that it can be hard to set aside your asana practice for a few days. "Yoga addict" might seem a conundrum, but there's a difference between having a solid practice and being addicted or attached to your practice. Yoga is, after all, an ongoing lesson in detachment. I never used to tone down (let alone stop) my practice during my cycle. I also suffered from major menstrual problems. I'm sure that the two were connected. I've worked on dialing back for a few days each month and consider myself no less of an aspiring yogi. I welcome this time for renewal and connection to my femininity, and invite you to do the same.
Rather than viewing your cycle as a burden, annoyance, or something that gets in the way of your yoga practice, welcome it as a time to go inward. You may abstain from an asana practice; but you can still do yoga.
Remember: meditation is yoga, too. Welcome your extra time not spent in asana as an opportunity to connect to your inner self in meditation. Honoring your body's natural rhythm will actually heighten your mind-body-soul connection and deepen your yoga practice.