Are you confused about yoga inversions during menstruation? Payal Khanwani tells you all you need to know.
A yoga practice seems almost incomplete without ending it with a healing inversion whether it’s a shoulder stand, headstand or a handstand. When it is those five days of the month, it’s almost awkward to make this exception of leaving out a posture or two which we ‘aren’t’ supposed to do. Inversions which otherwise bring many systems of the body into harmony are advised against during menstruation. Is this really true or a myth?
According to yogic philosophy from the oldest schools of yoga and Ayurveda, ‘Apana’ which is the downward flow of energy is responsible for all elimination from our bodies – urination, excretion & menstruation. When we invert, the uterus as an organ inverts, which affects the natural flow of Apana. During menstruation, the uterus sheds its lining which needs to be eliminated from the body. Anything that would block this flow and cause us to retain this lining or blood could possibly lead to diseases – endometriosis, irregular menstrual flow or even a hormonal disturbance.
Moreover, the uterus is heavier during the cycle which may stress the uterine ligaments. According to BKS Iyengar, inversions must be avoided as long as there is a downward menstrual flow. While you may not see immediate consequences, it would definitely harm in the long term. Even in the Ashtanga system, Pathabi Jois recommends no practice for 3 days. Yes, no practice, not only inversions.
Ashtanga has a lot of jumping back and jumping through which requires engagement of the mula bandha (‘root lock’ i.e contraction of the pelvic floor) which again is advised not to be practiced during menstruation as it is rather difficult to engage with your period flow downward and may cause contraction of all the organs in the lower abdominal region. This could result in unnecessary stimulation and increased blood flow.
While we hold these facts from tradition & eastern medicine, western medicine always has an opposite take on it. In the past women were warned against this since inversions during menstruation would cause ‘retrograde menstruation’ where blood flows in the opposite direction, causing clusters of uterine cells to grow in the abdominal cavity (endometriosis). However, according to studies in current science, it is the uterine contractions and not the relationship to gravity that affects the menstrual flow. That is the reason the direction of menstrual flow doesn’t change when astronauts are in space where there is zero gravity and there is no concept of ‘down’. Even some well-known yoga teachers don’t necessarily think inversions should be avoided.
Both these view points create confusion but they also give us perspective. Inversions really give us the opportunity to refine this perspective and understanding of our own bodies & practice. What does it ‘feel’ like when you get into an inversion while you are on your period? Do you notice a difference in the flow or how it makes you feel after? And most importantly what is your mindset when you are doing inversions during your period? These are questions we need to ask ourselves at that time of the month when our intuition is the highest. In ancient Greece, it was believed that when a woman is on her period, she holds the power of creation & wisdom. There is no way we can doubt our spiritual connection at this time of the month.
The questions don’t end here. Do you have any existing hormonal issues? For example, PCOD is one of the most common disorders that is prevalent today. If yes, then we might want to reconsider doing inversions. Even if scientifically it doesn’t affect the flow, yoga works on the energetic level, and we don’t necessarily want to use the inversions to satisfy our egos of a complete practice but we want to use them at the right time for healing our body & reaping its benefits. If there is any conflict, we can pass a few days without them! But this reasoning may create fear around inversions which should not be the case. We need to look at it as a way of honouring our practice and letting our practice serve us in the long run.
Yoga is not only the physical flexibility but also developing the mental flexibility of adjusting the practice or letting go of what may not serve our highest good at that moment. Our bodies work best when the natural flow is maintained. It’s the time of the month we have the opportunity to do our deepest practice. This does not mean a practice where we sweat the most or where we find our edge, but where we can listen deeply to our body’s innate wisdom. It is a good time every month to pause, reflect & acknowledge this natural cycle where the body renews itself for our next creative cycle. Whether we decide to invert or not, we are doing Yoga.
With a passion for health and life, for Payal, yoga is nurturing, soothing and empowering. She completed her Yoga Teacher Training with Yogalife® in Dharamsala, India & several modules of Prana Flow® in Europe. Fascinated by human biology, health, and science she studied Biomedical Engineering in India, Germany, and Switzerland. She is born and brought up in Dubai and has spent a few years in India where she first stepped on the mat at the age of 17.
She is patient and loves to teach and learn constantly from inspiring teachers from different parts of the world such as Rod Stryker, Elena Brower, Shiva Rea, Coral Brown, Simon Park, Poonam Stecher Sharma, Max Strom, Sanjeev Bhanot and others. Teaching a combination of different forms of Hatha yoga she has always tried to spread the joy of Yoga on and off the mat.
Her interests are in Yoga, Ayurveda and other spheres of Eastern Medicine. She truly believes the world needs more of yoga & meditation to lead a mindful, balanced, conscious & fulfilled life.
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