You may have heard some yoga practitioners say that you shouldn’t do yoga on period. You may also have heard that certain yoga poses should be avoided when you are menstruating. But how true is this advice and what are these opinions based on?
Read on as we bust some of the most prevalent myths about yoga on your period and share effective advice about what you should and should not be doing on the mat during menstruation. Read on to learn:
- Yoga Myth #1: You Shouldn’t Do Yoga On Your Period
- Yoga Myth #2: You Shouldn’t Do Yoga Inversion On Your Period
- Yoga Myth #3: You Don’t Need To Adjust Your Practice During Your Period
- 7 Yoga Poses To Help With Menstruation
Yoga Myth #1: You Shouldn’t Do Yoga On Your Period
It is not uncommon to hear the myth that you should not do yoga on your period. This idea may be as old as yoga itself. But this myth is not about health and safety considerations for individuals during their time of the month.
Rather, it stems from the idea common in ancient India, and in many cultures, that women are unclean when they are menstruating. Because of this, they are discouraged from doing many things while menstruating, including engaging in social and religious activities. This means no yoga on your period.
But unless you are a strict follower of a form of the Hindu faith that prohibits women from participating in normal life when menstruating, this prohibition doesn’t apply to you.
The Vedic Myth Behind Menstruation
The idea of menstruation being something dirty or impure is linked with Indra’s slaying of Vritra.
Vritra is a personification of drought and is responsible for blocking the course of the Rigvedic rivers. It was only when Indra killed Vritra and destroyed all 99 of his fortresses that the rivers were liberated.
But Vritra was a Brahmin, so Indra was punished for killing him. A ghastly woman emerged from Vritra’s dead mouth and chased and captured Indra.
She only agreed to let Indra go in exchange for a continued place in the world. She became menstruation, and she flows from women every month as part of Indra’s guilt.
Other Myths About Menstruation
Yoga is not the only thing that some believe women should not engage in when menstruating.
Some communities believe that women should not participate in normal life when menstruating, and that after menstruating she must be purified before returning to day-to-day life. Specific beliefs and practices include:
- Removing women from the house and quarantining them in a puja room while menstruating.
- Refraining from food preparation and staying out of the kitchen to avoid contaminating food.
- Not offering prayers or touching holy books. Menstruating women should also not touch cows or the animal may become infertile.
- Some women bury the clothes that they were wearing during menstruation to avoid them being used by evil spirits.
- Avoiding certain foods, especially sour foods such as tamarind and pickles, as they will disturb the menstrual flow.
- Refraining from hard physical activity as this can aggravate dysmenorrhea.
As can be seen, these are cultural beliefs that intersect with yoga in some communities, but are not specifically linked with yoga.There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that you shouldn’t practice yoga during your period.
Yoga Myth #2: Yoga On Period – You Shouldn’t Do Inversions
Many yoga instructors will advise students against doing inversions, especially strong inversions such as headstands and handstands, while they are menstruating.
This is linked to Ayurveda medicine, which teaches that when you are menstruating your body is cleansing and that you should encourage the bodily fluids to flow down and out of your body, following the flow of Apana Vayu.
Avoiding inversions is a way of honoring what your body needs when menstruating and supporting your monthly cleansing and renewal.
However, it is not true that it is physiologically dangerous to do yoga inversions while on your period. It was once believed that yoga inversions could cause retrograde menstruation, with the fluids flowing back upwards away from the vagina and toward the fallopian tubes.
It was then believed that the presence of menstrual fluids there could cause endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a medical condition in which the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows in other places such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or along the pelvis. When it breaks down, unlike normal endometrium, it has nowhere to go. Its presence can cause cysts, and severe cramps, and can lead to infertility.
However, there is no reason to believe that retrograde menstruation causes Endometriosis.
While doctors still do not know the exact cause, it probably occurs most often in people with a genetic predisposition and may be linked to immune problems. It doesn’t seem to be linked with retrograde menstruation because studies show that almost all women have retrograde menstruation to some extent, but only about 10% develop endometriosis.
It is also not accurate that spending a few minutes in a yoga inversion will seriously change a woman’s menstrual flow. Flow is controlled by uterine contractions rather than pelvic orientation and gravity. That is why it still flows in the same way in the zero gravity of space.
However, core to the practice of yoga is to know, understand, and honor your body, respecting what it needs and how it is feeling on any given day.
For this reason, many yoga practitioners choose to avoid strong yoga inversions while on their period to respect the outward flow of menstrual energy. This honoring of the body relates to our next myth.
Yoga Myth #3: You Don’t Need To Adjust Your Yoga On Period
This myth is kind of true. There aren’t any specific yoga asanas that should be “off limits” to women on their period. None of them are inherently dangerous and they don’t represent a health risk.
However, yoga works best when you are in tune with your body, mentally and physically, and women’s bodies change throughout their menstrual cycle.
Women can therefore get more out of their yoga practice if they sync what they do on the mat with where they are in their hormonal cycle.
While menstruation is the most physically obvious menstrual phase, it is one of four, each of which lasts for around seven days to complete the 28-day cycle.
- Menstruation: This cycle starts on the first day of your period and lasts for about seven days, even if you aren’t on your period for that amount of time. This is the time when you are shedding your uterine lining. For many women, this is a low-energy moment in their cycle during which they are more likely to feel fatigued, emotional, and withdrawn.
- Follicular Phase: This is the time after menstruation when estrogen and testosterone start to increase in your system again. Most women feel a significant energy boost at this time and feel more focused and able to take on challenges.
- Ovulation: This is the moment when the body is preparing to release an egg, and when women generally feel most energetic, and perhaps a little impulsive. This phase can last a shorter time than the others.
- Luteal Phase: At this stage, your body is already starting to reduce estrogen and testosterone levels in preparation to shed the uterine lining. This can be the longest phase and is also the phase during which women suffer PMS symptoms such as mood swings.
Find out more about how each of these phases may affect you energetically below:
While it is impossible to generalize about how every woman will feel in each of these phases, since every person is different, we can acknowledge that women will feel differently throughout the month and should adjust their yoga practice accordingly.
For example, some women might prefer a restorative Yin Yoga practice when they are menstruating because they are low on energy. They may choose to avoid more complicated asanas, such as handstand and headstand inversions, because they aren’t feeling their best.
In turn, they may choose to do more energetic Ashtanga sequences when they are in their high-energy follicular phase and tackle challenging moves they have been working up to when they are at their peak ovulation phase.
Read our guide to the best yoga poses for PMS relief here.
But these aren’t rules that dictate what is healthy or safe at different times in your cycle. It is more about adjusting your practice to how you feel, and for women, this is intimately linked to the menstrual cycle.
You may wish to explore the following Yoga for your Menstrual Cycle playlist below and read more about cycle-syncing your yoga practice here.
7 Yoga Poses To Help With Menstruation
While there are yoga poses that you may choose to avoid when you are menstruating, there are also yoga poses that can help you during your period to relieve pain such as cramps, and help you feel more energized.
Consider adding some of the following asanas to your yoga practice when you are on your period. Click on the links for full details of the asana and how to perform them properly.
- Fish Pose – This pose is excellent when you are feeling drained or fatigued and need an energy boost. It can also relieve constipation and menstrual pain.
- Bharadvaja’s Twist – This is a rejuvenating pose that can smooth digestion and relieve bloating. It can also help relieve PMS symptoms.
- Head-to-Knee Pose – This pose stimulates the internal organs and can relieve menstrual discussion while relaxing the body and mind.
- Garland Pose – This pose activates the pelvic floor, which can aid in digestion and stimulate the lower abdominal muscles for menstrual pain relief.
- Reclined Twist – This pose is used for any physical or energetic congestion in the body so can aid with the cleansing associated with menstruation.
- Child’s Pose – This pose lightly compresses the internal organs, which can help with proper fluid flow.
- Cat-Cow Sequence – This sequence can improve blood circulation and relieve tightness and tension in the pelvis.
Often when speaking about diet, we are told not to focus on what we can’t eat, but rather on the delicious and healthy foods that we can eat. The same goes for yoga.
Rather than focusing on movements that might not be accessible while you are on your period due to fatigue and other issues, focus on nourishing moves that you can do to enhance your practice when menstruating.
Yoga On Your Period – Final Thoughts
There are a lot of myths out there about yoga on your period, most of them focused on what you shouldn’t be doing on the mat when menstruating. But these are myths based on cultural beliefs. There are no yoga asanas that are inherently dangerous to an individual on their period.
That said, yoga is all about connecting with your body and learning to respect what it needs. If you do feel fatigued or unbalanced on your period, adjust your yoga practice to embrace this.
Avoid challenging poses that you may not feel energetically able to tackle, and instead introduce yoga poses that can help reduce menstrual symptoms.