read Should You Practice Yoga During Menstruation?

Should You Practice Yoga During Menstruation?

Yoga during menstruation

Menstruation occurs in women of reproductive age at regular intervals of an approximate lunar month. Albeit the naturalness of the process, the cultural stigma around it has strong roots. It has also permeated into the world of yoga, with many believing that some, if not the entire spectrum of asanas, should be prohibited to women on period. So, should you really practice yoga during menstruation?

It is really up to the practitioner. Every woman has a different body and a different menstrual cycle. Some may suffer from extreme pain and discomfort, whereas others barely notice any change in their overall health. Some prefer a relaxing practice, such as Yin Yoga which is slow-paced and restorative in nature, while others may experience a surge in energy levels and find themselves going for the traditional movement-oriented Vinyasa/ Ashtanga flows. 

Research shows that exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, which help reduce pain and uplift one’s mood. Yoga is a low-impact and low-intensity exercise, which works on the muscles, tissues, and organs, thereby reducing spasms in the body. 

Asanas are restorative and work towards efficiently relaxing the entire body and facilitating the flow of blood to the pelvic region. Certain yoga postures relieve menstrual cramps, which are caused due to uterus contractions, by relaxing the muscles and minimizing other pain links (such as back and leg pains).  

As yoga works both the body and the mind, it is said to reduce anger, irritability, depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions. A few studies have found that yoga impacts most premenstrual symptoms positively and maintains overall well-being.

Asanas to ease menstrual cramps

Reclined Butterfly pose/ Supta Baddha Konasana
Yoga during menstruation

This pose relieves period cramps by increasing blood flow in the lower abdomen and providing a stretch to the inner thighs. It even improves digestion and calms your nerves, making you feel relaxed and composed. 

Happy Baby pose
Yoga during menstruation

As the name suggests, this pose helps you channel your inner child-like happiness, especially when you’re feeling grumpy and low on period. The pose works on your spine, by providing it a gentle massage as you rock from side to side, and releases any tension stored in the lower back.

Supine Spinal Twist/ Supta Vakrasana
Yoga during menstruation

This asana gives you an extra reason to lie down on your back when those cramps hit. Reclined twists not only stretch and strengthen the spine, thereby relieving any discomfort in the lower back. But it relaxes the body by soothing the nerves that create uncomfortable tension in your muscles and joints during your periods.

Legs up the Wall/ Supported Viparita Karani
Yoga during menstruation

Viparita Karani is a restorative posture that increases circulation and lymphatic drainage, relieves back pain, and provides relief to sore legs. Keeping your awareness on the breath in this pose slows down and stimulates the peripheral nervous system or PNS (rest and digest response). This reduces your heart rate and relaxes any muscular strain/ tension.

Supported Fish pose/ Matsyasana
Yoga during menstruation

Fluctuation in hormone levels during periods may result in digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Matsyasana is highly recommended, as it improves blood circulation in the pelvic region and stretches the abdominal muscles, thus providing relief. Moreover, it relieves the tension in your neck, shoulders, and lower back, and diminishes pain effectively.

Yogi Squat/ Malasana
Yoga during menstruation

If your lower back hurts during menstruation, you will be grateful for this pose. Malasana or the Garland pose works wonders on your lower back and relaxes the abdomen when those cramps hit. What’s more, it activates your digestive system and improves metabolism along with benefitting the reproductive system. 

Also read: Should You Practice Yoga If You are Injured?

These yoga asanas can go a long way to bring relief during menstruation. However, the practice of yoga aims to help you understand your own body better and it is important to know your limits. If you feel you are not up to a physical practice during menstruation, even doing some relaxing pranayama or an extended Savasana would be as effective.

References
1. Hauswirth-Jain K. Yoga and Menstruation: Is it Safe to Practice Yoga During the Period? Arhanta Yoga. https://www.arhantayoga.org/blog/yoga-and-period-practice-yoga-inversions-during-menstruation/ (accessed Nov 12, 2020).
2. Anderson S. Peacock Pose. Yoga International. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/peacock-pose (accessed Nov 23, 2020).
3. Wade L. There’s No Reason to Skip Headstands During Your Period. Slate. 2014; published online Aug 11. https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/08/yoga-while-on-your-period-inversions-are-totally-fine.html (accessed Nov 23, 2020).
4. Villazone L. Is it coincidental that the human menstrual cycle is about the same length as the Moon cycle? Science Focus. https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/is-it-coincidental-that-the-human-menstrual-cycle-is-about-the-same-length-as-the-moon-cycle/ (accessed Nov 23, 2020).
5. Reed K. 7 Yoga Poses to Help Ease Menstrual Pain. Positive Health Wellness. 2017; published online Mar 2. https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/pain-relief/7-yoga-poses-ease-menstrual-pain/ (accessed Mar 19, 2021).
6. Rakhshaee Z. Effect of Three Yoga Poses (Cobra, Cat and Fish Poses) in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 2011; 24: 192–6. 
7. Athanasiou KA. The Legs Up The Wall Yoga Pose Has Some Surprising Benefits. Health Digest. 2020; published online: Dec 16. https://www.healthdigest.com/296924/the-legs-up-the-wall-yoga-pose-has-some-surprising-benefits/ (accessed Apr 1, 2021).
8. Liu DT, Hitchcock A. Endometriosis: its association with retrograde menstruation, dysmenorrhoea and tubal pathology. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1986; 93, 859–62.
9. Cohen I. Menstruation and Religion: Developing a Critical Menstrual Studies Approach. In Bobel C, Winkler IT, Fahs B, Hasson KA, Kissling EA, Roberts TA, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020: 115–29.

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