Yoga on your period

Not doing any exercise on your period? Or do you carry on as usual?

There seem to be two groups of thought on exercising or practising yoga on your period. Either don’t do it – it’s bad for you. Or keep your usual exercise regime – no reason not to.

Both seem pretty linear to me

It isn’t black or white. It is cyclical. Like the seasons, like the moon, like our hormones fluctuating through the month. Our culture decided on a linear life. Let’s make the week 7 days, 5 days and work 2 days off. Let make the month 30 or 31 days rather than following the moon. Let’s do the same activities, food, routines whether it’s summer or winter. It’s linear. There are no cycles.

And we, just as Mother Nature, are cyclical. Not linear.

Patriarchal view on menstruation?

Saying we shouldn’t practise inversions, yoga or exercise during our bleed without offering an explanation is offensive. Some may even say it’s patriarchal.

I heard so many fellow yoga teachers saying we shouldn’t but couldn’t provide any reasons why. Except that’s what they’d been told. 

I want to make up my own mind. 

But this is often how it is in the yoga and spiritual community. We are not questioning. And we are not always listening to our own body wisdom.

Some are saying the view of not practising yoga or inversions on your period is patriarchal. The men decided it shouldn’t be done. A way to control women. Just another thing we “shouldn’t” do whilst menstruating. But I don’t think that is the reason. It may later have become like that but it’s not the original reason.

The menstrual cycle in Ayurveda

Menstruating is a powerful energetic force. From an Ayurvedic (and yoga) perspective, Apana Vayu is responsible for the downward flow of energy. This includes menstruation, childbirth, peeing, pooing and ejaculation. 

If Vata Dosha (wind or Vayu) is disturbed or moving in the wrong direction it will affect our general health and wellbeing. Our menstruation (as well as elimination) is a sign of our overall health. Our fifth vital sign. We want to keep it balanced. 

This is one reason we don’t want to manipulate it during our period. 

If you enjoy a strong practice or you do inversions such as head- or handstands you are likely also using Mulabandha or engaging your pelvic floor for stability, support and strength. 

In meditation and spiritual practises we may apply Mulabandha as a way to manipulate or raise our energy. To lift it up, to awaken Kundalini Shakti. This is perfect in our energetic awakening but it also disrupts our Apana Vayu if we do it when menstruating. This is another reason why yoga teachers may tell you not to practise inversions or a strong yoga practice through your period.

 (On a side note: This blog is for regular practitioners of general “modern” yogasana practice. If you are deeply into spiritual practice you may have a teacher sharing how to manipulate the flow safely in conjunction with your monthly cycle). 

The period cleanse

In Ayurveda, we can also liken our menstruation to a cleanse. A natural process of our body – not because it is dirty or toxic. In some Panchakarma practises bloodletting, Raktamokshana, is a common practice. This happens during our bleed – we are releasing.

Pitta Dosha has an affinity with our blood tissue, Rakta Dhatu. If we have excess Pitta Dosha it may move into the blood tissue according to Ayurveda. Bloodletting is a way to release excess Pitta. Allow this process by practices that do not disturb the flow – and do not increase Pitta could support this natural cleanse.

From the yogic and Ayurvedic view, this is about honouring our natural cyclic nature (just like we adjust to the seasons, general demographics and time of day). It is working with the wisdom of our body and Nature – not against it. 

Listen to your body. Your body wisdom. That is really what Ayurveda is all about it. Generally from the Ayurvedic perspective, this would be the time to do a more soothing relaxing practice. But everybody is different. Every flow is different. 

Learn more about Menstrual Cycle Awareness, Ayurveda and Yoga in my Feminine Seasons & Cycles online immersion.

Living cyclical with your whole menstrual cycle

It is not only about menstruation. It is about the whole cycle. The follicular phase, ovulation and the shifts happening in the luteal phase. In Ayurveda, we may notice these changes as Doshic shifts. And depending on our dominant or imbalanced Doshas we will respond differently during the whole month. The full lunar cycle.

A healthy balanced cycle is to note the whole cycle. Not just menstruation or our bleeding time. It’s about menstrual cycle awareness or connecting to the wisdom of our whole moon cycle.

From a Western or modern science view, there is no research suggesting it’s detrimental to do inversions or exercise through the whole cycle. During your period the blood won’t reverse more or less whether standing on your head or sitting on the sofa. 

However, there is more and more research into how the fluctuations of our hormones through the month affect our physiology. For me, this is super interesting because it very much corresponds with the Ayurvedic perspective looking at the Doshic changes through our cycle.

Sports science and sports coaches are tracking female athletes cycles to best support them in their achievements. There is research suggesting stamina and muscle build-up may be supported in our follicular phase (just like Kapha Dosha increases!). We may be more prone to injuries at certain times due to hormonal changes such as oestrogen levels rising around ovulation or relaxin hormones changing.

There is still a lot of research to be explored. Most medical trials have historically been done on males as female hormonal changes are so complex. Now things are changing. Hooray!

There are also positives of hormonal changes when we get to know them and appreciate their powers. Our cycle is what supports our bones, our emotional health too. Our cycle is part of us, our physiology. Learning to listen to our bodies is the first step – and maybe science will follow soon.

Learn more about Menstrual Cycle Awareness, Ayurveda and Yoga in my Feminine Seasons & Cycles online immersion.

 I am not a gynaecologist and this is not medical advice. Please always get a proper exam if anything changes. Just in case. What I’ll share is from a general menstrual cycle awareness perspective and from Ayurveda. I am an ayurvedic practitioner (BSc, PGDip), a yoga teacher and I have a passion for female/womb wellness.