One of the first things to keep in mind in order to talk about yoga during menstruation is the physical, energetic and emotional changes that women experience throughout their menstrual cycle. Becoming aware of these changes and living in harmony with the different phases of your cycle is one of the best tools to gain health and well-being.
Therefore, it would be interesting to do self-study, write down how you feel day by day and recognize the changes you experience, as this will allow you to know yourself better and give your body what it needs at all times.
At the same time, being aware of your cyclical nature will make it easier for you to live life with more acceptance and embrace the menstrual phase with more respect, understanding and gentleness.
The energy of Apana
This energy circulates downward and outward from the body, eliminating waste, toxins and debris, provides power for the large intestine, kidneys and genitals, and is the force that generates exhalation.
During menstruation, Apana is working with greater intensity, and therefore some styles of yoga recommend not to practice during these days and others, avoid certain practices to avoid hindering this process of elimination.
From the more traditional side of yoga, it is argued that inverted postures, breathing as kapalabhati, and energetic closures as Mula bandha and uddiyana bandha can alter the natural flow of Apana during menstruation, and therefore it is recommended to avoid them. Also, it is generally preferable to avoid very intense practices, solid twists and extensions or any other posture that may generate tension in the abdomen or lower back.
Can yoga reduce menstrual discomfort?
In general, your period does not have to be a reason to avoid physical activity. In fact, the practice of gentle exercise can help you considerably to reduce pain during menstruation. Specifically, yoga promotes overall health and therefore has a positive effect on your hormonal health.
Thus, regular yoga practice can promote the normalization of your cycle and help you get through periods more comfortably.
Below is a group of restorative postures that will help you relax and relieve menstrual cramps. You can hold each posture for 4 to 5 minutes, even longer if you feel like it. This short sequence will gently open your body, give your nervous system a rest and help you build up energy reserves.
Balasana, to restore balance
- Sit on your knees with toes together and knees wide apart, place an elongated pillow or several folded blankets under your groin and recline chest and head on this support.
- Bring your arms to your sides and turn your head to one side.
- Completely relax the weight of your arms, shoulders, neck and back.
- Bring all your attention to the breath and feel all the tensions melt away.
- Make sure the posture is comfortable and relaxing. To keep your body warm you can cover yourself with a blanket. Remember that you can also do the posture without material by resting your forehead on the floor and relaxing your arms on the sides of your legs and if you prefer to give a little support to your head, rest your forehead on your hands or fists. If you feel tension in your knees, place a thin blanket behind you and, if needed, place another folded blanket under your legs and feet so that the contact with the floor is softer.
This posture restores balance and harmony in the body and leads to centeredness.
Supta baddha konasana, to open the chest and hips
- Sit on the floor, bring the soles of your feet together, drop your knees to the sides and bring your heels as close to you as you can.
- Place a cylindrical pillow or folded blankets in contact with your sacrum and slowly lie down. You will probably feel better if you elevate your head a little with a pillow or blankets so that it is above the level of your heart. In this posture, you could also use a belt around your lower back and feet to help keep your legs in position and to apply gentle traction on your sacrum.
If you feel the tension in your hips and can’t relax your legs, you can rest your knees on blankets or blocks. Let your arms fall to your sides with your palms facing up, loosen your belly and hips and close your eyes, directing your attention deep within.
You can place a blanket over your eyes and cover yourself with another blanket to relax completely.
The non-material option would be to lie on your back on the floor, bring the soles of your feet together with your heels towards you and let your knees fall to the sides.
This posture opens the hips and abductors, relieves digestive and reproductive disorders and if you also use the supports to raise the trunk, opens the chest and facilitates breathing.
Upavistha konasana, to regulate menstrual flow and ovarian function.
- Sit comfortably on the floor and spread your legs wide apart.
- Lie forward and with the help of blankets or a pillow or two, support your chest and head. If it is difficult to lie forward, raise yourself higher using whatever material you have available: blankets, pillows, pads or your own hands and raise your chest as high as you can relax. If it is still not comfortable, you can lean your back against the wall and just spread your legs apart. On the other hand, you can also do it without support by stretching forward, resting your hands, forearms or head on the floor, making sure that your back is well stretched and your lungs are not compressed.
- With your eyes closed, bring your attention to your breathing, allow your whole internal body to relax and visualize how you release the tensions that may appear with each exhalation.
This posture is especially beneficial during menstruation, helps regulate menstrual flow and ovarian function, stretches your inner thighs, opens your hips and stimulates blood flow in the pelvic cavity.
Setu bandha Sarvangasana, for circulation of the sexual organs
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and spread them apart at the width of your hips. Try to relax your abdomen completely.
- Bring your heels as close as possible to your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor.
- Keep your feet parallel and your heels aligned under your knees. Place the pad on the sacrum and adjust it to your size. If it is uncomfortable, you can also use folded blankets to raise the pelvis a little.
- Bring all your attention to your breathing, relax your arms at the sides of your body and try to completely relax your abdomen.
Remember that you can also do this without equipment: in this case, keep your arms straight towards your feet and press them towards the floor to raise your hips, bring your shoulder blades together and, if you can join the palms of your hands by interlacing your fingers under your back.
Janu sirsasana, to tone liver, spleen, and kidneys
- Sit on the floor with your legs together and straight.
- Bend one knee and bring the sole of the foot into contact with the inner thigh of the opposite leg.
- Find 90 degrees on the bent leg and bring your heel as close to you as possible while keeping your hips square.
- Relax the knee of the bent leg towards the floor, and if you feel a lot of tension in your hip, you can use a pad or blanket under your knee to support it. If, on the other hand, you feel pain in your knee, you can stretch your leg out to the side at any time. You can also sit on a folded blanket to make the posture more accessible.
- Then lean forward, letting your body weight fall towards the stretched leg, trying to bring your navel towards your thigh. To support the trunk and that the back does not arch, you can use blankets and pillows, adjusting them to the height you need.
If you do it without equipment, try to work with a long back, walking your hands towards the foot of the straight leg, trying to align your sternum with the leg and shortening the space between the navel and the thigh.
To facilitate this option without material, bend the knee of the straight leg a little. If, with the previous options, you are not able to relax, move closer to the wall to support yourself, trying to keep your back and head in contact with the wall. From there, begin to focus on your breathing and the different sensations that are awakened.