One of the most common & frequently asked questions by yoga practitioners is about the practice during their period. And I guess this very natural phenomenon has been studied quite deeply even in yogic science – of course, we know how it has been influential in other socio-cultural and religious rites.
Anyway, as far as a yoga goes, the opinion of whether or not to practice of yoga during one’s menstrual cycle depends upon a number of things – the philosophy and teachings of the particular style and lineage of yoga, the individual preferences of the practitioners, the menstrual flow, PMS variations, and so on.
For me, I haven’t experienced PMS symptoms for most of my menstruating years – no mood swings, bloating, period-related diarrhea, breast tenderness, cramping, pain, skin breakouts, etc. I did however, notice that around ovulation time (about 14 days before the next period) I would feel extremely hungry – this proved to be a better indicator to charging my cycles than many other calendars and also honed my skills on listening to my body and understanding changes.
In recent months, however, especially over the last year, I noticed significant temper outbursts around the ovulation week. I wouldn’t have mood swings, but I was definitely on edge and my patience would be at its lowest level (not a good mix with teen and pre-teen kids going hormonal at home either!). Incidentally, this would also be the time when telemarketers and banking goof-up apology calls would somehow manage to sneak through the Trucaller block list!
There was another odd symptom of physical discomfort that I noticed. A few days before my period, I would feel the misalignment in my SI joint (Sacro-Iliac joint). This would feel like a small joint twist and I wouldn’t feel agonizing like when it had dislocated a few years ago, but it would be like the joints had loosened overnight and they just slipped over each other. This would further settle down into a dull, buzzing very low intensity but highly annoying ache in my lower back and my hips that sometimes radiated upwards along the muscles around my lower spine.
Initially, I’d wonder if I had lifted something incorrectly or slept badly and would take time off to rest and take it easy, until it took a few months to realize this was clearly period related.
And I brought along my yoga to address this.
To clarify, I come from the Hatha lineage and school of thought and I believe that yoga can be practiced on every day of your period too. Of course, I also avoid inversions especially on heavy flow days (and if someone has menstrual disorders, then inversions are best avoided throughout the period days).
Here’s what I did:
On the mat, my asana was purely to de-congest and mobilize tight muscles especially in my lower back and stretch the abdominal muscles. Child’s pose (balasana) is soothing for some – for me, it is a very aggravating and uncomfortable posture, even a wide-knee child’s pose bothers me. Instead, I prefer a reclined bound angle (supta baddhakonasana) to be my better alternative. Supporting my back with a bolster makes this even more nurturing.
Supine twists are gorgeous… no, make that gorrrrrrjusssssss for a congested lower back. The slower you twist, especially incorporating mindful and simple breathing, the back responds with as much gratitude for your consideration.
The cat-cow (marjariasana) followed by cobra (bhujangasana) are others that not only relax the spine but also stretch the abdominal muscles to further massage the abdominal area and allow any uterine tightness to relax. I raise my legs against the wall in viparita karani and wow! that really helps to ease my legs after a long work day – with or without my period!
My all-time go-to ragdoll pose / standing forward fold (uttanasana) is something I don’t always find comfortable if I’m experiencing that SI joint symptom, so I skip it altogether. Instead, I lie down on my bed (supine – face up) and allow my upper back, neck and head to drop down the side of the bed. This creates a gentle traction with my head drawn towards the ground with gravity and helps to stretch my neck that may be sore as a result of a tight lower back. (Avoid this if you have cervical spine disorders)
Then for my pranayama, I do simple, gentle 1:1 deep, mindful breathing… and I bring myself to meditate – especially when I’m having one of my ovulation-week crabbiness.
What else do I do?
Apart from yoga, I may snuggle up in bed with a good book, have some tea (I’m a tea person – so I’ll choose anything from chai to turmeric blends to herbal infusions or my yogi tea.. I’m also not a green tea person, just saying..), or a warm bath (throw in some bath salts or epsom salts – but avoid soaking for more than 10-15 mins), a self massage or abdominal gentle massage, or simply turning in with a hot water bag is quite soothing too! Of course, it always helps if the kids choose not to squabble right at that time, but well, you can’t always have it all 🙂