Short answer - it depends!
We talk about listening to our body and honouring our body a lot, but what does that exactly mean? Menstruation for many women can mean feeling low on energy and having cravings for certain (usually sweet) food. A good question to ask is, does 'honouring your body' then means the same as going with your body’s cravings and feelings like eating rubbish, doing nothing and just feeling blue?
I personally don’t think so. We all know that eating extra sugar or chocolate for example isn’t really going to make you feel better. So not wanting to do any yoga, and just hiding on the couch, even if that is what you feel like, might also not make you feel better.
Experiment with what works for you
I find in my yoga practice, sometimes a more energising class can be wonderful, exactly what I need to ground myself and to shift the blues and the sluggishness.
Other times a restorative practice is just what I need. Trying out what suits you, and keeping an eye on how you feel the rest of the day, is the best advice, I think. This is how you get to know your body and what works best during that time of the month.
If a particular pose or practice really drains you, don’t do it. Having your period means going inward; listen to and respect your body and energy. Remembering that you’re not sick, you are perhaps just more sensitive, can be helpful at times as well.
Should you avoid inversions on your period?
The yoga community has differing recommendations on which poses you should and shouldn’t do while menstruating. I personally tell people to hold off on inversions, like shoulder stands and headstands, as this goes against the downward flow. I might mention that deep twists for example don't feel good on my body, but that is usually as far as I go.
Swapping your stronger inversion with legs up the wall pose - or any kind of restorative pose with bolsters might feel more beneficial for you.
But it's personal. A lot of women still practise inversions throughout their cycle without any issues.
If you are interested in finding out more about practising yoga during your cycle, Jose de Groot has a really interesting talk this subject from a Chinese medicine point of view:
The Painbody according to Eckhart Tolle
Another interesting perspective is on this is about the pain-body from Eckhart Tolle. He describes how, just before your cycle starts, your pain-body becomes extra active. According to Eckhart Tolle your pain-body is an energetic body, looked upon almost as a different entity, that consists of all the energetic residues of your pain from childhood. The pain-body can either be dormant or active. When it is active it can take you over and feed on pain, which could explain the blues during or just before your period. Of course, there is also the explanation of hormonal changes, but you never know — maybe the pain-body sets that off?
Eckhart Tolle then explains how that time can be of extra value. When you are aware of what is happening, you can stay present to emotions that intensify; then the pain-body cannot take you over and also cannot survive the light of consciousness. So really it's an opportunity to heal past traumas. Aren't we lucky…
To me this view makes a lot of sense. It gives meaning to this time of the month, and it has helped me better accept how I feel while staying present.
Recommended yoga classes for women
You can find a whole range of yoga classes for women on EkhartYoga. From yoga during different stages of your menstrual cycle, classes for enhancing fertility and yoga to support you during the menopause. Yoga for women
Article originally written 12/2011