August 17 2019 | Asana, Ashtanga yoga
Recently a student asked me why not to practise inversions during menstruation. Apparently, some teachers advise to pratise. In Ashtanga, if we are daily practitioners, we normally take 2-3 days off for our ‘lady’s holidays’. What if you practise 1-4 times a week only?… Well, some schools of postural practice say: practise as usual. Others: avoid inversions. Let’s look into it bit more closely.
Generally, inversions are said to improve blood circulation and keep the heart and lungs youthful. But while menstruating, inversions can interrupt normal menstrual flow. When the heart is above the head, blood pressure increases and heart rate may increase as well. While during the period, the whole system is trying to let the nature run its course, slow down and be more relaxed.
From the yogic view of energy flow, menstruating is manifestation of apana, i.e. downward flow of energy. While inversions are pranic (upward flow) and designed to eliminate apana. So during menstruation, apanic force is likely to be given time to run its course. That, maybe, the reason many of us have prolonged bleeding if we decide to practise inversions…
In Ashtanga, we keep Mulha and Uddiyana bandha engaged at all times. While during the period, we are to release all the pelvis in order to ensure a free natural downward apanic flow. We have to remember, that release of bandhas in the many asanas, may potentially cause injuries especially in the lower spine and sacrum region. In inversions, we keep all body active and engaged. One of the reasons for this is not to increase intracranial pressure through blood pooling down towards the head too fast too strong, since gravity is still not cancelled ?.
I personally did not see any scientific research on the matter. In my personal experience, during the first 2-3 days of my period all my body wants is to be still, not to engage muscles and to move gently. Few years back, I have tried practising inversions for a while, to see what it does to me. It seemed to make my periods last longer (I’d rather not!). However, many of my Ashtanga friends, daily practitioners, feel no difference during the period and practise regularly, noticing no change.
For me, above reasons are enough reasons to let go of the inversions during my period and let the nature run its course. Having said that, practising or not practising inversions during menstruation is a personal choice. Most important is to listen to our body and adjust our practice accordingly. Remembering to be kind, compassionate and accepting towards ourselves.
Enjoy your practice on and off the mat,
Irina Pashkevich Bourdier,
Iriness Yoga & Wellbeing Horsham
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