The practice of yoga postures provides a holistic journey towards physical rejuvenation and healing. Within the cycle of our lifelong practice, we experience times when we must modify the poses and the approach within our poses. Such is the case during periods of menstruation.
Menstruation can be a challenging time with symptoms like cramps, heavy bleeding, low back pain, pelvic discomfort, and emotional waves. Exploring variations of key yoga poses, one can find that a mindful Hatha yoga practice can help alleviate these symptoms.
But just as some key poses are therapeutic for menstrual cycles, other yoga postures can aggravate menstrual symptoms and should be avoided. Of particular importance, inversions (viparita sthitti) should not be performed during menstruation.
Why Inversions Should Be Avoided During Menstruation
During the menstrual period, the pelvic vascular bed becomes more saturated with blood than at other times of the cycle. Understanding the anatomy of the uterus, the uterine blood supply enters the uterus from the right and left sides of the pelvis via the uterine arteries. The uterine arteries have thick, muscular walls and are located within broad ligaments which suspend the uterus from the pelvis structure. Unlike the uterine arteries, the uterine veins are thin-walled. The thinness of the uterine veins makes them susceptible to collapse when excessive pressure is applied to them.
During inversions, the uterus is drawn downwards by gravity resulting in a pulling motion on the broad ligaments containing the uterine arteries and veins. This pulling or stretching motion of these ligaments can also act on the uterine veins potentially leading to partial collapse or occlusions. Since the uterine arteries contain thick, muscular walls, they can resist collapse and continue to send blood flow into the uterus. Without a proper exit of blood out of the uterine veins, vascular pressure arises leading to an increase in menstrual bleeding.
Typical Inversions To Avoid:
- Adho Mukha Vriksasana (Handstand or Downward Facing Tree Pose)
- Bakasana (Crow Pose)
- Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose)
- Halasana (Plow Pose)
- Vrschikasana (Scorpion Pose)
- Urdhva Dhanurasana (Full Wheel Pose)
Other poses to be modified or avoided during menstruation: Higher energy yoga poses and practices, like vinyasa and power yoga, can expend substantial energy resources. During menstruation, energy and physical strength can already be at low levels. Performing physically challenging flows with low energy levels may result in poor execution and a loss of integrity. Performing balancing and standing poses with depleted energy can also result in loss of balance and stability.
Some Suggested Yoga Poses During The Menstrual Period We recommend practicing yoga poses that encourage a state of groundedness to alleviate the mental and emotional heaviness of menstrual symptoms. We also recommend that you use these modified practices to explore more gentle, restorative or supported variations of poses and flows.
1. Forward Bending Poses:
*These poses apply a light massage to the pelvic and abdominal region without causing collapse to uterine veins. This massaging effect can alleviate heavy bleeding and cramps.
- Janu Sirsasana (One Leg, Head to Knee Pose)
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Baddha Konasana (Seated Cobbler’s Pose)
- Gomukasana (Cow’s Face Pose)
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose)
- Upavisthakonasana (Seated Wide Leg Forward Bend Pose)
2. Twisting Poses:
*Aid in relieving back ache and cramps.
- Lying Two Knee Twist
- Seated Twists (ie in Sukhasana)
3. Supported Back Bends:
*Alleviates pelvic discomfort while generating a relaxed state.
- Setu Bandhasana (Spinal Lift or Bridge pose) with support (block placed under the sacrum and crest of the hips)
4. Supported Leg-Only Inversions:
*Relieves pelvic discomfort and improves circulation of veins and lymphatic vessels in the legs.
- Viparita Karani (Inverted Two Leg Stretch or Inverted Lake Pose)
- placing legs up against a wall as if in Staff Pose while pelvis remains on floor.
5. Savasana (Corpse Pose):
*Relaxes and calms the nervous system and to balance emotions.