Every yoga teacher has their own yoga-during-menstruation theory; there’s no definitive answer. Some say no problem!, some say avoid inversions, and I say take a break. Here’s why.
According to Ayurveda, the monthly cycle is a time of renewal. There’s a lot going on within these few days– elimination, detoxification, cleansing, and purifying. Rather than putting any extra stress (physical or emotional) on the body, this is an ideal time to ease off of activity.
This includes taking a break from your asana practice. Yoga, and any form of exercise, can put physical stress on the body (you know this well if you practice Ashtanga, power, or vinyasa flow styles). Rather than asking the body to undergo an extra physical challenge during menstruation, I recommend that you allow your body to devote its full attention to the work hand at hand.
Another compelling reason to give asana a rest for a few days is that flipping upside down in any sort of inversion goes against your body’s natural downward energy.
During your monthly cycle, apana vayu becomes especially active. This is a natural downward force; the same force that helps move urine and the bowels. It literally helps our flow to flow, and we don’t want to oppose or impede our body’s natural movement during such an important time of detoxification.
Converting your cycle into a time of rest can take some adjustment. As a recovering yoga addict, I know from experience that it can be hard to set aside your asana practice for a few days. “Yoga addict” might seem a conundrum, but there’s a difference between having a solid practice and being addicted or attached to your practice. Yoga is, after all, an ongoing lesson in detachment.
I never used to tone down (let alone stop) my practice during my cycle. I also suffered from major menstrual problems. I’m sure that the two were connected. I’ve worked on dialing back for a few days each month and consider myself no less of an aspiring yogi. I welcome this time for renewal and connection to my femininity, and invite you to do the same.
Rather than viewing your cycle as a burden, annoyance, or something that gets in the way of your yoga practice, welcome it as a time to go inward. You may abstain from an asana practice; but you can still do yoga. Remember: meditation is yoga, too.
Welcome your extra time not spent in asana as an opportunity to connect to your inner self in meditation. Honoring your body’s natural rhythm will actually heighten your mind-body-soul connection and deepen your yoga.
(This article was also published on elephantjournal.com)