I love getting my period. I know that’s a weird thing to say, and many women groan at the monthly inconvenience. But I appreciate it for cyclically returning me to my body. It asks me to slow down and acknowledge change, to let go of whatever happened over the last few weeks.
When I was younger, I thought periods were the enemy of women’s liberation. I would push through whatever I was feeling in order to be as productive as possible and keep up with the boys. The big secret is that taking the time to rest and reflect can actually boost your productivity and creativity. Humans, all of us, are cyclic creatures that need monthly, seasonal, and annual variation, and we live in a world that wants us to behave exactly the same way, and be exactly as productive, from day to day. Menstruating women have a very obvious reminder that we have bodies and that our bodies have specific and varying needs.
There is some controversy in the yoga world around what’s safe to practice while you are menstruating. Deep twists, core work, and inversions are contraindicated on your period. Most commonly, inverting on your period has been linked to endometriosis and a mysterious condition called vascular congestion that may or may not exist. There’s little scientific evidence to back up these claims, however, and many women invert on their periods with no negative health consequences.
That being said, one of the most important things you can learn in yoga is to listen to your body. I used to invert every time on my period, probably partly because I wanted to stick it to The Man and yell upside down, “Don’t tell me what to do!” Over time, however, I’ve gotten more sensitive to what I’m feeling during this time, and it doesn’t feel good anymore to go upside down. The yogic wisdom is to give the belly space while your body is doing the hard work of internal and energetic cleansing. In my experience, following the intuitive and unscientific advice to modify your practice on your period works for me.
Here are some poses that I really like during this time. Feel free to try them, but as always, go with your own flow.
Squat pose releases the lower back and creates space in the hips and the belly.
Stand with your feet wider than hips distance apart, toes pointing out at about 45 degrees. Sink into your squat, bringing your elbows to your inner thighs and your palms together to press the inner thighs apart. Take five deep breaths.
Exalted warrior opens the side body, giving more room to the organs that are working hard to help you cleanse and detoxify.
Stand with your feet wide, right toes pointing towards the short edge of your mat, left toes turned in at around 90 degrees. Bend your right knee in line with your ankle, reach your right arm up towards the ceiling, open your chest skywards, and let your left hand rest lightly on your straight back leg. Take five to eight deep breaths and then switch sides.
Restorative Goddess Pose
This pose is excellent for soothing the lower back and opening the belly and the hips.
With your bum on your mat, lie back over a bolster, ensuring your head is supported. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees open wide, perhaps onto blocks or pillows for support. Arms can open out to the sides. Rest in this pose for up to 20 minutes.