I have heard different things about continuing yoga practice during menstruation. Is it okay to continue my regular practice or should I be taking it a bit easier during this time?
Is it safe to do Bikram during pregnancy? I know pregnant women should be careful to not overheat but I have seen pregnant women doing classes before. If you could clear this up for me, that would be great.
Traditionally in yoga, your menstrual cycle is considered to be part of apana, or the "outward flow" of energy, when blood and toxins are released from the body so the cycle of fertility can begin again. It is advised to not practise inversions while menstruating as inversions.
Poses such as shoulderstand, headstand and handstand, are poses where your pelvis is higher than your heart, which can be excellent for your circulation, but during your menstrual cycle goes against the flow due to the effect of gravity on the blood vessels of the uterus.
An alternative is to practising inversions are restorative poses like supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle pose) and salamba upavistha konasana (supported open angle pose), as these help you to relax and gently open the lower abdomen and pelvic floor.
Unless you are plagued with bad cramps the first day of your period, exercise is fine. Just listen to your body and its signals and rest or modify your practice if you need to. Remember that this time of the month is a chance for you to practise letting go in order to replenish yourself.
If you do feel pain from PMT or cramps, studies have shown yoga to be an effective and natural pain reliever. When you ease your pain, your mood improves, you're more inclined to stay active and healthy, and you're less likely to need medication.
Physically, yoga asanas (postures) relax the nervous system, balance the endocrine system, increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the reproductive organs, and strengthens the muscles surrounding those organs all great reasons to keep on practising. Additionally, a regular practice reduces the negative effects of stress on your body, helps to promote relaxation and balance the hormones.
You'll want to listen to your body and energy levels during your cycle, modify the postures and take rest as needed, but one of the beautiful things about yoga is that the practice and its many benefits are available to you throughout all the phases of life in some form or another.
Duncan Peak yoga expert