Yoga during your menstrual cycle has always had confusing, and often, controversial opinions. There’s always been a question of whether to practice yoga, what kind of postures to do, is it safe, is it okay to skip all practices or is it best to just do breathing and meditation practices. The truth is - this time of the month is unique to you and you should always listen to your body and do what feels right.
This being said, our experts have put together recommendations on the best way to go about your practice during this time. If doing a full yoga session is too uncomfortable, perhaps some gentle yoga with recommended postures, some deep breathing, meditation or yoga nidra and chanting may be more beneficial for you. Yoga during periods can help to alleviate back pain and cramping. Many also find that it helps balance emotions, mood and relieves discomfort. Studies have found that yoga can significantly reduce moderate to severe pain, abdominal swelling, and cramps associated with the menstrual cycle. It’s also recommended if you add yoga to your regular routine 2-3 times per week you will find significant improvement in menstrual pain tolerance.
Benefits of practicing yoga during menstruation
- Yoga alleviates menstrual cramps, back pain and discomfort.
- It relaxes the mind by induces a sense of peace, balance and calm.
- Gentle and restorative yoga can help balance emotions and mood. Your body will release endorphins and you will still experience the same feeling of bliss after your practice.
- It improves energy levels and relieves fatigue.
- Doing certain asanas that include abdomen and pelvic movements stimulates the blood flow, stretches and relaxes the muscles and can nourish the tissues.
- This is a time to relax and restore. Practicing yoga during this time helps you connect more deeply with your body and let go of tightly held tension and uneasiness.
What should you not practice during your period
There are certain yoga practices that are a strict no during your periods.
Surya Namaskar during periods
This is not normally recommended, especially if there is heavy bleeding and intense pain. However, listen to your body and if you choose to practice, it should always be done slowly and gently. Avoid fast movements or holding for a long time.
Yoga and Ayurveda both say inversions during periods are not safe. This is because inversions are against the natural posture and flow. Inversions during your period will obstruct the natural flow of blood.
Excessive pressure on the abdomen
While it is safe to do forward bends like seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana), they must be done gently. Do not put excessive pressure on the abdomen. Avoid core strengthening asanas like the boat pose as well. This will increase the bleeding and pain in the lower abdomen.
Heating breathing practices
Avoid fast breathing, Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) and Surya Bedi (Right Nostril Breathing) as they will increase the heat which may cause discomfort and heavier bleeding.
Certain cleansing practices like Kapal Bhati, Agni Sar and Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana should be avoided. Kapal Bhati and Agnisar add pressure on the abdomen, while Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana, the practice of cleansing the intestines, is not safe to do during your period.
Sometimes you might feel perfectly fine and choose to do a normal yoga practice, while sometimes you will feel fatigue, cramps, bloating and pain. Tune in with your body and do what feels good.
Yoga during periods
Yoga to help with period cramps is an extremely beneficial way to manage period discomfort. Many factors can affect the menstrual cycle. Stress, travel, diet and lifestyle change, etc. can impact your cycle. Irregular periods and PCOS can impact regularity too. Mental health also has a strong impact. The best practice at this time is yoga nidra and pranayam. Om Chanting is also very beneficial. If you are not feeling too uncomfortable then a yoga session can be useful to help alleviate any period pain or back pain, balance the emotions - mood swings, anxiety, anger, depression, irritability and gently open the pelvic region, relieving any congestion. Menstruation is a time to vary one's yoga practice to look within and to find peace and tranquility.
Meditation, relaxation and chanting during periods
This is a wonderful time to practice meditation, Yoga Nidra and mantra chanting. During this time you are already sensitive and emotional. These practices will make you more aware and in-control. Antar mouna, the practice of inner silence is a technique where one observes the thoughts. Meditation on a mantra like Om or Sohum is also useful. Meditation on the breath or Ajapa Japa is very relaxing. Yoga Nidra is also strongly recommended at this time. Chanting of Om, Mahamrityunjaya and the Gayatri mantra are known to heal. Practice with a teacher to truly experience deep relaxation and blissfulness.
Breathing practices during menstruation
Pranayam is very useful during menstruation as it helps to balance the emotions and calm the mind. It can also help one to deal with any pain. Do not put any strain on the breath and do not practice with any retention or locks as this will increase the heat and bleeding. Just simple, relaxed and gentle pranayama is helpful. Practices include deep breathing, which is very beneficial. Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath), Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), Ujjayi (Victorious Breath), Sheetali (Cooling breath through the tongue) and Sitkari (Cooling breath through the teeth) are all useful practices.
As mentioned above, avoid fast breathing, Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), Surya Bedi (Right Nostril Breathing) and Kapalbhati (Frontal Brain Cleansing) as they will increase the heat which may cause heavier bleeding and will also put excessive pressure on the abdominal region.
Yoga poses for menstrual cramps
During your menstrual cycle, it’s important to only practice what feels right. If you are practicing asanas, practice with complete awareness and very gently. Do not push your body or strain yourself. Practices that allow you to feel more grounded, alleviate pain and gain strength are helpful.
To warm up, you can practice gentle arm and leg movements. Surya namaskar (Sun Salutation) can be practiced at a slow pace if there is no heavy bleeding or cramping. But it should not be performed in a fast manner or if there is a lot of pain. Moon salutations are a soothing and relaxing alternative to Surya Namaskar.
Practice gentle forward bends which will give a light massage to the abdominal and pelvic region. This will help relieve congestion, heaviness, cramping and heavy bleeding. They also relax the mind. Forward bends you can practice are seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana), head-to-toe pose (Janu Sirsasana), child's pose (Balasana). Feel free to use props like cushions and bolsters for support and comfort.
Backbends and Twists
To relieve back pain, gentle twists and backbends can be practiced. Simple seated spinal twist (Vakrasana), standing spinal twist (Kati Chakrasana), camel pose or half camel pose (Ustrasana or Ardha Ustrasana) and cobra pose (Bhujangasana) are a few examples. These asanas will not only release cramping in the back but also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and remove pelvic congestion. Avoid any strong backbends.
A very relaxing asana is the legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani). This posture removes stagnant blood from the legs without lifting the pelvic region so you are comfortable in the posture. It also opens up the pelvic region. You can use a cushion or bolster here as well for more support. Reclined bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) is another extremely relaxing position that relieves back pain and opens up the pelvic region. Lying down in the corpse pose (Shavasana) is wonderful for the back. It removes all tension, tightness and cramps from the body and relaxes the back greatly. Take a look at this article for in-depth details of a few asanas to do during your period.
Remember to always listen to your body. If you feel any pain or discomfort, immediately stop and relax in the corpse pose. Practice with gentle, slow movements and avoid jerks or intense movements. Your body needs extra care at this time so don’t hesitate to take time off. If you don’t feel like you have the energy to make it to your mat, don’t push yourself. Practice yoga nidra while lying on your bed or simple deep breathing. Don’t worry about how long you’re holding a pose or if you’re doing the easy or advanced variation. Just relax and do what you can.