Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Menstruation and Ashtanga practice

There are many concepts and opinions in yoga world concerning a feminine menstruation. To practice or not? To resign from a practice despite the fact I do not feel in any way different? To practice at a push despite the fact that I am in pain and I would rather wrap myself in a duvet?

Like with everything – everyone has his own convictions and justifications.

My opinion stems from my inidividual experience both as a woman who practices Ashtanga Yoga (earlier Iyengar yoga for several years) and as a teacher (I work a lot with  women having various feminine conditions).

One of the most important things in Ashtanga yoga practice which we learn is to be conscious of our body and to be mindful. These constitute a basis to make decision that will be neither harmful nor abusing our health. In every individual case we follow this rule.

Every single woman experiences menstruation differently – one very painfully, the other almost insensibly. From my perspective, generalizing all the cases is illogical. To get to the point: if nothing actually is going on, excluding a possible sense of heaviness or accumulated water, women practice yoga on my classes. A fortiori because many women need to support a monthly process of clearing.

An exception are women who practice yoga 6 times a week throughout several years, most of all yoga teachers. For them, practicing yoga during menstruation causes an excessive deficit in life’s energy. Thus, there are 2-3 days off pratice, an individual Moonday-Lady’s Day. An additional clue is a regulated cycle – the one that comes on New Moon not Full Moon.

When you practice Ashtanga yoga for many years a frequency of menstruation changes, too (eg. for a short time menstruation appears during New Moon and Full Moon, so every 2 weeks – when a body needs to clear hormonal system or menstruation vanishes for 2-3 months). It has to be borne in mind and mindfully observed, too. What helps is to observe our eating habits more carefully . It is always good to consult a teacher.

There are women for whom menstruation is painful but sometimes this pain appears only during practice of certain asanas – eg. the ones that intensively engage abdomen or deeply warming ones.

Personally, when I used to practice Iyengar yoga I obeyed this rule of not doing abdomen asanas, twists or inverted positions. Often, however, due to heavy pain I could not even attend yoga classes. My initial experience with Ashtanga yoga looked similarly. When a teacher used to tell me to practice all asanas with no exception it rose my concerns. Additionally, I really felt asanas that were earlier forbidden during menstruation. To be blunt, I had the feeling that somebody wrestles and burns my insides so, as a result, I resigned from a practice during these days in a class, but decided to practice yoga mindfully at home instead. I wanted to learn what is going on and who is right.

Today I know there are three reasons of pain:

  • cooled and underenergized kidneys and spleen
  • too thick blood – a liver cannot transmit (‘pull-through’) blood which it stores
  • poor blood – which is undernourshied – usually iron deficiency but also deficiency of other minerals

So if a pain does not subside after years of practicing, have a closer look into what and how you eat. It is worth to consult a Chinese medicine doctor, too. Especially if you are a yoga teacher and your pain isn’t gone after years of practicing.

After many years that everyone is right in a specific cases. My conditions vanished fully after several months of praticing Ashtanga. However, I think that forcing practice does not help a gradual proces of healing. An intensive work and overheating the bottom of abdomen during menstruation may cause a minor haemorrhage. Bear in mind that Ashtanga is a practice where bandhas and breath play a pivotal role – thank to them the energetics of a body and prana’s circulation change.

To conculde: the most important is intuition and a conscious cooperation with your body. Every woman is responsible for her own health and makes a decision everytime she gets on a yoga mat.

Ewa Makowska

Menstruation and Ashtanga practice