Here at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre we practise inversions… lots of inversions and yet the teachers will guide female students not to practise inverted yoga postures whilst they have their period.

Many dedicated yoga practitioners are pretty addicted to inversions and so missing out on Sarvangasana, Halasana/Karnapidasana and  hanging Sirsasana – for four to six days when you have your period can feel very inconvenient. Most of us who love our daily inversions have been in the situation of thinking ‘oh, my period is not so heavy this month’ or ‘I think it’s almost finished’ so that we can get our inversion fix. But why do some women choose to invert during menstruation despite the guidance not to? 

– Some women are embarrassed to be seen to be missing out on the inversions – particularly ones done during class like shoulder stand and halasana/karnapidasana.

 – Some of us just resent and are resistant to the idea that we are somehow less capable for a few days each month. 

And yet, there are some good reasons that we at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre do NOT recommend doing any inversions during menstruation.

What is an inversion/inverted yoga asana?

Firstly, let’s clarify what constitutes an inversion in yoga practice. Supported Sirsasana, Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and Halasana/Karnapidasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana ( handstands) Pincha Mayurasana (elbow balance) are all inversions because the trunk and legs are both upside down. 

Is Dog pose an inversion?

Supported downward facing dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana is not an inversion because, although the trunk is inverted, the legs are not. In fact, in Sharat Arora’s method of practice we recommend supported dog pose as a great alternative to Sirsasana in the early morning self-practice during menstruation; it has comparative health benefits in terms of its positive effects on the spine and organs, and it has similar relaxing meditative qualities, all of which is immensely beneficial to you at any time of the month and especially when you’ve got your period. If menstrual flow is very heavy and cramping is really strong you may not feel like doing dog pose in which case of course it can be dropped in favour of more comfortable relaxations.

So why should we not practise yoga inversions during menstruation?

There is a lot of misinformation about yoga practice and about women’s bodies including the idea that we are somehow unclean or unfit for practice during that time, a myth that is clearly untrue. And yet, busting that myth should not mean pushing our bodies into things that are detrimental to us. 

What are the reasons not to do inverted yoga asanas during menstruation?

The only occasion we may encourage women to invert during menstruation is during class when first learning the asanas, in that case we suggest entering the asana and staying just for a few minutes before coming down again. Once or twice for a shorter amount of time won’t do you any harm, but there are good reasons not to stay for a longer time in inversions whilst on your period. These fall into two categories; the energetic and the physical.

1. Energetic reasons not to invert during your period

In Ayurveda menstruation is part of ‘apana’: the eliminative functions. This is a natural energetic, as well as physical, downwards movement and it should not be interrupted. In addition to the literal elimination of waste, apana helps to support the immune system and works on elimination of unnecessary mental and emotional energy. Menstruation is a natural powerful monthly cleanse and we can use our yoga asana practice to support our bodies in this and to optimise the cleansing benefits. If this doesn’t sound valid to you think

about how you wouldn’t try to eat or to go to the toilet when upside-down, these functions are also governed by apana. In fact, inverting when we need the toilet or are suffering constipation is also not a good idea. One of the benefits of inversions is their counteraction of gravity. Therefore, anything that works with gravity should not be done in inversion where the power is in the anti-gravity. 

2. Physical reasons not to invert during your period

If the energetic reasons sound too alternative for you, then there are sound physical reasons to make practising inversions when you have your period undesirable. ‘Vascular congestion’ is a medical term for a conditions that can result from the practice of inversions during menstruation. It is a temporary halt of the blood flow followed by excessive heavy

bleeding, often suddenly restarting later at an unexpected moment. This is especially likely, given that in our Iyengar practice, we hold our inversions for a long time, up to 30 minutes or even longer in Sirsasana and Sarvangasana variations. Some of our students here at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Dharamkot have reported inverting on day three or four of their period, when the bleeding has become lighter and having the bleeding stop only to have it start again as if from the beginning. However much you love your period, having a double length is not ideal.

Conclusion

All bodies are different and it is important to listen to yours. Yoga practice brings us in tune with our bodies and that includes our menstrual cycles as we become sensitive. Experiment and see what feels good for you in the run-up to and during your period. Having your period can be the most amazing and empowering experience and is the perfect time to go within and become finely attuned to the subtlest rhythms of your body. Deep relaxation practice can be immensely beneficial at this time but you know your body and if you find you want a more full power energetic yoga practice then go for it! Just remember that whatever the situation, we do NOT recommend any inversions whilst you have any signs of period, even if the bleeding appears to have almost finished.

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