MENSTRUATION & YOGA PRACTICE
From an early age, we discover there is apparently something embarrassing about menstruation. As young girls, we talk about it in whispers. As women, we buy tampons from the supermarket and quickly sweep them into our shopping bags as though they are an illicit substance.
While it might be uncomfortable to talk about menstruation in the West, for women in many others cultures the restrictions are far more extreme. Women are forbidden from taking part in certain religious rituals, or even daily household activities, during this ‘time of the month’. So is it any wonder that when I first bring up the topic of menstruation in yoga class with beginner students there is a lot of looking down and shuffling from side to side?
Physically and emotionally, women’s bodies undergo many changes before and during menstruation. Hormonal changes take place that allow menstruation to occur. Women often have less energy, feel bloated or have abdominal pain. We can feel weepy, irritable and sometimes even quite hopeless. Occasionally, women experience no symptoms at all until after having children.
Whatever your situation, a physiological process occurs that asks us to make changes to our yoga practice (and probably our daily lives too, but that is another conversation).
Rather than jumping or inverting, for example, supine asanas or forward bends are appropriate in our yoga practice. But many women struggle with making these changes during menstruation. Because they may still hit the gym or go for a run they do not see why yoga should be any different. The fact is that yoga teaches us inward reflection, to honour where we are at any given time. In the Yamas (the first of the eight limbs of yoga), the two first observances are “Ahimsa” (non-violence) and “Asteya” (truthfulness). If we are truthful and kind with ourselves (physically and emotionally) then we recognise menstruation is a time to support ourselves within our yoga practice. This includes when you come to class.
Geeta Iyengar says “Every woman knows that her body undergoes certain changes during the whole month because every month she menstruates. It is a significant function, which differentiates her from a man and in this respect has to be acknowledged as far as her yogic practice is concerned…..Although this is related to women, it is necessary for men to know it too. Why? Because it is a matter of fact that each man has himself come into existence through the existence of a woman, that is his mother, who was menstruating.” So that’s pretty clear then, yes?!
For more information on how to practice appropriately during menstruation, I am offering a three-hour workshop on Friday 11th September at the studio. You will learn which asanas are appropriate, and why, as well as how to look after yourself in class when you are menstruating. Take home notes will be supplied.