Let’s Celebrate our Menstrual Cycle through Yoga!
When I decided to write about yoga for Mother & Child, yoga for pregnant women first came to my mind as the most suitable subject. But I have never been pregnant, so haven’t gone through this experience, which in my opinion is the most difficult and rewarding choice a woman can go through gracefully…
As yoga teachers we learn to be integrated – teach and walk the talk, study, experience, and ask our masters – then transfer the knowledge.
This belief leaves me feeling obliged to talk only about yoga and how it can benefit a woman, how it can have a positive effect on her health, emotions, and work, and her family, personal and private life.
I would like to start with a very simple subject, menstruation, which for some of us is a nightmare. Pre-menstrual syndrome, post-menstrual syndrome, and menstruation itself – each phase has its own challenges.
According to yoga and Ayurvedic teaching, menstruation is like urine, faeces, mucus, and sweating. Waste, known as Mala, should be excreted to cleanse the body and leave it rejuvenated for another cycle. Remember how painful it can be not going to the bathroom when we need to, how horrible we feel when we do not take a shower after we sweat. If Mala is retained, it creates an imbalance in our system and invites all diseases.
During menstruation, our physical, mental, and emotional bodies tend to be vulnerable, so we need to treat ourselves gently and embrace our bodies with love. We need to listen to the fatigue and not push ourselves beyond our limits, reducing any physical exertion including walking, exercising, or heavy household work. Subhan Allah, God has mercy on us, giving us a break from fasting and praying during this time. During menstruation, the body demands rest, relaxation and healthy nurturing food.
As an independent woman, I have a tendency to push myself that extra mile, so of course I have learned all of this the hard way :). Allow me to share with you how I altered my yoga practice during menstruation.
X My daily practice is 60 minutes in the morning and 20 to 30 minutes in the evening.
* During menstruation I go for a maximum of 30 minutes a day
X Out of ignorance, I used to practice Asanas (postures) such as twisting asana, for ex. UTTHITA TRIKONASANA I & II, and all JATHARA PARIVITTI variations, which gave me a very heavy flow.
* Instead I now practice asanas designed to help in excreting Mala such as APANASANA, DVIPADA PITHAM
X I love inversions such as VIPARITAKARANI, SALAMA SARVANGASANA, NIALAMBA SARVANGASANA
* Instead I now do simple, forward bending (If I don’t have headache) such as UTTANASANA, or ADHOMUKHA SVASANA, or backward bending such as URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA, URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA, BHUJANGASANA
X “If we don’t sweat then we didn’t practice,” so I tend to choose tough poses and “vinyasa” that make me sweat
* Instead, during menstruation, I have learned to embrace my body and do relaxing postures such as CAKRAVAKASANA, APANASANA, and SAVASANA
X My daily practice includes different types of breathing techniques, which involve holding my breath, and sometimes prolonging the number of breathing cycles. Also, sometimes I use advanced techniques such as “Bandhas”.
* During menstruation, I tend to practice the simplest breathing such as ANNULAMUJJAI
* Also, no bandhas and no holding of my breath
While I have learned to replace some asanas with others during menstruation, it’s important to note that every woman is different and will experience different effects from the asanas. So it is essential that we listen to our bodies.
It is up to the individual woman to develop her own personalised yoga practice. Some women, for example, instead of practicing asanas, may find meditation, breathing, chanting, and mantras more effective and more relaxing.
Is that all? What about relaxing the anxiety and anger some of us experience during the PMS period? What about nurturing our body with the right food and avoiding cravings? How can we prepare our bodies for menstruation with regular yoga practice? How about women who suffer from post-menstrual syndrome like ME?!!
In the coming articles, I will do my best to share my honest reflection and personal experience as a woman and a yoga teacher…
Love and Joy
Nermeen M. Hassan
For more info:
List of asanas (yoga postures):
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