When you have your period, you may feel like doing nothing but laying in bed, eating peanut butter out of the jar, and binge-watching reality TV. But sometimes it does feel soothing to move your body in some small way during your cycle. As far as fitness goes, a mind-body practice like yoga is probably most comfortable methods of fitness you can turn to when you’re super crampy, bloated and hormonal.
But not all poses are created equal, or going to feel good, when it comes to practicing on your period. Many yoga teachers say staying away from inversions, poses in which some part of your body is upside down, might be in your best interest. Some yogis don’t see a problem with inversion poses while you’re menstruating, and others suggest to go with the flow and not against it.
There isn’t really a rhyme or reason to skip certain poses during your period at this point. “Those who encourage a ban on inversions [during menstruation] cite fears that certain physical problems may arise. Until recently, increased risk of endometriosis was considered the most common risk. But since more is known now about that disease, the myth has been debunked,” as Yoga Teacher Barbara Benagh told Yoga Journal. “There is also a theory that inversions may cause ‘vascular congestion’ in the uterus resulting in excessive menstrual flow. If true, this risk is probably most relevant for women who hold inversions a long time. Some teachers say that since a woman’s energy is low during menstruation, high-energy poses such as inversions should be avoided. This makes sense, yet not all women experience low energy during menstruation; indeed, many feel quite energized.”
Depending on your comfort level and the period products you swear by during your workouts, doing certain asanas during your period might not be a huge dealbreaker for you. However, it helps to understand why these positions may not make you feel as great while you’re on your period as they do when you’re off. It is always best to follow what feels right for your body and makes you feel the most comfortable — especially when you’re menstruating. Some poses simply put more pressure on your lower back, which may already be sore during your cycle.
Laura Conley, an experienced yoga teacher, says she performs inverted positions during her period, but adds that she is sure not to stay in the pose too long. As Conley told World Lifestyle, “Ultimately, it goes back to why we practice yoga in the first place, which is to strengthen our intuition and our gut feeling. And if you’re tapped into that, I think your body will basically tell you whether or not it’s okay to go upside down.”
“Pay attention to how you respond to inversions (indeed, all asanas) during your period,” Benagh adds. “A short headstand may be fine while a longer one isn’t; or maybe you will find that backbends or twists adversely affect your period. If your energy is very low, restorative poses may be just the ticket, though you may find a more active sequence of standing poses alleviates cramps and the blues. You really won’t know what works and what doesn’t until you feel it in your own body.”
If you plan to play it safe, consider skipping these seven inversion poses while on your period — or, at least, proceed with caution and listen your body during your practice.
A version of this article was published January 2016.
Headstands strengthen core muscles and improve circulation — and are even known to prevent gray hairs as well as give you a mini face lift. But, you may want to steer clear of this upside down position during your period.
Shoulder stands lengthen spinal nerves and regulate hormone secretion for your thyroid. But, like headstands, they invert the orientation of your uterus and could temporarily halt the blood flow.
Scorpion Pose is an advanced position that not only puts you upside down, but also can put a lot of pressure on your back. During the first few days of your period, back pain can be present, which may give you all the more reason to avoid this pose.
Bridge Pose will stretch your back and strengthen your glutes, but this position tips the uterus and may just add more fatigue to your lower back.
Plow Pose is often a go-to pose that is suggested for weight loss — and although you may be feeling extra bloated during your period, hold off a few days before attempting this pose.
Bow Pose opens the rib cage and can prevent constipation by lengthening your core. However, this can put extreme pressure on your back, and may be best to attempt when your period is over.
Although Locust Pose can strengthen the muscles of the spine, it may intensify your period's side effects since it adds pressure to the lower back and slants the uterus upward.
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