Why we have menstruation ✧ How to practice yoga during period ✧ What if you are doing 40-90-120 days sadhana ✧ What is apana ✧ Contributing factor for endometriosis ✧ What NOT to do during menstruation
Monthly cycle is a woman’s chance to slow down, reflect, and clear out any negative emotions that accumulated in her psyche during the month prior to that. The days of menstruation is an opportunity for a monthly renewal of body, mind and spirit. It is crucial for a woman to recognize it as such and understand the physical, mental, and spiritual significance of her menstrual cycle.
Nature has provided women with a mechanism to purify their bodies and minds regularly. The days of menstruation should be treated as such. It is very important to rest during your period, and let the body do its work. Let it purify itself. It is recommended to postpone social activities until later days and spend at least the first three days of the cycle in a quiet contemplation. The keyword for these days is to relax. It is ideal if you can avoid anything that is stress-inducing during these days.
Ayurveda also recommends to take a break from cooking. Instead, take this time to reflect and mentally prepare for the upcoming month.
“Interiorize. Flow along with your consciousness, wherever it seems to want to take you. Pay more attention to your body consciousness during the flow, opening yourself to any information it wishes to communicate to you about its needs or difficulties. All day long, whether you are working or resting, eating or exercising, focus on breathing slowly, evenly and deep into your abdomen. When you breath in, let the in-breath drop all they way down into your pelvis and join apana in its downward flow. Breath out passively, letting apana continue to relax itself downward. Work with apana, and apana will work with your.” (Robert Svoboda, “Ayurveda for Women”)
Yoga teaches us that we have five different subtle energies or forces that play a certain role in the body: prana, apana, samana, udana, and vyana. Apana energy that governs all the functions related to elimination is prevalent in your body during menstruation. Apana eliminates body wastes physically and mentally. Its flow direction is downward. This downward flow of the energy can literally make you feel drained during your cycle. When apana’s downward movement is obstructed for whatever reason, it is forced to move upward.
“All sorts of illnesses can result from apana’s abnormal upward march, ranging from constipation, bloating, colic and abdominal distention, to heart palpitations, asthma, sinus congestion, and other breathing difficulties. Anywhere that it happens to knot up (back, belly, shoulder, neck, head), apana can create aches”. “When apana moves upward it can also create endometriosis, which can produce severe pain during menses. This condition occurs when fragments of endometrium (the uterine lining) travel upward from uterus into the abdominal cavity, instead of down and out through the vagina as normally happens each month. This tissue can only move upward when apana makes it do so, which apana will do only when its own flow has been reversed.“(Robert Svoboda, “Ayurveda for Women”)
In case you are doing a certain practice for 40, 90, 120 or 1000 days continuously, you should stop the practice for at least the first three days of your period. After your menstruation is finished, you can resume the sadhana and continue counting the days toward the kriya or meditation that you are doing. Do not worry, it’s not considered a break in the practice. Enjoy your time off.
All invigorating exercises and kriyas should be postponed for regular days. Instead, you can replace them with mild stretches and contemplative slow breathing. Gentle pranayams, that involve long deep breathing, as well as silent meditations are all very beneficial.
My personal favorites include:
Various leg stretches
Front body bends
All these exercises I do in a slow and gentle way and only if it feels right for the moment.
What NOT to do during menstruation:
No navel exercises
No Breath of Fire
No inverted postures
No Mulbandh (Root lock)
No heavy weights lifting
No exercises where your pelvis would be higher than your head!
As a rule, you should not practice any exercises that can alter the downward movement of apana energy.
You might find that some asanas work better for you than the others during menstruation. I hope you will take time to explore and find your favorite routine for period days. Listen to the subtle messages that your body is communicating and try to work along with it, not against it. It is such a fulfilling and rewarding process!