12 Aug ASANA – 3 poses to practice during your menstruation
Cycle day 1, or the first day of your menstruation, marks the start of a couple of very special days. They days you’re bleeding, especially the first part of your “moon time”, deserve some special attention. In this practice, we take you through 3 poses that we recommend during your moon time.
What happens during your moon time?
After we ovulate, the lining of our uterus starts to grow and thicken, to create a safe, warm place for a fertilized egg. However, if pregnancy doesn’t happen that month, the uterus doesn’t need that extra safe space for an embryo, so it starts to shed the thickened lining. This is the start of your period, or your “moon time”.
We’re often low in energy during our menstruation thanks to a drop in the levels of estrogen (the hormone that helps your body prepare for ovulation) and progesterone (the hormone that helps prepare for pregnancy, after ovulation). This is especially the case for women with painful and/or heavy periods.
Our immune system is often a bit weaker during these days of the month, and we can be a bit more prone to colds, for example. We often feel a little more puffy or bloated, and we might retain more fluids right before and during our menstruation.
Mentally, we might not feel at our best during our moon time. We can simple feel a little off or heavy, or we might even feel lethargic or depressed.
The physical sensations are normal, and happen to most women. What happens on a mental level, such as feeling heavy and depressed, doesn’t have to happen if you take good care of yourself, and protect yourself, during these special days of your cycle. Your yoga practice can be a wonderful tool here.
Yoga practice during your menstruation
Your moon time gives you the opportunity to let your yoga practice grow and evolve. Especially during this time of the month, we need to listen to our bodies, slow down and turn within.
As we often feel a little weaker and more tired during our moon time, our yoga should honor that and support these feelings. That’s why we avoid strong, fast-paced practices that take more energy from the body than we currently have, but instead focus on calming, softening movement, breathing and meditation.
If we acknowledge what’s happening inside our body during menstruation, and honor the phase we’re in, we’re ready to listen to what the body needs. This can be, for example, restorative poses or gentle stretches that bring relaxation and softness, so our body can focus on using energy for shedding our uterus lining and preparing our womb space for the next phase of the cycle.
This is also the time to focus more on other parts of a yoga practice, such as meditation (including Yoga Nidra) and pranayama (Nadi Shodhana is great during your moon time). It doesn’t stop there though: during these quiet, more introverted days, you can also focus on journaling, for example, to create mental space, to let go, or to practice gratitude. Of course, the Sacred Space has these practices for you, too.
What to avoid during your menstruation?
Aside from the fact that the blood is actually flowing out of your body, in yoga we see our moon time as apana, meaning the energy is flowing downward and out, instead of upward and in (prana). This is a flow we don’t want to disrupt, so we always make sure we let the energy flow downward if we practice during our menstruation. That’s the main reason why we avoid inversions (poses with your heart higher than your head, such as headstand, shoulderstand and handstand).
Because our energy levels are lower and we want to preserve that energy for supporting the body during our menstruation, we avoid intense, high-paces practices, such as Ashtanga yoga or a strong vinyasa flow class. We also avoid poses that are heavy on the core muscles, such as boat pose or plank.
We also avoid closed twists. This means that we only do twists that create space, instead of twists that constrict the uterus and can block our flow. As you can see in the first image below, the woman twists towards her leg, compressing the area of her lower belly. This is a closed twist. In the second image, she turns away from the leg and leaves space for the womb area. This is an open twist.
Our 3 favorite poses to practice during menstruation
Supported Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
This is one of our favorite restorative poses as it’s so relaxing and grounding, and it’s so good for calming the nervous system. During our menstruation, we love practicing the supported version of this pose, with a bolster or a big pillow underneath our back, and blocks (or pillows) underneath our knees.
Start in a seated position and place the bolster (or pillow) behind your tailbone. Slowly come down onto your back, on the bolster. Bend your knees and let the soles of your feet touch. Place your blocks or extra pillows underneath your knees for support and slowly settle into the pose. You can either let the palms of your hands face up or face down, or you can place your hands on your womb space for extra support for this area.
Dedicate some time to finding the right position for your own body, and don’t rush it. This is a pose that deserves 5-10 minutes to fully let your body enjoy the rest and relaxation.
Apanasa (knee circles)
For this pose, you first hug your knees into your chest, place your hands on top of your knees and then let your hands guide your knees into small circles. This circular movement massages your womb space, helping your muscles relax and ease cramping, and your back gets a gentle massage, too.
Practice this pose for one minute in each direction, or longer if it feels good for you. Then end by hugging the knees into the chest one last time, take a deep breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Ahhh.
Cat cow is a another good suggestion if you’d like a bit of movement in your moon time practice. It creates softness in the lower back, which can feel really good if your back feels painful. It also stretches the belly in a very gentle way, providing relief for cramping.
We made a dedicated video about this pose (and its variation) for you. Be sure end your cat-cow flow with a child’s pose, as shown at the end of the video.
Bonus tips for your moon time
Instead of seeing our menstruation as a curse, or something super annoying, we can shift the focus and working on embracing the beauty of our cycles, our womanhood and our fertility.
The days of your menstruation are a beautiful opportunity for extra self-care or a mini-retreat just for you. Can you, for example, have a quiet day for yourself on day 1 of your cycle? This is a great opportunity to turn inward, instead of outward, to reflect, to be alone, and to get grounded in nature.
Choose warm over cold to support your body during these days of the month. You can, for example, nourish yourself with warming foods and drinks, such as soups, stews and ginger tea. Wear warm socks, or fill up your hot water bottle for a cozy evening on the couch.
Yoga and the cycles is something that is very dear to us, and you’ll see it more often here on the Sacred Space. ☾ We’ll soon introduce you to the relationship between the moon and our cycles, too.
Happy practice, dear women!