What? I’ve just seen it… An advertisement about a sanitary pad that absorbs even when upside down! I can’t believe that a large company of intimate hygiene products has designed pads with that wonderful feature! And suddenly I ask myself, who in their right mind turns upside down during menstruation? Apart from the gorgeous young women appearing in the commercial, with their stunning long hair cascading to the ground, swinging in a trapeze with their nice legs…. Yogis certainly don’t –well, I must confess, I do-. This type of sanitary pad has probably been designed for trapeze artists, gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, firewomen, soldiers, astronauts… but not for yogis. Practicing inverted postures during menstruation, as we all know, is a huge mistake. And, another question is, doesn’t the blood come out? It puzzles me and invites me to reflect and search.
I am 52 years old and my menstruation has been appearing and disappearing for a couple of years as it pleases. I think it is trying to tell me that one of these days it won’t come back and my menopause will open the door to another stage in my life. I still remember that in my youth I often heard things like, “when you’re menstruating you shouldn’t wash your hair, or take a shower, or make mayonnaise, and a long list of other things even more ridiculous. The truth is I did them all. At first with fear that something really serious could happen to me or to the mayonnaise and over time and my own judgment, I did them thinking that they were only scary stories, limiting factors that kept women under control.
I wonder if the same thing happens to inverted yoga postures. Perhaps it is another “myth” inherited from generation to generation since, according to mythology, Shiva’s avatar taught his consort, Parvati, the discipline of yoga. The origin of yoga on this planet, according to Hinduism.
Since I have been practicing yoga, I have never stopped doing, almost secretly, inverted asanas during my menstrual period. I chose quieter asanas like Viparita Karani, or Sarvangasana, with or without support on the wall and avoiding postures that implied more muscular action and energy consumption, like Sirsasana or Pincha Mayurasana. Everything depending on my energy, which was varying according to the month and time of the cycle, my emotions and the environmental conditions. In other different moments my body asked me for more as I had energy contained which I had to canalise in order not to mess up. My mood and temper needed to be relieved and, yes, I dared with more intense postures.
I’ve always felt, regardless of their difficulty or upside-down level, that these postures relieved the nuisance in my legs, pelvic floor and lower belly that I irreparably suffered during my menstrual period. Although after the practice of a complete session and following my own feeling, I was more neutral, lighter and I could verify that the blood followed its flow, in spite of the direction my body had taken for a few minutes.
When I discovered Unnata Yoga 7 years ago, with its many possibilities to practice inverted postures without any effort, I’d found the paradise, an oasis, the icing on the cake! During my menstruation and especially in those months or moments when I was lower in energy, I could practice inverted postures without consuming energy and receiving the benefit of the discharge to the pelvic floor, legs and abdomen, which were really appreciated by my body.
I’m interested in this topic. I don’t think I’m a freak who loves to practice a full yoga session with inverted postures, without thinking that I have to make variations as if I were sick. And now, once I’ve said “bye” to my period, I feel like finding an answer that would tell me that I hadn’t been doing it all wrong.
This advertisement cheered me up as it was going through all learned so far. I started searching books, on Internet and consulting wise people. I found answers against this practice. Many of them! But I also found many supporting it which encourages me to think that “not to practice inverted postures during menstruation” isn’t an absolute truth, which is its opposite. Here there are some answers I would like to share with you:
It seems that the uterus itself pumps the blood out of the body through contractions despite the position of the woman. This could explain that when you lie in bed, you will still bleed. It also explain how female astronauts bleed in their wonderful travels to outer space, which can be annoying, yes, but nothing more. A space gynecologist called Varsha Jain recently wrote on The Conversation educational website at King’s College London that “menstrual blood flow is not affected by weightlessness, so it doesn’t flow back into the body”.
What’s more, in the Geraldine Zambrano’s blog, ‘El Blog Alternativo,’ she wrote about Seibel’s opinion:”at the medical level, there are no reasons why women should avoid some postures during the period.” Machelle M. Seibel is a clinical professor of gynecology and obstetrics in the Medical Centre at the University of Massachusetts. Machelle M. Seibel is also co-author of the book: A Woman’s Book Of Yoga.
When I asked my teacher in yoga therapy, Dr. Miguel Fraile, he replied:”there is no risk at first for practicing inverted postures during menstruation. Just if the woman suffers or has suffered from endometriosis it may be contraindicated because of the risk of implantation of uterine cells in the peritoneum. If there is no previous diagnosis, there will be no problem in the practice of inverted asanas during menstruation because of the time they are held, even if it’s for several minutes, do not involve any risk.
Miguel Fraile is a professor and trainer in yoga therapy, graduated in Medicine by Complutense University of Madrid speciality on Internal Medicine and author of several books about medicine, meditation and yoga.
I also asked to a gynecologist in the Santa Barbara Hospital in Puertollano, Ciudad Real , Spain, Dr.Inmaculada González, and her answer was:”In my opinion, I do not find any contraindication from a physiological and anatomical point of view to contraindicate the practice of such positions. The only downside I see is the accumulation of menstrual blood in the vagina which would be expelled afterwards once the woman is placed supine”.
And, I also consulted the sanitary pad company which thought it would be a good idea to make sanitary pads that absorbed in inverted posture… but I’m still waiting for their answer.
Regarding to energies of apana, or departure energies, which would also be affected and are the excuses of many yogis and yogi to avoid these postures during the menstrual period, my reflection leads me to a thought. As well as our energetic body, Pranamaya kosha, is directly related to the physical body, Annamaya kosha, and my physical body is organized for what has to come out, just comes out, why won’t my energetic body recognise that what has to come out, just comes out as my physical body does? Are they disconnected? Is it not that those who first observed and determined that inverted postures should not be practiced during menstruation, were precisely the first masters, men, even with plenty of wisdom and ability to observe lacked their own experience, as well as knowledges about the bioenergetics of women?
Sorry. I feel like I cannot reveal the absolute truth about menstruation and the inverted postures of yoga… What I do know is that if you are a woman and listen to your body, the best answer is you; -)
(Drawings courtesy of Ana Martín, www.elrastrillodeanuskita.es)
About the Author
Montse Lominchar is an Unnata Aerial Yoga Course Leader, teaching Unnata® Aerial Yoga since 2010. She currently directs the Yogasadhana Center in Ciudad Real and collaborates with different centers teaching the Yoga Air Unnata training in Spanish.