18 February 2008

Menstrual yoga practice

Tuesday 19th February 2008

In response to a comment/question from Alfia about the menstrual poses I did in the workshop, they were all fairly standard (Geeta) Iyengar female restorative poses.
I’ll often do a few of these instead of taking three days off practice because they encourage the apana/outward flow of energy and help alleviate that bloated PMT feeling.

In the workshop I did the standing poses and some backbends along with the others, but Glenn gave me the following alternatives when he had everyone else doing inversions:
- Supta Baddha Konasana lying back over a bolster (spreads pelvic floor)
- Setu Bandha over a bolster with two feet on a block touching the wall and a strap around the thighs to allow the pelvic area to relax (no need for the muscles to hold the thighs together) the closest you should get to an inversion at this time of the month
- Upavista Konasana with a forward bend (spreads the pelvic floor)
- Half Dog Pose with hands to the wall and spine parallel to the floor
- Uttanasana with feet apart and buttocks resting on the wall
- Janu Sirsasana with head resting on a bolster laid crosswise over the extended leg
- Seated cross legged forward bend
- Paschimottanasana with a blanket rolled up halfway and placed across the front thigh creases (don’t’ roll the blanket up completely or it will be too thick and press into the uterus)
- When the others did Headstand Glenn had me put a bolster vertical to the edge of the stage and lay on it (spine along the bolster) with my feet to the floor. The stretchy opening through the front of the pelvis was nice.

Having trained in both Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, neither to the absolute exclusion of the other, I’ve been exposed to the different rules for those few female days of the month which can be confusing knowledge for some. In Ashtanga we’re told not to practice at all for the first 3 days; in the Iyengar tradition we do a special ‘menstrual practice’ which can include standing poses but always emphasises long, quiet, supported seated poses and forward bends that open the pelvis and groin area.
For me neither is right or wrong and I go along with whatever my body asks for on the day. Sometimes it’s a full Ashtanga practice, but replacing the inversions with a long Paschimottanasana at the end.

So the only rule I personally adhere to at this time of the month is NO INVERSIONS for the first 2-3 days. Menstruation is a time of elimination – the apana flow of energy is clearly discernable and the natural physical inclination is to assist he elimination process. There’s an innate sense that inversions oppose the downward flow of energy and can reverse the outward flow of the body’s waste matter (which makes me ponder the effect of inversions on those other two unmentionable waste disposal processes – urinating and defecating! - but I think I won't go any further with that today).

If you want to read further, Richard Rosen has recorded a nice menstrual sequence here and there’s an illustrated one here.
Thanks for asking Alfie…


alfia said...

Great! Thank you so much! What a wonderful reply.
I am always wondering what to do during this "special time" in terms of yoga. I knew the "no inversions" rule; but the rest is all new to me.

nobodhi said...

I'm glad it was helpful to you.