There are many differing opinions about practicing yoga during menstruation. Menstruation is a bodily function, not a sickness, yet women experience menstruation in a large variety of ways and it is almost impossible to make generalisations about what practice is appropriate at this time.
There are also many myths about menstruation but there are some facts:
- One cause of pain is cause is high levels of prostaglandin hormones. Other effects of hormonal changes are clumsiness and dizziness. Feeling like this can make practice unpleasant for some but regular exercise, even while menstruating, often reduces these effects for many women.
- Another side-effect of hormonal changes while menstruating is increased laxity of joints and tendons – similar to the effects of pregnancy, although not to the same extent. Many menstruating women feel more flexible and they probably are, but the possibility of injuring joints is also higher. For example, there is a documented link between Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears in the knee and menstruation in female athletes. For this reason extreme backbending and asanas that stress the pelvis should be avoided. Women who have Sacroiliac dysfunctions are more likely to experience problems with their pelvic joints if they practice asanas like Virabhadrasana, Hanumanasana, etc. at this time. Strong twisting can also affect the spinal joints and hips will be more easily misaligned.
- The blood pH does not change to become acidic during menstruation.
- It is taught that inversions cause retrograde blood flow; meaning that blood in the uterus flows into the fallopian tubes and outwards from there, into the abdominal cavity. This is true, but it is a normal occurrence- retrograde flow occurs when lying down in bed sleeping, and will occur during yoga practise in Savasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana and any form of side-lying.
Retrograde menstrual flow is considered by some to cause Endometriosis. There is a link to a Wikipedia article below, for those who don’t know what Endometriosis is.
Bear in mind that the theory about retrograde flow and Endometriosis was formulated in 1921, medical science has learned a lot in the meantime – but still don’t know what causes it. However, that particular theory looks more and more unlikely as time goes by. Retrograde flow is a natural occurrence and women’s bodies are designed to cope with it.
Telling women that they are damaging their wombs, bodies and fertility by performing inversions is not repeating a medically proven fact. Inversions can be problematic for women if they feel dizzy or lightheaded and if this is the case, inversions should be avoided.
It is possible that some women may experience increased blood flow, but this is impossible to verify internally and those who can verify it externally should act accordingly.
All women experience menstruation differently and each woman should modify her yoga practise according to her own experience and sense of physical capability.
Wikipedia link: Endometriosis
De Franca, 1996, Pelvic Locomotor Dysfunction
Boyle, 2004, Functional Training for Sports
Evans, 2005, Endometriosis and Other Pelvic Pain