Yoga and menstruation: should I or shouldn’t?

Is it possible to do yoga with menstruation?What to do if you decide to actively start learning yoga? Does every month have to lose a week of precious time? Not at all. Moreover, yoga during menstruation is not only not harmful, but also beneficial. Of course, subject to some precautions and the right choice of asanas.

There are top poses, which should be avoided while you on your ‘’special days’’

Sarvangasana. Should be  excluded from yoga during menstruation. All inverted poses are equally harmful during this period. They delay bleeding. As a result, excess fluid is not excreted from the body, and can cause the formation of fibromas, cysts, and even malignant tumors. Also prohibited: halasana, shirshasana, adho mukha vrishkasana;

Navasana. During menstruation, you should not  do any asanas engage your core muscle . And this is almost all power poses. So, first of all, exclude exercises on the abdominal muscles and balances on the hands. During such asanas, bleeding and pain may intensify. Also prohibited: bakasana, lolasana, mayurasana;

Kapotasana. Yoga during menstruation should not include strong deflections of the   back. This creates excessive tension in the abdomen. Also prohibited: ardha chakrasana, ushtrasana;

Yoga Nidrasana. During such yoga classes, you should exclude extreme twisting and squeezing the abdomen. Also prohibited: eka pada shirshasana, jathara parivritanasana;

Mula Bandha. Do not do yoga, which will include unnatural bandha and pranayama. For example, excessively intense breathing of a bhastrika or uddiyana bandha can disrupt the natural course of processes in the pelvic organs. Also forbidden: kapalabhati, maha mudra.

Top asanas that are safe during  menstruation

Baddha Konasan .This asana relieves the pain and stress that accompany the days of menstruation. Even if you do not dare to do yoga these days, you can simply practice this pose separately. You can also practice: padmasana, sukhasana;

Ardha Chandrasana. This pose helps control the discharge if it is excessive. Pain in the back is also reduced. It is also possible to practice: utthita hasta padangustahasana, vriksasana;

Dundasana. Yoga offers simple forward stretches to relax the brain and calm the discomfort in the lower abdomen. You can also practice: jana shirshasana, marichiasana;

Shoshankasana. Relaxing postures help with excessive irritability and in the event that heaviness in the chest bothers you. You can also practice: shavanasa, adho mukha sukhasana;

The breath of ujaya. Calm pranayama in a simple pose or shavasana will help to relax the body. Full yogic breathing is safe during your period too.

However, we should keep in mind that there are no two identical women.  Someone waits the onset of new cycle with horror, and someone has almost no symptoms and can continue with the usual daily routine. So as the conclusion, remember to  be sensitive, listen to your body, and it will answer all your questions.

The Balancing Act

Going back to the “Why do I want to do YTT”, one of the main reasons was because I wanted to learn the technique of how to do all the various inversions that could possibly be done and, effortlessly.

Just like how an elephant balances on the circus ball? I wanna be just like that.

 

But saying is one thing and doing is another. When we first started YTT, we were told that different poses will be tested during the examination, i.e Crow pose – 1min, Headstand – 3mins etc etc. And I thought, Oh my goodness, I can’t even hold the crow pose for 10s, how to do it for 1min? Surely a miracle must happen on the examination day for me to pass.

Week by week, as we attended YTT, teacher took effort to train us, and painful as it was, we definitely needed it. The 1001 chaturangas we kept doing, transitioning from one pose from one to another, there was no mercy. But overtime, bit by bit, we became stronger; chaturanga holds extended from 30s to 45s, headstand practice went up to ‘let’s-do-for-3-full-minutes’ and if we can’t, it’s fine, we have the wall behind us and thus could cheat a little. Slowly but surely, doing inversion became easier. My crow practice started from 5-10s, to 15-25s, in which I saw improvements but it was simply not good enough. Headstands, on the other hand, had me playing this balancing act as I tried to beat gravity, keeping my feet up high and trying not to tilt. All of these however, was just not the ‘right technique’. I’m not saying that there is the one method we must all conform to, but surely I always felt that there is a better & easier way to take, for a longer and more convincing stay in each desired pose.

The technique is none other than ’rounding your back, squeezing your core super hard and creating a firm base’ before each balancing pose. Example – when you do crow, you place your palms down on the floor, round your back, squeeze the core before proceeding to bring your knees outside your arms and eventually getting your feet off the ground.

As you stay in your posture (sounds easy but hard to master), just continue to contract and contract those core muscles, keep that rounded back, and sometimes I see it as staying super compacted with a bigger area of base to lower your center of gravity, hence making you more stable. Moving on to headstand, it is slightly different because the body is fully extended and lengthened, but using the same concept, create that firm base and that is fundamental. Place your forearms and head down the mat in a triangular shape, keep your elbows tucked for a narrow and firmer base, slowly start to walk your feet closer to your elbows and eventually contract/engage your core as you lift both feet off the mat and come to a perfect invert.

I won’t say that I am an expert in balancing poses and all now, I’m pretty sure I’m still unable to do the lotus feet headstand (i.e a cross-legged sitting where each foot is placed on the opposite thigh): in lotus position, place forearms and head down in triangular just as how you would do a normal headstand, but only relying on your core, lift your lotus feet up [probably my ultimate challenge to myself] – this pose is really a “pure-core” work of art. But having said that, practicing this newfound technique has really enabled me to hold in those poses for an unexpected extended period of time. And I am excited, because word is that once you’ve got that strong base formed like a house built upon a rock, the rain can pour, the flood can come, but your house won’t shake.

 

 

 

 

Doing YTTC for the second time

So this is me, doing the Yoga 200 hours TTC for the second time. I’ve done it once in Rishikesh, hence my nick ‘Rishi’, and years later, I am back again at Tirisula to do it for the second time.

Some people might think I am crazy for spending the money to do it the second time, but to me, every TTC brings a different experience as each teacher, school and friends I make is different. I was also in a different stage in my life when I did my TTC the first time and I felt that I had much more to learn despite going through the 200 hours previously. Hence my decision to go through it again in Singapore.

So, why Tirisula?

Well, other than knowing that some of the teachers I have practiced with also graduated from Tirisula, I also enjoy practicing at Tirisula so it was a no-brainer to sign up with them. Having gone through half the course, I already feel that my practice and knowledge of yoga has deepened over the past 10 days through physical practice, doing my homework and attending Anatomy and Philosophy classes.

I am excited to see where the next 10 days brings me….

Training – Through Physical Practice

Sthira Sukham Asanam – Yoga Sutra, Patanjali

Means continuous comfort in posture. Steady and comfortable, that is how one should experience upon holding the yoga postures.

It may sound simple, but anyone who just started practicing yoga or just completed their first Vinyasa practice, would attest to the difficulty in keeping steady let alone being comfortable during the class. Before you can do a complete forward fold by making sure there is no gap between your thigh and tummy, the instructor would have already asked you to jump back and chaturanga on the next exhale. Hold on, what is Chaturanga even? Nevermind, the elbows were barely getting there, the hips were giving up and dropping on the floor when the class moved on to upward and downward dog.

That was how I got introduced to Yoga – through the asanas in a gym studio. That was also my earlier understanding of yoga – that by doing 5,000 sun salutations I might achieve enlightenment. In fact, that was how I was living this life – using my physical body and brain – Sthula Sharira to get things done. And I wasn’t even good at that.

In short, this is the practice of Asana:

– proper posture – Asan

– proper breathing – Prana

– proper gaze – Drishti

– proper concentration of the mind – Chitha

Asana is but just one out of the 8 pillars in the practice of yoga. We humans put so much emphasis in attempting to achieve form perfection. And yet it was just one part of the practice, let alone life. That said, practicing Asana religiously without thinking how the pose look like every single time does help me achieve better poses and get me closer to understanding myself, my mind, the teacher, the others in class, and other people in my life.

Then it clicked, we try and we practice to be comfortable in posture. As you practice, you encounter more challenging poses, discover new muscles in the body that has never been activated and won’t start moving, so does the effort required to stay comfortable in a posture. Then you start needing the support of good food intake to help the body hold, mental strength to eliminate fear, sheer belief that you can rock a pose, and some level of spirituality to not be traumatised when you fail (or bruise half your face after falling in crow) so you can put it behind, get back up and go on with the practice, like a boss (or guru?).

And as you go on, what looked hard when you started became easier. And as you go on further, you start getting comfortable in more poses and able to pick up more challenges more comfortably.

Not bad for a life hack.

Training – Through Mental Exercise

Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah – Yoga Sutra, Patanjali

Is the sutra that clears your mind.

Teacher Sree opened the training by asking the class What is Yoga?” (cue deadpan face). We shot random things, naturally. And he shared this definition – “Yoga is the removal of thought from your mind.”

HEY WAIT. That’s it? For someone who just wrote a page-long article about Asana and got introduced to Yoga through gym studios, realising that Yoga essentially is not about physical fitness was rather confronting.

And liberating, realising that there are other aspects of existence to be explored. Physical strength has not been my forte or area of interest. I thought I was doomed for practice from day 1. I didn’t know why I signed up. Then this. Is good. I might have a chance! Still was thinking simply.

Then we started learning about the quadrants of life, the different bodies and seeds that we have and some techniques. They were intended to help humans identify -> classify -> uncolour -> remove thought -> clear mind.

Yoga removes thoughts from mind. Yoga has a sutra to clear your mind. You are not your mind. Clear. Everything sounded clear, and the whole thing also came with supporting materials such as manuals, tools and step-by-step guides. Great.

Alas, once you want to start “clearing”, you don’t know where to start. If anything, rather than being “clear”, hearing this filled up my mind more. So I asked – How exactly do you do that? Which one to use when?

“Yoga doesn’t teach you anything. It makes you aware about yourself, so you can live consciously.” – Teacher Sree.

And so I exercised.

Figure it out, I did.

Slowly, but surely.

Training – Through Spiritual Discipline

Yama. Niyama. Dharana. Dhyana. Sadhana.

Management of life. Purity of being. Concentration. Meditation. Discipline.

 

Teacher Sree always said that he’s not a yogi. A yogi lives and breathes yoga. He’s chill. He practices and teaches yoga.

Note to self: no self-proclamation.

Understanding the 5 aspects above helped me see the breadth and depth of yoga practice as a way of life. From the moment you wake up, to what you are thinking, your intentions, your actions and reactions, and what you plant in your mind before you go to sleep.

I’m barely scratching the surface, but it downs on me that different from education systems that see you as a new empty hardware and so upload you with softwares and apps to help you become more functional in life, Yoga sees and treats your system as already perfect as it is, in its original form. However with life, we have Karma bugs. Turns out, Yoga is a practice to remove bugs in systems. It strives to clear your system and get it back to its clear factory setting so that it can function with minimal (or close to no) glitch. Help you be a smooth operator, if you may.

All the tools and manuals provided are there to help us peel the layers of onions within ourselves. And when you get to the end, you will see that it’s …

 

Listen to yourself, find ways to clean yourself.

From everything, to nothing.

– Teacher Sree

Training – Through Teaching

As we are completing our teacher training program, I asked Teacher Sree on his experience teaching – was there a time he was nervous or anxious before a class. And how did he overcome that.

He said, come with the wonders of a kid, stay a kid and do not be a master

In my own words to translate the Sree Sutra above:

Come with a humble heart, an open mind and a positive vibe.

A willingness to share, to teach and to spend time with the students.

An acceptance that there will be students more experienced that you and that’s really cool.

An understanding that we are not good or bad, the others are not good or bad.

A pure soul.

Granted, it will help to remember the sequences and not go in blank.

As part of this training program, we also got a chance to train in teaching by conducting a class in the studio. I took my chance last week. I knew all of them – all of different gender, racial and background profiles. Yet, for once in our friendship history, I could consciously generate to be present for everybody. To be aware of each person’s strength, weakness and to work with each one’s experience, unaffected by the others.

I realise that I do love all the students the same. Finally got what he said weeks ago – a divine connection of an unconditional detached attachment.

There was no condition. I detach myself from each soul. I treated all soul the same. And thereby I was able to be attached to each one of the soul at the same time. Practicing this helped them to be able to have a full experience regardless of the gap in experiences.

We attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and we detach again and the cycle repeats unconditionally.

It was a rather beautiful afternoon.

Unlimited

It was early morning; I was on my way to the yoga studio, still half asleep I was  suddenly drawn to the motto written on a building saying Patience and consistency are keys to success.  A few seconds later, my eyes were attracted to the red bike that had written unlimited on it.

These three words: patience, consistency and unlimited made me think about these things in my life. I started asking myself if I have been  patient and consistent enough. If I’m not what’s the reason? Have I been really rooted in something I do or it’ s only passion that attracts me for a while but doesn’t let me fully express myself. 

As long as I remember, I was always asking lots of existential questions, trying to understand whats the meaning of life, why we exist?

I studied philosophy and I always have been  interested in spirituality, there were even some moments or rather seconds when I felt I know, I understand but when I was back  in everyday life situations, I have been easily forgetting all the wisdom I thought I gained. 

My first encounter with yoga (or I should rather say my adventure with asanas) happened about two years ago. I started doing some simple asanas briefly for 15 minutes every morning before going to work. It wasn’t regular practice but I felt there is something in it. I attended some commercial classes but these weren’t was I was looking for, something was still missing. I kept practising on my own and then a year later when I moved to Singapore I found out that I don’t do all the poses I thought I know how to do in a correct way. I kept attending professional yoga studio two, three times per week, learning right alignments, it became my practice, it felt good but I was still missing something. And finally all started making sense when I joined Tirisula teaching training.

Our morning talks about the philosophy behind yoga, discussions about life and long and tiring practice brought lots of joy into my life; it felt so good or I should rather say that I felt that I am finally on the right path. The first week was quite slow and intense, the second one was even more intense but went so fast, on Friday my body felt knackered, but my mind was so fresh, I felt awakened. I finally understood that the main thing I was missing my whole life was having an austerity that in this case is yoga. You feel pain, but it doesn’t make you want to stop, it switches your brain off. 

Santosha – Contentment

In a blink of an eye, we are at the end of the course. I remember whining about having to wake up way before my usual routine, to make it for daily 8am classes. My course mates and I would joke about how dreadful mornings are, and seek solace in one another sharing the same struggles to this new routine.

Fast forward to the second last day of the course, thinking about how our YTT journey is coming to a close and the possibility that our paths may not cross again leaves me feeling bittersweet. Overheard in class today, “I am going to feel so lost. No need to wake up early and come here?” Funny how when YTT is ending, we are actually going to miss waking up at 630am!??

It also reminded me of Santosha, the second Niyamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga –  contentment.

Demand is high only and especially when supply is low, vice versa. We whined when we had to wake up early, and then start missing this routine when it is coming to an end. In a nonexistent perfect world, if Santosha was in practice, we would be appreciative of every new day we have from waking up from our sleep, our able bodies, the opportunity have a class to attend and the luxury of time to be able to attend this course. We would be in the present and enjoy every moment, without complaints. But of course, this is highly unrealistic. We know this in theory, but practicing it is a different ball game. All we can do in our best ability is to be mindful. Accept and appreciate what we are, what we have and make the best out of it.

I believe showing gratitude to the luxuries of time, health, money we currently have will fill our hearts. More often than not, complacency takes over and we tend to forget that life is unpredictable. A twist of fate can happen any moment, and everyone would go “THAT’S SO SHOCKING” … as if we never knew how life works.

In light of Thanksgiving today, I am thankful to share the last 19 days with my course mates, and an impish buddy who cracks me up every day. Thank you Sree for sharing your stories and wisdom with us.

Namaste

Yoga Lesson Plans

One more lesson to exam. OMG time really flies; I am sure I will miss my weekends with the girls and having “boot camp” early in the morning – precious memories.

Am glad I signed up this course, no regrets and also grateful to have Master Sree and Master Paalu who guided us patiently 😊

We were taught on how to sequence lessons for the last part of the course and it was an eye opening experience for me because, there were so many things to consider!

Are there any new comers in the class?
Anyone doing Yoga for the first time?
Any medical conditions?
Simple postures which I took for granted might not be suitable for beginners.

Gosh!

The timing for each pose, the sequencing of the pose, the warm up, the opening, the closing, the tone of your voice all needs to be taken into considerations of the class you are teaching.

But the contradictory thing is that after painstakingly planned for 2 classes, I actually enjoy planning the rest of the class, taking note on the type of asanas, which asana comes first, seated first of standing first – so much fun!

But of course, being a student is so much easier.
Be in your Yoga wear, come in time for class and just follow the instructions.
Finish, go home.

New found respect for the teachers.

Bravo!

Oh thru class planning, I found out some of my favorite asanas – Tree, Malasana & Camel!

21092019 Weekend YTT
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Shirley