Even though this YTT course has yet to end, I can state with utmost certainty that my greatest takeaway from this journey is regaining my health, both physically and mentally.
In terms of mental health, I have definitely come very far since the start of the YTT course. I have gain greater clarity to the issues which had been troubling me in the past. In addition, I have learnt to connect with myself, to listen to my breath and body, and to start loving myself again.
Physically, I have not seen much changes appearance wise. However, I have regained my women health, if you know what I mean. After dedicating myself to a regular yoga practice for just slightly over a month, my period has returned for the first time in a long time. I believe that it is the improved circulation of energy in my body as well as the reduced stress levels, as a result of doing yoga, which helped my body heal. In addition, my period cramps were very mild, which is nothing as compared to what I experienced in the past. For these, I am beyond grateful for finding yoga again.
As this is my first time having my menstruation while having a regular yoga practice, I was rather clueless as to how (or whether) I should upkeep my yoga practice, while honouring my body’s needs. As such, I was inspired to share with my personal experience on how to practise yoga during menstruation, which I hope will
First and foremost, listen to your body
I guess the first question is, should I continue practising yoga while on my period? I guess this differs from person to person. I was feeling very drained and light-headed on the few days leading up to the first day of my cycle, as well as on the first day. I listened to my body’s cues and cut down on the intensity and frequency of my physical practices.
Forward sitting postures and hip openers were a saviour to my period cramps
On the second day of my period, I felt a bit more energetic and decided to go for a class, even though I was starting to experience mild period cramps and discomfort. I was glad I did, because my cramps disappeared right after the practice! In addition, I came out of the practice feeling so much fresher. I attribute these to the forward bends (eg. paschimottanasana and janu sirsasana) and hip openers (baddha konasana, prasarita padattonasana) we did during the class. It appears that these postures helped to alleviate tightness in the pelvic muscles, providing relief to the back pain and cramping experienced during menstruation.
There are some poses we may need to avoid during menstruation
Of course, there are some postures which we may need to abstain from performing during our menstruation. In general, strenuous postures should be avoided – this also depends on one’s level of physical fitness.
However, it is best to avoid inverted poses. This is because being inverted goes against the normal flow of energy. When the uterus is pulled towards the head, the ligaments that support the pelvis are broadened and the veins carrying blood supply away from the uterus collapse partially, which may lead to increased bleeding. In addition, intense stretch, twisting and backbends should be avoided as these postures place additional stress on the pelvis and abdominal areas.
Incorporating pranayama may be useful in combatting PMS and menstrual discomforts
Alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana / anuloma viloma), which is a gentle form of pranayama, has many benefits and can be practised daily. If you are feeling emotional or anxious because of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), this pranayama is able to help to calm and relax the mind. However, kapalabhati and uddiyana bandha should be avoided during menstruation as they are too intensive.
We may feel unfortunate that as women, we have to experience on a monthly basis, the inconvenience and discomfort of menstruation (which potentially comes with the free gift of PMS). However, if we look at it from another perspective, we are lucky that as females, we have such a system in our body to help us shed blood and purge toxins from our bodies. When we experience PMS, the suppressed emotions from the past month are allowed to come to the surface. We can then acknowledge, confront, express and let go of these embedded emotions. It is almost like death (literally and figuratively) and rebirth. As such, when we look deeper at the spiritual meaning, menstruation is a beautiful gift given to women, which makes us more intuitive and sensitive.
The next time when you experience discomfort brought by menstruation, perhaps just breath and take a moment to be grateful for this special gift.