If you’re a woman and you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve most likely heard admonitions from the teacher or suggestions on the necessity of modifying (or not doing) certain poses if you’re on your period. I’ve always wondered about this: what’s really the deal with this prohibition? Why is it so bad to do inversions or other poses when you’re menstruating? To learn more, I asked expert yogi Sadie Nardini, host of ‘Rock Your Yoga’ on Veria TV and author of the upcoming book 21-Day Yoga Body.
Here’s what Sadie had to say:
Iʼve lost count of how many times female students have approached me before class
with worried looks on their faces. “Is it okay if I do inversions? Iʼm on my period,” they
whisper, as if theyʼre about to commit a cardinal yoga sin.
Well, Iʼd like to ﬁnally bust the urban legend around yoga poses and that time of the
It is absolutely, positively safe to do yoga poses, including inversions, on your period,
period. There is no medical proof that being upside down—something the body is
designed to do at any time of the month—can hurt you or ʻreverse the blood ﬂowʼ, as Iʼve
often heard it said.
Perhaps if you spent your entire period in a headstand, you might ﬁnd your period
slowing and lasting longer, as youʼd be working against gravity, but the few breaths
most of us spend in any inversion pose is not enough to make one whit of difference
that way. Plus, down dog is a pelvic inversion, one we do more often than others in
class, yet you donʼt hear instructors warning women away from that move.
The basis of this misunderstanding stems from the classical yoga teachers (all men, by
the way), promoting that the natural energetic state of a woman during menstruation is
apana, meaning an outward, and in this case, downward-moving ﬂow. Thatʼs obvious to
any woman whoʼs felt the monthly draw more toward the bed, couch and ﬂoor rather
than a vigorous exercise practice. However, thatʼs the tricky part: sometimes itʼs good to
go with the ﬂow, literally, and just rest it out. But I often ﬁnd it helpful, and so do my
students, to balance apana with prana—or that which nourishes us and lightens us up.
Other experts I heard from while researching this topic seemed to agree that the prohibition against inversions was outdated and rooted in ideas that don’t exactly add up: your menstrual blood flowing “backwards” for a few minutes or seconds isn’t going to cause any serious problems for you, either in the short-term or the long-term. Some people who are more strict practitioners will still avoid inversions, especially, and direct students to go for a more restorative practice. Still, every woman (and every period and every session on the yoga mat) is different, so you should do what feels right for you and your body.
If you want to try a sequence specifically designed for menstruating women, Sadie was kind enough to share one of hers with us! Check it out here.
Photo courtesy of Sadie Nardini