Is It Dangerous To Practice Yoga While You're On Your Period?
You've probably heard that light exercise is helpful during your menstrual cycle, as it can relieve cramping and improve your mood. But the message around yoga is more complicated.
Many instructors will tell those practicing to refrain from inverting if they're on their period, some tell their students to go easy, and a few caution against practicing at all during their cycle.
But are there actually any dangers associated with practicing yoga while on your period? Here's what you should know.
Yes, you should practice—but take care of yourself.
While some teachers will disagree, the general medical consensus is that practicing yoga on your period is very safe and improves some of the symptoms that come with your period, such as cramping and moodiness. The main challenge for many women—especially if they have very painful periods—is getting themselves to practice at all.
Still, it's important to meet your body where it is. "Quick-paced, heated vinyasa practices, some with hand weights and other workout equipment have moved yoga away from a practice that responds and reacts to what our body and minds need," says Beth Heller, M.S., R.Y.T. "We conflate the exhaustion that arises in savasana after an intense, heated class with the truly balanced nervous system that comes from a class that uses mindful movement and deep, intentional breath focus."
What about inversions?
It's not uncommon for a teacher to tell anyone menstruating to avoid inversions at the end of class, which includes simpler ones like shoulder stand and legs up the wall.
The reason, yoga instructor Mary Dana Abbott explains, is that we want to support the downward flow of energy to assist in eliminating what needs to come out of our bodies. She also mentions "retrograde menstruation," which is thought to cause endometriosis and fertility issues. "But there is not a ton of scientific evidence to support these claims," she adds.
OB/GYN Shannon Clark says inverting isn't at all dangerous. "The only potential issue is with doing prolonged inversions," she says. "If you are wearing a pad and are having heavy menstrual flow, things may get a bit messy. Otherwise, happy inverting."
The best poses for cramping
If you suffer from cramps, certain flows and poses will help more than others.
"Asanas focused around the belly, pelvis, and spine can relieve some of the pain," says Mary Dana. "I'll often focus my practice on sun salutations with twists and squats, prone backbends, seated twists, hip openers, and forward bends. If you're in a lot of pain and need to keep it simple, stick to child's pose and easy supine twists."
Beth, who works primarily with clients dealing with fertility issues, has a specific flow for clients trying to conceive—and suggests the same flow to people with bad cramps.
"The moon salute is great, followed by some gentle backbends like camel pose (done gently and/or with props), bow pose, or supported fish pose," she says. "End your practice with a restorative pose like reclining bound angle pose or a supported, seated forward fold."
No, doing yoga on your period isn't dangerous. Just go easy on yourself!
Leigh Weingus is a New York City based freelance journalist and former Senior Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen where she analyzed new research on human behavior, looked at the intersection of wellness and women's empowerment, and took deep dives into the latest sex and relationship trends. She received her bachelor’s in English and Communication from the University of California, Davis. She has written for HuffPost, Glamour, and NBC News, among others, and is a certified yoga instructor.