Should We Practice Yoga While Menstruating?

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Many period advice books out there recommend yoga as a nourishing physical activity to do during menstruation, but this is not always the best advice.

As both a women’s health coach specializing in reproductive health and a KPJAYI-authorized Ashtanga teacher, the subject of menstruation and yoga practice is of great interest and importance to me.

This is why I often find it frustrating when reading guides on women’s health that suggest yoga as the ideal activity to practice while bleeding.

My teacher, R. Sharath Jois, advises female practitioners to take a full three days of rest during menstruation. Some female practitioners disregard this instruction as they feel it is an outdated guideline based on a male-dominated culture (perhaps you have seen the hashtag #ICanDoAnythingYouCanDoBleeding), but I encourage us to look at this advice from a different perspective.

Yes, we can do yoga while bleeding, but why should we?

The female reproductive system is an extraordinary mechanism of beauty and amazement.

As females, it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to bleed, cleanse, and replenish each month. Our periods are also an invaluable tool to gauge our overall health and well-being, so much so that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists deemed periods as a fifth vital sign.

It’s not just the traditional lineage of Ashtanga that advises women to stop asana (yoga pose) practice for three days, but the tradition of Iyengar yoga recommends to rest or take a modified practice on days of bleeding as well.

Dr. Geeta Iyengar, the daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar, writes “A healthy menstruation is a significant indication of a healthy state of body and mind. We have to respect our womanhood, we have to respect our bodies which have got this very important function to perform. Obviously, we need to adjust our practice. If we do not respect this fact, then we are disrespecting our own existence as well as that of the future generation.”

In yoga, we call energy prana. There is both apanic (downward) and pranic (upward) 05_AlessiaCampostrini©JennaLONGORIA_IMG_8019.jpgenergy. During the time of our period, we want the energy to move downward in order to cleanse the body, not only on a subtle body level but on a physical level.

Subtly, there is powerful energetic work at play that could negatively affect our system overall and prevent the natural cleansing process of our cycle. Physically, we need to encourage the uterine lining to shed, and twists and inversions can arrest this flow, as well as cause cramping.

Essentially, when we practice during our period, we are working against the natural downward energy taking place in our bodies.

Interestingly, in Chinese medicine this energy is referred to as Qi, and similar principles apply, as practitioners of Chinese medicine are also taught to take a rest for three full days during menstruation.

In the West, people tend to practice yoga in big group classes, making it impossible for the teacher to give individual attention to each student.

It is a common practice for people to frequent classes at many different studios, never establishing a strong teacher/student connection. In this scenario, it is doubtful a student will approach a teacher they’ve never met to disclose that they are on their period. Without this disclosure, the teacher will not know to modify the practice for this student.

Additionally, if a female on their cycle is taking advice from her period wellness guide to slow down, she might end up in a dynamic type of yoga class such as Vinyasa or power yoga. In these classes, there will most likely be some twists and inversions. Not only will this type of yoga increase heat (which we absolutely do not need while menstruating as our body is already heated in this phase of our cycle), but the twists and inversions can aggravate our uterus.

However, the period guides aren’t all wrong! There are some types of yoga that do jive well with our menstrual cycle.

If opting for a group class, look for a restorative yoga or Yin yoga class, but if practicing at home, try these asanas:

>> Baddha Konasana (butterfly)
>> Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined butterfly)
>> Legs up the wall
>> Balasana (child’s pose)
>> Sukhasana (final rest)

Hold each one for at least five minutes. A pillow or bolster can be used for support.

If you are currently suffering from amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), I encourage you to take a few days of rest over the new moon. Invite your monthly bleed to return by creating the time and space for her. Perhaps sit in seated meditation during these days and reconnect with your womb by placing your hands on this sacred space and visualizing your flow beginning.

If we continue to practice for months without rest because we have not had a period, the chances of bringing it back gets smaller; it’s a vicious cycle.

We must nurture our bodies and invite our feminine, yin energy to enter, in order to balance out the type A, yang energy, that in today’s world of unprecedented stress, is all too easy to dominate.

Remember, our goal for this time of the month is to nurture our bodies. Females are cyclical beings, and we must remember this. We weren’t designed to go hard every day of the year. The time of our menstruation is an opportunity to slow down and give gratitude to our body for all of its hard work.

It is not a sign of weakness to take a break from our asana routine. A wise woman knows she must take care of her temple—she knows the practice will still be there when she stops bleeding.

This article was written by Jenna Longoria for The Elephant Journal, and was originally published on July 23, 2018.

5 Tips For Healthy Digestion While Traveling

fruitbeachWhile traveling around the world is fun, it tends to wreak havoc on the digestion system. Many people tend to go to the bathroom either too much while on vacation or too little. It’s understandable because while traveling we are introduced to new foods, and at most times are at the mercy of restaurants. Traveling also tends to break the routines we have back home that keep our engines running smoothly.

But there is hope for keeping a happy tummy and regular visits to the loo!

I’ve been in India the past few months and here are some tips that have helped me while on the road:

1. Take Probiotics

I can’t stress this enough! Bringing probiotics with you while on vacation is the most important thing you can do to stay healthy while on the road. Without these your gut doesn’t have the good bacteria that it needs to digest your food properly. It’s even more crucial while on vacation because you are constantly being exposed to new bacteria from the water and food.

If you are bringing probiotic pills, make sure to check you buy ones that do not need to be kept refrigerated. In addition to probiotic pills, I like to bring individual Green Vibrance packets with me while on the road, and I drink this every morning.

2Drink Plenty of Water

We tend to not pay enough attention to how much water we are drinking while traveling. The sightseeing and excitement of a new place tends to side track us! This is why it is even more important that you are aware of how much water you are drinking.

I always drink more than the recommended amount of water while traveling in hot climates seeing as I’m sweating so much (click HERE to calculate how much water you should be drinking daily). To keep track of this I fill up my water bottles for the day and make sure I go through them all. For example, I drink 2.5 liters a day so I fill these up, and make sure they are gone by the end of the day.

The bottom line is, not staying hydrated is a good way to get constipated, which will make you feel lethargic and uncomfortable. So keep a note on your iPhone, set an alarm reminder on your phone-do whatever you have to do make sure you are hydrating your body.

3. Eat Fermented Foods.

Fermented foods contain natural enzymes and probiotics that help the body digest its food. They also contain vitamins and minerals that help the body maintain optimal health. Examples of living foods are yogurt, curd, sauerkraut, kimchi, tofu, and kombucha.

Do your research before traveling to your destination to see what fermented foods are local to the country you will be visiting. For example, on my trip to India I found out there are many fermented staples in the Indian diet such as curd and dosas (crepe made from fermented rice and black lentils), and I was able to spot these on a menu no problem.

Incorporate at least 1-2 servings per day to your diet and you will find yourself feeling groovy.

4. Eat Your Veggies.

I know it’s not always possible to eat what you want while on vacation (I’m currently reminded of this by the lack of dark green leafy veggies in India, believe me!) but do your best.

Find the veggies on the menu and order them. Visit the local market and buy your own if you have to. The more veggies you eat, the more fiber you are adding to your body.

However, if you are leaning more on the constipated side, take it easy on the raw veggies, and opt for lightly cooked ones.

5. Stick to the closest version of the foods you eat at home.

Try to stick to the closest version of what works for you while home. I know this isn’t always easy, but be creative. If your stomach is giving you trouble don’t feel like you have to get all Travel Channel and try every exotic food that is offered to you.

Protect yourself and stick to the foods that you know work for you. There is no shame in being a picky eater while traveling if it’s for the sake of your health!

Photo from Pixabay

Bonus Tips:

-Try to find an accommodation with a kitchen so you can make some of your own meals.

– Take Magnesium Citrate to avoid constipation (it also helps you sleep better).

– Don’t overeat even if all the new food is tempting.

– Do your best to eat meals at the same time everyday.

– Keep the body moving and incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

– Drink warm water with lemon or lime, depending on what is available. Do this first thing in the morning for a dose of enzymes to kick-start your digestive system in the right direction. Lemon water also gives you tons of Vitamin C for the day which will keep your immune system strong.

Happy Travelin’!

xx

Health Coach Jenna

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