YOGA, WOMB YOGA & MENSTRUATION
Do you have a yoga practice? Yoga is wonderful for your health and even better for your sense of embodied wellness. Yoga is taking time to move your body with awareness, tuning into your breath aligning with your inner divinity.
There are various changes we can make to our regular yoga practice as we come into our blood time so that we can help our body do its sacred cleansing work. There is a delicacy about us at this time and its easy to disrupt the balance. I have explored this in my own practice and found it to be so helpful.
When we learn to work with our monthly cycle, we know when and how to build strength, blood and chi. We also learn from our rhythms, how best to plan the month ahead to maximise achievement as well as deep nourishment. If we work against our body's cycle we can end up drained and possibly on the road to illness and imbalance. This was known by the ancient cultures and simple guidelines were offered for women to follow to ensure the health and peace of their womb. These codes have been largely misunderstood now but still apply in these modern times. You can read about them here.
Women are cyclical - we wax and wane like the moon, journeying through periods of outer expression and being called deeply each month to withdraw and renew as our blood releases. Historically we have been regarded as "little men" but really that couldn't be further away from the truth. Unlike men we have profound, innate creative abilities and if we embrace and follow the cycles of our womb, and listen to her wisdom, we can be also be drawn into the deepest states of union and prophesy. This has been known and revered through the ages and although it is not discussed much in this modern world, I think its definitely important to remember.
Usually yoga is offered to us as a part of a group class and is rarely offered in a way that acknowledges our cyclical nature, our life as mothers, or our pelvic wellbeing. Basically we are expected to approach yoga like "little men" as the tradition stems from a male dominated system. As men dont cycle, they have a more constant ability to perform physical and spiritual practices day after day after day. They can throw themselves into a practice and build momentum and energy with less chance of depleting themselves. Not to say women are weaker, but due to our cycles and life processes (such as birth, mothering etc) there are times of relative strength and relative vulnerability where we can actually deplete, injure or derange ourselves if we approach yoga practice or life like a man.
Modern postural yoga has largely overlooked this as well as forgetting about our innate, womanly abilities of deep connection, that come with our fertility, pregnancy, birth, mothering, sex and menopause. I believe the time to re-embrace our sacred potential as women has come.
To deepen your awareness of your womb and cycles you can begin by tuning in every day to how your womb feels and try to honour that in your practice.
MODIFYING YOUR YOGA PRACTICE WHEN YOU'RE BLEEDING
When bleeding it is particularly important to honor the deep work your body is performing and try to just support this cleanse. This can't happen easily if you are pushing against the natural needs of the body at this time.
For me, this means:
taking deep rest when possible (especially yoga nidra type practices)
meditating more & taking note of my dreams (we are often more perceptive around this time)
not disturbing the downward flow of energy in any way (I take a break from mantra and all but gentle asanas, particularly inversions and deep stretches)
keeping warm and avoid cooling practices including swimming, activities and foods (the womb is susceptible to cold invasion at this time)
i take a break from going to my regular kirtan gatherings as the chanting creates such an upward energy it tends to disturb me and lift my energies upwards when they need to flow unimpeded downwards.
When we are bleeding our energies INTERNALISE and it is useful to respect that as much as possible. Going inside is an important part of yoga (and life) and allows us to rest in our essence which then purifies and revives all the energies of the body and being. In yoga terminology this is known as Pratyahara, the withdrawal. By withdrawing from your regular activities and turning inside you can venture deeply into your sacred self, propelled deeper than usual by your body's menstrual process. This is a sacred advantage of womanhood and has traditionally shepherded women into a deep and mystical union with spirit (yoga).
This is why its beneficial, at this time of each month to suspend (or thoughtfully reduce) your daily asana, pranayama and mantra practices as these things redirect energies in the subtle body when those energies need to be flowing organically downwards. Your body is doing sacred work and resting will support this.
There are also physiological changes that happen during menstruation that should impact your yogic asana practice - notably the presence of the hormone relaxin which allows tendons to weaken and stretch to allow the contractions of the uterus to expel the blood. This is the same hormone released in pregnancy to allow the joints to open up and the baby to push through. This is important to understand as this means we can be more flexible when we are coming up to bleeding and through the blood time, yet also more prone to injuring our tendons! so be careful not to over stretch, not to push it in this delicate time.
Depending on your personal experiences of pain or stagnation during your blood time, it may be advantageous to perform certain asanas or qi gung practices to encourage the smooth flow of energy and blood whilst menstruating. By establishing a womb friendly yoga practice throughout the other periods of your cycle you can put yourself back on the path of wellness during your blood time. You may require further assistance with this and I would recommend Acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an excellent support as problems in your blood time indicate underlying health imbalances.
The best place to start is wherever you are now.