Updated: Jul 14
For as long as I've been practicing yoga and for many decades prior to that, a debate has raged in the yoga community about yoga for women: specifically practicing yoga on your period and whether or not women should go upside down during this time!
We know enough that in terms of gravity - when you go upside down, your bloodstream doesn't actually change direction. So we can trump that myth once and for all!
When it comes to yoga for women, we need to consider more than just gravity, we need to look within... more specifically we need to understand female physiology, as well as the endocrine system which helps to regulate hormones such as progesterone and estrogen which fluctuate throughout our cycle each month. In the lead up to and during menstruation (as well as menopause) estrogen levels in particular are at their lowest.
Some women experience lower back pain either a few days before or during their period, and while the exact cause is not known, research indicates that it may be due to hormonal changes (ie the drop in estrogen) which can cause laxity in the joints at the same time de-stabilise the spine.
So if the joints and the spine are not at their most stable, then it doesn't really make sense to place them under the added stress of going upside down, not to mention that less stability usually makes us more vulnerable to injury!
Another reason to avoid inversions during your period is that the due to the size and shape of the female pelvis, women have a lower center of gravity, which requires greater effort compared to our male counterparts to turn ourselves upside down anyway.
SO if there’s already a lot going on in our pelvic area during this time, then we owe it to ourselves to enjoy a bit of a break - I like to call it 'ladies holiday', because for many of us we naturally feel the need to retreat and turn inward on or around our period, which is kind of the opposite energy of a yoga inversion such as a headstand, shoulder stand or handstand.
And my final argument comes from a strictly yogic point of view, which for some may be too woo-woo! But hear me out!
Menstruation is a downward process of elimination, governed by a downward force of energy called APANA VAYU. When we invert or go upside down, this encourages upward energy, called Prana-vayu - a moving force of energy that supports our mental processes.
Given that our bodies energetics during menstruation require a downward flow and are associated with energy of grounding and rest, our brain also changes during this time too, so any practices or inversions that encourage an upward flow may cause an energetic imbalance.
Remember from a physical perspective there is nothing to support that gravity or body position has any effect and that nothing untoward will happen if you do go upside down - I’ve been known to bust out a handstand or two on my period and I have lived to tell the tale!
However, as a long time yoga practitioner many of us we acknowledge, recognise and understand the subtle energy systems at play in our amazing bodies, and can use this innate wisdom to work WITH the energy of our body, rather than against it.
And in the process of doing so, we can embrace our menstruation as an opportunity to cleanse, rest and replenish each and every month! Attuning ourselves to our own internal rhythm and truly living in alignment.