Over the past several months I've been broached the question in regards to practice and menstruation. Should I still practice? Is it unhealthy? What are the rules? What do I do? No inversions? Then of course I'm just waiting for it, because it always comes down to what students really want to know. What do you do?
Weeelllll. Yes. I do. (Gasp!) Okay. Shocker. You got me. Hahaha. Seriously though, allow me to tell you more. Through the years I've taken the advice of many to heart, and what I've found is, when it comes to our own bodies and rhythmic cycles, there really isn't one rule. It seems to me that mensuration is as unique as the individual, depending on one's stress level, diet, body type, mental state, overall lifestyle, whatever, it makes a difference.
For me personally, I have a dip in energy about three to four days prior to my period. Often during this time I will lighten my practice if need be. Although, what I've found is from month to month my premenstrual time period is quite different depending on stress level factors, diet, etc, as mentioned earlier. So, I play it by ear. I've learned there is no need to power through it. What may be different compared to some is on the day of menstruation I often feel a release, and more energized to practice. Whereas the days prior there is more of a build up and/or lack of energy. A light practice or none at all is needed depending on how I feel. In my experience, I have felt the need to continue practicing during the actual period. The body feels the need to move. It's a personal feeling. A personal choice.
I understand the theory of there being a downward pull of energy, and if I felt it were hurting me I would stop. Simply put, it makes me feel feel better to practice. However, I do take the advice of not doing inversions for long periods of time as to not disturb the downward flow. Often I will put my legs up against a wall for the majority of the finishing sequence. It works for me.
I realize there are concerns of missed periods when women practice Ashtanga yoga. Again, something that needs to be looked at if this is the case. For some reason I've been one of those strange birds who has never missed a period. I can honestly say from the day I've started, till now, I have never missed a menstrual cycle. Practicing Ashtanga yoga has never had an affect in that regard on my body. However, I have heard from other women that it has. If missed periods are happening, then I recommend that one take the time to look deeper into what is being promoted in the body.
It reminds me of what David Swenson said during a workshop I participated in - after asking three longtime female Ashtanga yoga practitioners what they did during their menstrual cycles, and receiving three different answers, he stopped asking. As a woman it seems only natural. We all react differently during this time. We are all at different stages of our womanhood. Even as we age, or at various times of the year, our cycles change, develop and evolve.
How I see it is the more you practice the more you will know what to do as you become in tune with the rhythms of the body, even the rhythms of nature. Everything works in cycles. There is a time to reap, there is a time to sow. Take your teachers guidelines and suggestions to heart, and also start by listening to what your own body is saying. Feel the energy cycling through and work with it, never against it. We are multisensory beings. As women we have the privilege to exercise our intuition and maneuver our body/mind through a sensitive time period. Key into it. Lean into it. Adjust as need be. I have never prescribed to superstitions when it comes to menstruation. It is a time to become ever more present. Ever more mindful.