A fellow teacher asked me the other day about my views on doing headstand during one’s period and I said an emphatic no. This view is a 180 degrees from a few years ago.
Our school is unaccountably vague on this issue. Our primary textbooks (C.I.B.Y & The Yoga Training Manual, TTC manual) don’t go into details nor do they offer alternative menstruation sequences.
The silence on the part of Swami Vishnu. could be deliberate , because menstruation in religion has been a laden and highly controversial topic in India’s recent history. There have been such a variety of warped taboos imposed on Indian women in the name of religion, that one could surmise that he steered clear of adding fuel to the fire and also of giving any more ammo to some of our really twisted and fanatical religious elements. My personal guess however would be that it was an oversight rather than deliberate. Our Swami was a man and it probably didn’t occur to him to include practice notes for menstruating women. Plus his book is pretty general (with reference to practice notes on specific asanas) and that seems to fall in line with the oversight theory.
The idea of menstruation and inversions being a “big thing” then came as a surprise to me during one of the group discussions during our TTC in 2006. Even then the opinions of our senior instructors were mixed.
Some seemed alarmist and said it wasn’t safe as blood could flow back into the fallopian tubes, while others thought we didn’t hold the poses very long(30 seconds to a minute) in a practice class so the issue was moot, while still others like me thought it were a matter or personal choice and to be dictated by how one felt on the day.
I was of the view that it was a big hullaballoo over nothing at the time until years later when I started practicing the menstruation sequence by Shrimati Geeta Iyengar. The experience of doing this “restorative sequence” on bloody days was quite fabulous. What a glorious sequence and so in tune to the body’s rhythm- I was an immediate convert to alternative sequencing! And then the old G.D. from our teacher training days came to me and I decided I needed to read a little bit more and see if I needed to “touch up” my ‘personal choice’ policy.
Guruji, BKS Iyengar says “Avoid asanas during the menstrual period. But if the flow is in excess of normal Upavistha Konasana and dash dash dash may be performed with beneficial effect. On no account stand on your head during the menstrual period.”
While Geeta Iyengar says “During the monthly period (48-72 hours) complete rest is advisable . Asanas should not be practiced but if there is some tightness or tension then forward bends from dash dash section are helpful; over-exertion should be avoided. Normal practice may be resumed after the flow stops completely.”
Now this is intuitively how I’d come to practice, I did feel on period days that my body wanted to rest or alternatively do a hugely different restorative sequence, usually the former.
My go-to for all yoga queries is the Bihar School so I decided to check with them to decide the issue once and for all and as per their understanding and they’re quite clear that no inversions are to be practiced during menstruation.
Where does that leave you oh bleeding yogi?
Read the relevant information for yourself. The information must come from an authority (Book or teacher or informed source) not from a .003 second Google search.
Then have a check-in with your body, see how you’re feeling . Does your body want rest?
Combine the two , throw in a dash of common sense and then decide how you should practice and if.
My two-bits is in for a day or two of rest and relaxation and to treat oneself to something nice! Let me know how you feel.