If you’re a woman who practices yoga regularly, there’s a very good chance that you’ve been in a situation where you signed up for a class right when your period starts. You might wonder if you have to cancel or if it’s even a good idea for you to practice at all.
Can you do yoga on your period? Yes. Yoga can improve your mood and physical symptoms during your period, despite some misinformation around the subject. If you want to practice during your time of the month, you can take a few extra steps to ensure that you get the most out of your session.
But if doing yoga while menstruating is so helpful, then why is there fear around it in the first place?
The Myth of Avoiding Yoga During Menstrual Cycles
The question of whether women should avoid doing yoga during their periods is an old one, built into the practice itself. In yogic philosophy, menstruation has a “downward” energy (or, Apana), meaning that any inverted pose disrupts the body’s natural energy flow – the opposite of what yoga wants to achieve.
This idea is common in some schools of yoga today, like B.K.S. Iyengar’s school of yoga and ashtanga vinyasa yoga. The former discourages inversions, and the latter suggests that menstruating women take time off entirely.
There have also been concerns from a medical perspective. Some doctors believed that certain yoga poses caused “retrograde menstruation,” or reversed menstrual flow. With blood going back toward the uterus, some thought that the disrupted flow caused infertility or endometriosis, a disorder where uterine cells grow outside the uterus and cause severe pain and scarring.
Some feel that certain poses can stretch the ligaments that support your uterus or collapse the veins that supply its blood. Others believe that the twisting and bending done with yoga can put too much strain on your pelvis, thereby worsening your period cramps or even increasing your flow.
Between these hypotheses and certain traditions, yoga teachers all over the world discourage certain poses or even practice all together during menstruation.
Can Doing Yoga on My Period Hurt Me?
No, it won’t. It’s not at all necessary to stop doing yoga during your period.
Philosophical ideas aside, there’s no significant scientific evidence that doing yoga during your period causes harm. Though retrograde menstruation is real, up to ninety percent of women already experience it, while only ten percent of those women are diagnosed with endometriosis.
Also, the contractions of your uterus cause the flow of menstrual blood, not gravity alone, so it technically doesn’t matter if you’re inverted or not. Your flow doesn’t even change in the weightlessness of space!
In addition, any bending or moving you do into inverted poses or poses that affect your blood flow likely won’t be held long enough to cause any harm to your reproductive system.
So, long story short, there’s no scientific reason to not do yoga on your period. But still, it’s a different experience than when you’re in other places in your cycle.
How is Yoga Different on Your Period?
There’s the obvious – you might not feel as excited to keep up your yoga practice. With periods come bloating, fatigue, mood swings, headaches, and a whole host of other negative symptoms. Gathering up the motivation to move when all you want to do is lie down is especially difficult during that time of the month.
However, you may reap even more benefits mood-wise from keeping up your practice during this time, since you may feel a little blue. Yoga has been shown to relieve stress and mood disorders.
On a more practical note, you may feel more physically uncomfortable just because of everything that’s going on down under. There’s always the risk of leaks, especially if you’re bending and twisting a lot, so you may be more self-conscious if you take a class. This is especially true if you have a heavy flow.
Despite these potential drawbacks, doing yoga while on your period has a lot of benefits that far outweigh its potential negatives.
How Can Yoga Help You During Your Period?
Even though rolling out your mat and starting a class may feel out of the realm of possibility if you have cramps or feel super bloated, yoga is one of the best ways to get relief from your symptoms. It can:
- Improve your mood
- Relieve physical symptoms like fatigue, bloating, and cramps
- Balance your hormones
Let’s break down how yoga can accomplish all of those things.
There are hundreds of jokes about women’s moods during their periods, but in all seriousness, the anxiety, sadness, and irritability that periods bring can really disrupt your life. Luckily, yoga – and other forms of exercise – have been proven to boost your mood.
The increased blood flow to your entire body produces endorphins, which are nature’s mood lifters. It also has a similar effect as other anxiety-reducing activities like meditation in that it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure.
Yoga breathing aims to center your entire body, mind included, so if you’re feeling a little off, yoga can bring you back to your personal normal.
Your Physical Symptoms
Though the physical symptoms of your period, from bloating and cramps to backaches, may push you away from your yoga mat, certain poses can actually relieve these troubles.
A review of studies suggests that doing yoga on your period is associated with reduced negative symptoms. In general, exercising is a common remedy to cramps and other period-related pain, even if that seems counterintuitive; it releases endorphins that lessen the pain.
As we’ll discuss, certain poses pack more of a helpful punch than others.
Female hormones are a complex subject since every single woman’s case is unique. Some women hardly have any symptoms at all, while others are incapacitated for their whole period. But, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, there’s some evidence that yoga can balance your hormones.
A sedentary lifestyle and obesity have been shown to have negative effects on your body’s ability to manage insulin, which in turn affects your female hormones. Those who practice yoga habitually can avoid these issues and potentially have more manageable periods.
There are even yoga practitioners who say that yoga has helped them overcome hormonal disorders like PCOS. One yoga teacher who overcame hormonal imbalances put together this yoga sequence, which she practices almost daily.
Tips to Consider
By now, we’ve covered all the ways that yoga can be beneficial to practice during your period, but we haven’t addressed the question you might have – even if there are no negative side effects, can you change up your practice to suit your needs?
You can! The great thing about yoga is that it’s adaptable. Here are some tips for doing yoga on your period.
Pick the Right Form of Yoga for You
There are a lot of forms of yoga out there, from vinyasa to goat yoga. Do you need to switch up the form of yoga you do regularly? Nope! The only thing you should keep in mind is your own body and how it feels.
If you’re extremely tired and hardly want to move, you might want to avoid an intense power yoga session that you might love at another point in your cycle. A flow with restorative poses like Supta Matsyendrasana (a reclined spinal twist) might be better for you then.
You can also incorporate less physical aspects of your yoga practice, like focused breathing. That alone can decrease anxiety and help you take your mind off of cramps or breast tenderness.
If you know that your energy levels are generally fine during your period, but your digestive system is in complete chaos, something like the garland pose or camel pose might be a better fit. They both can help blood flow to your digestive system and reduce bloating.
Avoid Certain Poses if You’re Worried
Even though there isn’t a lot of research about the connection between fertility, endometriosis, and inverted yoga poses, you might be worried about negative side effects if you have one of those conditions.
As in any yoga class, you can enter a resting pose if your class decides to do inversions. If there are any other poses that make you uncomfortable, then don’t push it. Some of those poses could include:
- Revolved side angle pose
- Head or handstands
- Shoulder stands
- Wheel pose
You can also modify several of these more challenging positions. If you’re wondering what you can do, here’s a list of poses that are good for you during your period.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Much
Yes, exercise is good for your period, but you’re also in a prime position to get totally wiped out from pushing too hard.
Aside from the fatigue that many women feel, many women experience anemia due to their periods. Being anemic essentially means that you have fewer red blood cells in your body, which in turn reduces the cells that can carry oxygen to your brain. As a result, you probably feel excessive tiredness, weakness, and poor concentration.
If you’re exhausted, it’s okay to take a break. Your mat will be there once your period is over. You aren’t alone either – 29% of non-pregnant women and 38% of pregnant women are anemic.
If you suspect that you’re anemic, you can check in with your doctor. They can diagnose it with a simple blood test. In the meantime, stay active, but don’t test your limits.
Change Up Your Feminine Hygiene Products and Clothes
The unfortunate reality of having a period means that you’ll probably encounter leaks at least once in your life. Potential leaks, plus very tight pants, plus bending over? It sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen.
Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to avoid a problem. You can choose dark pants or a longer top if you’re self-conscious. In terms of feminine hygiene, tampons might be more comfortable to move in than a pad, which could also show through yoga pants.
Another option is a menstrual cup. They’re flexible silicone or latex cups inserted into the vagina to capture menstrual blood. They’re quickly becoming more popular, and for good reason. They’re cost-effective, reusable, good for the environment, and carry a much lower risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). They can also be worn up to twelve hours at a time.
They’re also the choice for many female athletes because it stays securely in place during even the most intense exercises. There are also cups for every need. Some are larger, and some are smaller. Either way, they’re much less expensive than tampons or pads over time.
Practice at Home
If you’re feeling tired or blah, you can always practice yoga at home. If you’re worried about needing a teacher in the room with you to adjust your poses, don’t – the internet is full of teachers who can anticipate the most common problems people have.
The pros of doing yoga at home are straightforward:
- If you’re not feeling it, you can stop in the middle.
- You don’t have to be self-conscious about what you’re wearing.
- You can find the exact practice that’s right for your needs.
Since there are so many to choose from, we suggest:
- Yoga With Dakota – my personal collection of online yoga routines that you can watch from the comfort of your home and in your PJs.
If you want to know more about practicing yoga at home here is an article that can help explain the benefits.
The only downside to practicing at home is that you might not have all the items your studio has on-hand. Luckily, you probably have a lot of great replacements a few mere steps away. Here’s a full list of at-home substitutes for common yoga gear like blocks, straps, and bolsters.
If you practice yoga frequently, it might be worthwhile to invest in some of these tools. That way, you’ll be able to maintain your practice even if you don’t feel like leaving the house.
Can You Do Hot Yoga On Your Period?
Heat pads are a go-to for women experiencing cramps or other aches during their periods, and as we’ve established, yoga can be a great way to help you during your period too. So, you might be thinking – hot yoga would be a perfect way to get both at once. Is it a good move?
The short answer is: it depends on your personal comfort, but it’s not dangerous in any way.
First, let’s be real: being in a room that’s over a hundred degrees while moving around and wearing a pad or tampon doesn’t sound comfortable in the slightest.
However, as we mentioned above, things like menstrual cups can eliminate this problem. They reduce any potential smell that occurs when menstrual blood is exposed to the air, and you can’t even feel it if it’s inserted correctly. And, if you have a lighter flow, you might not notice anything different anyway.
Comfort aside, it’s totally safe to do hot yoga while on your period. In fact, the heat may help your muscles loosen and relieve pain. But as always, listen to your body. The extreme heat of hot yoga can exacerbate headaches and nausea that some women get during their periods.
To prevent negative side effects, you can:
- Hydrate well before class
- Arrive early to get settled and acclimated to the heat before you start moving
- Stay focused on your breath to stay steady
What Else Should I Know About Doing Yoga On My Period?
Since everyone’s periods vary, much of this depends on you. If you have endometriosis or if you fear any potential negative side effects from certain inversion poses, avoid them. If your flow is super heavy, wait until later in your cycle to practice.
If you’re more concerned about the spiritual aspects of more traditional yoga schools, follow whatever your teacher advises. Even though you won’t have any negative physical consequences to your practice, the spiritual side is still very important to many. Take time off if your school prescribes it.
If you’re still worried about how you’ll fare, try a class on a day where you have a light flow or try it at home. Home is likely the safer bet, but if you feel at home in your studio, give it a try there.
Do whatever feels right to you. Just as there’s no single period experience, there’s no single yoga practice that’s perfect for everyone who’s menstruating.
Yoga is a great way to manage the symptoms of your period. If you take a few extra things into consideration, you can reap the practice’s benefits.