Should I do yoga inversions, when I have my period? Will I get endometriosis?
There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there about why yoga teachers often say no inversions while you’re on your period.
Will something bad happen if you go upside down when you’re bleeding?
When yoga teachers don’t explain why something is contraindicated – it leaves students to fill in the blanks for themselves.
What is considered an inversion in Yoga?
Technically, an inversion is any pose when the heart is higher than the head.
Going upside down changes our normal relationship to gravity and positively influences our cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems.
So what about legs up the wall? Is it an inversion?
Because the head and the heart are level with each other, legs up the wall is not technically an inversion. However, Viparita Kirani is often lumped into the inversion category.
Why? Because the legs are up in the opposite direction of where they usually are, changing the relationship to gravity greatly and creating similar benefits as outlined for inversions.
(I would consider this a half inversion – as the full version would be a shoulder stand when the heart is above the head).
Will doing inversions while menstruating cause endometriosis?
No, doing inversions while menstruating does not cause endometriosis.
So why do we hear this a lot in the yoga studio?
The thought process here is that if you go upside down while on your period, the endometrial tissues being shed from your uterus will flow backwards, through your fallopian tubes and attach to other organs in your body. This is often referred to as retrograde menstruation.
I am not a doctor or an expert on endometriosis, but here is an explanation of endometriosis from Nancy’s Nook, a respected source for endometriosis information, advocacy, and research.
“There are many theories that seek to explain endometriosis. It is most likely a combination of an embryonic origin (tissue that you were born with) plus other genetic and environmental factors. The commonly taught theory, that endometriosis is caused by the backflow of menstruation (“reflux menstruation”), has been largely debunked but still drives many of the treatments offered.”
This leads many yoga teachers who are fixated only on the physical body to say – sure go ahead – do all your full inversions while you’re menstruating, it’s not going to cause you any physical harm
BUT…WAIT, STOP! Before you go doing headstands while on your period - KEEP READING!
Yoga is so much more than the physical practice that western culture has turned it into.
An informed yoga practice will acknowledge and consider the subtle or energetic body as well as cyclical changes when doing yoga asana.
Ayurveda & traditional Yoga therapy recommends avoiding inversions during menstruation as it disrupts or blocks the predominant flow of energy (prana) at this time – apana vayu – or the downward and outward flow of energy. Menstruation, bowel movements, childbirth, and the nourishment of fertility are connected to apana vayu. So during these times we want to protect the natural flow of energy in the body and full inversions disrupt or reverse this flow.
So, what's a menstruating student to do?
Here is my recommendation as a yoga teacher who specializes in reproductive health & incorporates energetic principles into her teaching.
Skip the full inversions while you’re on your cycle. If you do happen to do one while on your cycle because you truly feel that this is what your body needs at the time, no need to obsess or worry about it – your apana vayu will get back on track. But please – no long holds!
Half inversions are mild and fine when moving through them and not holding for lengthy periods of time.
Legs up the wall? I’d do a half version of this with your legs up over the bed or sofa.
During menstruation, this is a time to reflect, process, and let go – to rest and restore.
That is why I recommend a restorative practice at this time to be in alignment with the natural flow of nature and energy.
Below are my 3 favorite restorative poses to do while on your cycle:
We spend most of our time living in a world that values masculine qualities. This results in us largely trying to ignore our feminine cycles and not have them ‘interrupt’ our busy lives. We are becoming more and more detached from our natural alignment and in turn are out of touch with our bodies. Recognizing and valuing the menstrual cycle and it’s fluctuations is powerful and can make a huge difference in all aspects of your life.
Let’s start to pay attention to our cycles and work with them, not against them.
All the fertility yoga classes I teach are in alignment with the cycle that you’re in and made to harness the energy of that time.
Join us if you are on the path to parenthood and would like to get there faster and with less stress.