THE SACRED YOGA OF MENSTRUATION
Women are cyclical - we wax and wane like the moon, journeying through periods of outer expression and being called deeply each month to withdraw and renew as our blood releases. The sacred cycles of the womb dictate to us our own natural process of union with spirit - our own womb centred yoga practice. If we embrace and follow the pull of our womb, we can be drawn into the deepest states of union and prophesy. This has been known and revered through the ages. This is the sacred yoga of menstruation.
Modern postural yoga has largely overlooked this, our innate, womanly yogic potential. But now the time to re-embrace our sacred potential as women has come.
To deepen your awareness of your womb and cycles you can begin by tuning in every day to how your womb feels and try to honour that in your practice.
When we learn to work with our monthly cycle we know when and how to build strength, blood and chi and how best to plan the month ahead to maximise achievement as well as deep nourishment. If we work against our body's cycle we can end up drained and possibly on the road to illness and imbalance. This was known by the ancient cultures and simple guidelines were offered for women to follow to ensure the health and peace of their womb. These codes have been largely misunderstood now but still apply in these modern times.
Read about them here.
There are various changes we can make to our regular yoga practice as we come into our blood time so that we can help our body do its sacred cleansing work. There is a delicacy about us at this time and its easy to disrupt the balance. I have explored this in my own practice and found it to be so helpful.
MODIFYING YOUR YOGA PRACTICE WHEN YOU'RE BLEEDING
When bleeding it is particularly important to honor the deep work your body is performing and try to just support this cleanse. This can't happen easily if you are pushing against the natural needs of the body at this time.
For me, this means:
taking deep rest when possible (especially yoga nidra type practices)
meditating more & taking note of my dreams (we are often more perceptive around this time)
not disturbing the downward flow of energy in any way (I take a break from mantra and all but gentle asanas, particularly inversions and deep stretches)
keeping warm and avoid cooling practices including swimming, activities and foods (the womb is susceptible to cold invasion at this time)
i take a break from going to my regular kirtan gatherings as the chanting creates such an upward energy it tends to disturb me and lift my energies upwards when they need to flow unimpeded downwards.
When we are bleeding our energies INTERNALISE and it is useful to respect that as much as possible. Going inside is an important part of yoga (and life) and allows us to rest in our essence which then purifies and revives all the energies of the body and being. In yoga terminology this is known as Pratyahara, the withdrawal. By withdrawing from your regular activities and turning inside you can venture deeply into your sacred self, propelled deeper than usual by your body's menstrual process. This is a sacred advantage of womanhood and has traditionally shepherded women into a deep and mystical union with spirit (yoga).
This is why its beneficial, at this time of each month to suspend (or thoughtfully reduce) your daily asana, pranayama and mantra practices as these things redirect energies in the subtle body when those energies need to be flowing organically downwards. Your body is doing sacred work and resting will support this.
There are also physiological changes that happen during menstruation that should impact your yogic asana practice - notably the presence of the hormone relaxin which allows tendons to weaken and stretch to allow the contractions of the uterus to expel the blood. This is the same hormone released in pregnancy to allow the joints to open up and the baby to push through. This is important to understand as this means we can be more flexible when we are coming up to bleeding and through the blood time, yet also more prone to injuring our tendons! so be careful not to over stretch, not to push it in this delicate time.
Depending on your personal experiences of pain or stagnation during your blood time, it may be advantageous to perform certain asanas or qi gung practices to encourage the smooth flow of energy and blood whilst menstruating. By establishing a womb friendly yoga practice throughout the other periods of your cycle you can put yourself back on the path of wellness during your blood time. You may require further assistance with this and I would recommend Acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an excellent support as problems in your blood time indicate underlying health imbalances.
The best place to start is wherever you are now.