Special Report: Planet-friendly Periods

Be the change you want to see in the world. That’s a motto that all yoga students will have heard at one point in time from their teacher. And it’s certainly true that the yoga community is a positive force for change in the world, embracing and endorsing best-practice, ethical and sustainable ideas and products. That’s why it’s time to start talking about periods.

Yes, it’s true that men do yoga as well — back in India, that’s where it all began with the ancient yogis — but here in the West, it’s still commonly thought of as a female pursuit. Either way, it’s high time to shake offside old taboos in 2024: that means talking about periods.

In a similar way, periods may once have only been thought of as a women’s issue, but nowadays the impact is felt in numerous ways with ripples across the planet and for everyone. For a start, our home, Earth, is struggling against the overwhelming weight of plastic pollution — and yet just one sanitary product is the equivalent to four plastic bags. Add to this the fact that a female uses on average 11,000 throwaway tampons and pads in a lifetime, there’s no doubt periods have become an environmental issue too. That’s definitely a problem for one and all.

And sadly it’s not just the planet that feels this pain. Periods, despite being an inevitable part of a woman’s life, are a source of poverty for many around the globe. In fact, one in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products according to Plan International UK; over 137,700 in the UK have missed school because of this.

It’s hardly surprising when you consider that menstrual products cost more than £18,000 in a woman’s lifetime — that’s about £13 every month. It is inconceivable that females become slaves to their body when it’s doing something perfectly natural. How periods are experienced shouldn’t be down to how much money we have in our pockets.

Yet still, discussing periods as a whole remains a taboo topic. How many of us admit to hiding a pad or a tampon in our pockets when we’re due to freshen up? Or feel a sense of embarrassment creeping in when we place these items on the checkout conveyor belt?

It’s time for change. It’s time to change the way we think about periods, and the best place to start is by opening up the conversation, instead of hiding away in shame.

As yoga practitioners, both students and teachers alike, we are perhaps ideally placed to get this message across to a wider audience. The planet itself may well depend on our actions and what we do right now. As the saying goes: Be the change.

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.