Yoga for Menstruation
Kelsey Taylor explores some simple yoga ideas and practices for women working through their cycle
Menstruation – days 1-6
Follicular phase – days 7-12
Ovulation – days 13-16
Post ovulation – days 17-21
Premenstrual – days 22-28
If you are new to yoga and are female, or do not identify as female but have female hormones, here’s how yoga can benefit you:
Females experience hormonal fluctuations over the length of their menstrual cycle, meaning strength, energy and motivation also fluctuate. Understanding when and why these changes occur can help to support the overall health of the mind, body, and spirit.
When we are new to any activity, we should take time to explore our body and its abilities. You should not expect the same level of performance from every yoga practice you undertake due to changes that are occurring within the body and mind, and you should not compare yourself to anyone else in the practice as they will be experiencing something completely different.
I always encourage my students to explore how ‘they’ feel at the beginning of practice. What do they observe? How does their physical body feel? What levels of energy do they have today? What thoughts and emotions are they currently experiencing? There are no right or wrong answers; accepting what each practice brings takes time to develop so don’t rush, listen, and enjoy the experience. There are four phases of the menstrual cycle and the hormones at each stage influence thoughts, feelings, energy levels and overall health.
Hormonal fluctuations are highest in the years around menarche and menopause. Starting a regular yoga practice at any time in life will support overall health and it’s never too late to learn more about your body and hormones. If you experience an irregular cycle or do not menstruate because you are pregnant, post-natal, have a health condition or have experienced menopause, then you can work with the moon cycle. Moon phases are freely available online.
Overview of working with your cycle
This information is based on an ‘average’ 28-day cycle. Cycle lengths do vary, between 21-35 days is regarded as healthy. Seek medical advice if your cycle length is outside of these periods. Your cycle starts the first day you experience a full bleed or at the ‘New moon’ if you do not menstruate. Tracking your cycle can help predict your energy levels and the symptoms you may experience.
Menstruation / New Moon – days 1-6. The days we experience a bleed. Hormonal levels are at their lowest and so is our energy, our focus is inwards. Yoga should be practiced to ‘restore’ the body’s energy and encourage a downward flow. Less is more here, as being overactive can affect the energy available for the rest of the cycle. Yoga which calms and nourishes the nervous system is perfect for this phase. Try Restorative yoga, and Yoga Nidra to support menstruation.
Follicular phase / Waxing Moon – days 7-12. Hormones and energy levels are increasing. Oestrogen is dominant until ovulation; our focus turns outwards to the world around us. In the physical body, hormones are produced by the endocrine system, glands that produce and regulate the hormones which influence all functions of life and every cell within the body. In yoga, the seven main chakras (yogic energy wheels) are located at the same locations as the glands in the body. We can rebalance the chakra/endocrine system with physical movements such as twists, folds, stretches, the use of bandhas (energy locks) and chanting to stimulate the body in different ways.
This is the perfect time to start practicing yoga as we are curious about life and playful. Physical movement helps to flow stagnant energy around and out of the body. A gentle Hatha sequence will offer variations for you to explore your body and energy at this stage.
Ovulation / Full Moon – days 13-16. Energy is at its highest due to the peaking of several hormones within the body which aid the release of an egg for fertilisation. This is the time you can demand the most from your physical practice*, but alignment is key. Practice with a friend/partner as we naturally feel more sociable. If your energy levels do not feel high, listen to your body, and choose a grounding practice instead.
Once you have mastered the basics you can progress to styles such as vinyasa and ashtanga in this phase, as these styles have increased demand on cardiovascular health as the movements are quicker and stronger encouraging the heart to pump blood and energy around the whole body.
Luteal / Waxing Moon – this is the phase where we may notice more changes in our mood, body, and energy levels. This is caused by progesterone being dominant during this phase. I’ve split this phase into two.
Post-ovulation - days 17-21. We feel a shift in our energy, we start to withdraw inwards. Initially, the hormones available provide endurance so focus on bone and muscle strength, as when hormonal levels decrease post-menopause both bone and muscle strength can deteriorate. Hatha-based practices with long-held balances and grounding poses that build strength both physically and mentally are beneficial here.
Premenstrual - days 22-28. All hormones now start to decline, and we experience a drop in energy and feel fatigued. PMS is usually experienced in this phase and motivation to practice yoga may be low. Yin sequences are perfect for this phase. Sequences for the liver and kidney energy channels support menstrual health and sequences for the spleen, small and large intestine energy channels support the digestive system which is slower during this phase.
*Please note, every woman is different, and some phases may vary in length, ovulation may not occur every cycle. Tracking and accepting what feels best for you as an individual is key. Those individuals with health conditions and those trying to conceive should not practice yoga in a manner that exhausts the body; instead gentle, feminine sequences to restore energy are more beneficial.
Kelsey Taylor is an experienced yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals, specialising in women’s health. In-person and online events and yoga teacher training are available. To receive your FREE guide to learning to work with yoga and your menstrual cycle visit: kelseytayloryoga.com/flow