yoga and periods
March 2, 2004 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I've gotten conflicting answers from physicians, teachers, and Google searches so I come to you for anecdotal evidence: Is it really dangerous for menstruating women to practice inverted yoga postures? Has anyone you know ever suffered negative consequences from practicing inversions during her period?
posted by jennyb to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I say that's gotta be bunk.
posted by agregoli at 7:17 AM on March 2, 2004

Anecdotally, I have not had any sort of trouble, personally, with this. On the other hand, my approach to yoga is more based on stretching and relaxing than it is on energy and spirituality, so if there are negative effects in those areas, I might not notice them.
posted by jessamyn at 7:34 AM on March 2, 2004

Interesting opinions here.
posted by mkultra at 7:58 AM on March 2, 2004


This comes from good authority from my wife who has been teaching yoga for 8 years, and has studied yoga quite extensively.

She says that the taboo against women doing inverted postures while menstruating is a more traditional one (B. K. S. Iyengar holds this belief). In fact, the traditional view says that menstruating women should not even do yoga at all. This stems from the taboo against menstruating women as being 'unclean' in a more traditional, patriarchal Indian society.

However, while many modern authors say that yoga is extremely beneficial during menstruation, inverted postures are still advised against. Beryl Birch says that "The inverted postures should not be done while menstruating, as they reverse the natural downward gravitational pull of the menstrual flow from the body. You don't want this discarded blood-lining from the uterus to flow back into the body, so don't stand on your head, or do a shoulder stand, a hand stand, or any of the upside-down postures while you have your period." ("Power Yoga", pg 61).

My wife holds this view also, and doesn't advise doing inverted postures while menstruating.
posted by Quartermass at 8:02 AM on March 2, 2004

Yoga Journal just had an article about this in their mag, and the consensus was that it would be nice if you respected the views of your yoga teacher while in his or her class, but there's no real medical reason not to do them.

Even though I think it's prattle, I still don't do inversions while on my period in class, as a kind of meditation on being considerate of other traditions. (Plus I like the occasional break.)
posted by pomegranate at 8:08 AM on March 2, 2004

Me personally, I found that the times I did inverted poses while menstruating, my flow stopped for a day or so, and my period was longer by a day. No medical reason for this as far as I know.
posted by nprigoda at 9:07 AM on March 2, 2004

Astronauts have menstruated in space, yes? With no gravity at all? (And presumably used tampons, since pads probably wouldn't work too well.) I would think going upside down for a little while to do yoga wouldn't be so bad in comparison.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:02 AM on March 2, 2004

You don't want this discarded blood-lining from the uterus to flow back into the body

It can't, regardless of your posture, unless you somehow dilate your cervix. Once it's out of the uterus, it's not going back in in any serious amount, not matter how you contort yourself. With the exception of tiny things like sperm, the cervix is pretty much a one-way dealie. I'm all for being polite and following your teacher's wishes, mind you, but posture will not make menses flow backwards in any meaningful way.
posted by biscotti at 10:03 AM on March 2, 2004

I'd be very very surprised if there were something harmful about it. It's not so easy for the blood to re-enter the cervix... my guess is that it would take more than gravity.

What you do not want to enter the cervix is a lot of air... if you blow forcefully into the vagina, you could theoretically cause a potentially fatal air embolus. But I've never seen this happen.
posted by mert at 11:08 AM on March 2, 2004

The key question in my mind is whether the movement of blood during menstruation is due primarily to gravity or to uterine contractions (which are frequently unnoticed, but are also the cause of menstrual cramps.) The human body generally provides mechanisms for keeping things moving in the proper direction regardless of orientation (called peristalsis). As a result, for example, you can still eat whilst standing on your head, as Mr. Wizard taught us.
posted by Danelope at 12:20 PM on March 2, 2004

Response by poster: if you blow forcefully into the vagina, you could theoretically cause a potentially fatal air embolus.

I don't know where you take yoga, but we don't do a lot of this in my class.
posted by jennyb at 12:32 PM on March 2, 2004 [2 favorites]

(I kiss you jennyb.)
posted by pomegranate at 1:07 PM on March 2, 2004

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