Recently the issues of menstruation and pregnancy have come up in my classes, so I figured I would write a little outline of my notes to help my students find it all in one place. Hope this is a starting place to guide you and feel free to ask me any questions you may have regarding your personal practice. - Namaste, Jennifer
Guidelines for Yoga Practice During Menstruation
A woman's body goes through cycles of change throughout the month, therefore it is hard to approach yoga as a "one-size-fits-all" practice. We need to be sensitive and aware to what our body is calling for in the present moment and be able to adjust our practice to suit our unique needs. Here are some rough guidelines:
Be aware of Fatigue:
During menstruation the body can tend to feel fatigue as it regenerates itself and women lose energy during this time.
• If you're feeling fatigue, take it easy in class. If the teacher offers child's pose or down dog to make your session less vigorous, take it and enjoy while concentrating on your breath.
• Allow your practice to become more restorative, healing, meditative and less vigorous or challenging
• Be sensitive to your current and natural energy-level
Relief for the Pelvis and the Hips:
The pelvis and hips are in repair and hip openers can offer relief and feel good. Remember to breath slow and deeply, extending exhalations for increased relaxation and well-being directed toward the pelvis and the hips.
Avoid Disturbing the Natural Downward Flow of Energy
Opt out of inversions such as hand-stand, head-stand and shoulder stand and replace with either downward facing dog or Legs-up-the-wall with a soft bolster or blanket underneath the sit-bones so you're able to reap the benefits of an inversion without disturbing your cycle.
Guidelines Before Beginning Pre-natal Yoga
Most students have heard that yoga is a great tool during and after pregnancy to help soothe tension, build strength, apply awareness to breathing practices and retain well-being for the time of childbirth and beyond. But when finding out about a new arrival, it can be confusing and difficult to know what you should or should not do as your body goes through it's profound time of restructuring for the baby and you.
I advise the following:
1) Consult your physician and primary care specialist before attempting yoga practice or other physical activities since every body and situation is unique.
2) Seek out a pre-natal yoga class. It's supportive to practice with others who are going through the same thing you are, as well as have a class that is structured specifically for your needs.
3) If local pre-natal yoga classes don't work in your schedule, you can modify your practice for pregnancy in a group class setting, but first here is what you should do and know:
• If possible, take a workshop about pre-natal yoga to get more information or approach a knowledgeable instructor for a private lesson so they can show you how to modify postures during your pregnancy.
• Arrive early and always tell your group instructor that you are pregnant, before class begins so they can modify postures for you or tell you where to opt out.
That being said, here are some general guidelines and principles for modifying yoga postures during pregnancy:
What you CAN do:
- The good news is you can do most postures and practices, except for a few key things written below!
What to be CAUTIOUS of:
In general you do not want to disturb the womb, which means:
• Avoid twists from the abdomen, belly and lower vertebrae of the spine. Twisting gently from the heart and the shoulders is okay and can offer relief and open the chest and heart space.
• Steer clear of most inversions, which will put pressure on the womb. Modify with Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall with a bolster under the sit-bones) This posture will bring most of the same benefits as inversions without disturbing the womb.
• Avoid putting pressure or laying on the belly. Opt out of postures where your belly is on the floor, such as cobra and upward bow pose. Replace cobra with upward dog and bow pose with bridge or child's pose
• While your body is going through changes, your body is releasing hormones which loosen the pelvic region to make way for the baby. This can result in feeling loose in the hips and you may find that you're able to be more flexible in hip-openers than before. Take precautions and do not to force, push or go too far in hip openers. Take it easy, as it can be easy to injure the lower vertebrae, and sacroilliac joints in the pelvis during this time. That being said hip openers will also feel pleasurable, so that's a plus!
• One last caution is to careful and opt out of balance postures where you may fall or injure yourself such as most arm balance postures like crow, side crow or any pose where you are placing your elbows into your pelvis for a balance such as locust, to be safe you should avoid and replace arm balances with arm strengthening poses such as shoulder and chest openers or standing balances such as tree pose against the wall - use the wall to safely modify standing balances, remember you have extra weight in your belly now!
To opt out of a harmful postures in general while in a group class:
• Always take downward facing dog or child's pose if the class is doing a posture that would not benefit your current state of health and rejoin the practice for the next pose you're able to do comfortably.