Each woman will experience her menstrual cycle in a unique way, slightly different from any other, in function of her unique hormonal print. For some, menstruation will be particularly simple, almost unnoticeable; for some it will be painful and distressing; for some it will vary considerably in function of the context of that moment in life. As discussed in (Sequencing for Special Conditions of Women), most of the literature on yoga for women suggests a highly modified practice emphasising basic restorative poses, no inversions, and some go as far as recommending avoiding your practice altogether. Yet many active yoginis maintain their regular practice while menstruating – including inversions – across the span of decades with no signs of ill effects. This suggests that the best guide to practice when menstruating is each student’s personal experience and intuition. The basic question to ask yourself is, “how do I feel?” It is entirely possible that cramps, bloating, fatigue, or other discomfort will be present, which might require a more restorative, gentler practice than usual, to help reduce pressure in the uterus and the whole abdomen. The following restorative sequence can be practiced as-is or can be incorporated into a longer series. Feel free to add and remove positions, hold some for longer or shorter, just be mindful and listen to your body with respect and care.
1- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Angle Pose): Prop the upper back and head onto a set of bolsters or folded blankets and allow the thighs and arms to release toward the floor. Stay for 5 – 10 minutes, while working on deepening your breath. You can use this moment for a short meditation.
2- Apanasana (Knees to Chest Pose): Gently draw the knees toward the chest, mindful to not excessively curve in the lumbar area. You can rest here or move the knees around in increasingly wider circles for 1 – 2 minutes.
3- Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose): Clasp the feet to draw the knees toward the floor, either on the outer or inner side of the soles. Slightly and gently rock from side to side for 1 minute.
4- Supta Padangusthasana B (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose): Extend one leg out to the side, resting it on a bolster if it’s uncomfortable to bring it completely down to the floor. Stay for 1 minute, switch sides, and then repeat. Try to keep the opposite hip on the mat, squaring the pelvis towards the sky.
5- Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose): You can start by sitting in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt), kneeling and bringing the buttocks on the heels.Carefully pull the calf muscles to the sides and up from under your thighs. Ease your hips in between your feet, on a brick if it’s otherwise uncomfortable for your knees. Start gently lowering on your elbows and then lie down if it feels safe for your back to do so. Propped as for Supta Badha Konasana or not. You can also place strap around the thighs to keep them from splaying out and adding pressure in the lumbar area. Stay for 2 – 5 minutes.
6- Bidalasana (Cat Pose): Come on all fours, as for tabletop pose. Hold for 1 minute, alternately extending the legs back to release tension through the knees.
7- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing Dog pose): Hold for 1 minute before resting in Balasana (Child Pose) for 5 breaths. Repeat 2-4 times.
8- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): Lift the hips, core and chest upwards, bringing the chest towards the chin rather than the chin towards the chest. Keep the tailbone tucked to maintain ease in the lower back while focusing on the back bend in the upper part of the spine and on the opening across the heart. Draw the shoulder blades together and clasp hands into a fist or, alternatively, grab your ankles. Repeat once or twice.
9- Supta Parivartanasana (Reclined Spinal Twist Pose): Press the upper hip away from the shoulder while pressing the lower leg back to reduce pressure in the lower back and sacroiliac joint. Hold for 1 minute, switch sides, and repeat 2 times.
10- Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose): Bend one knee and place the entire external side of the leg in contact with the mat, to form a triangle with the foot as close to the opposite hip as you comfortably can. Bring the other leg symmetrically on top, aligning and stacking the knees on top of each other. You can stay here, holding your toes; alternatively, you can grab your elbows through the back, or hook fingers together as per the image below. Hinge forward to bring your abdomen on your thighs. Hold for 1 – 3 minutes on each side.
11- Upavista Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Pose): With your sitting bones strongly pressing into the floor or mat, take as wide a stance as comfortable. Place hands in front of you on the floor and with your top of the head lifting long towards the sky or ceiling, start gently walking your hands away in front of you. Knee caps should point directly upwards. Come as low as you can. The forward bend should come from the hips not from the lumbar spine. Hold for 2-5 minutes. Consider placing a stack of bolsters under the torso and head if you can’t reach the floor.
12- Paschimottanasana (Forward Bend Pose): Sit on the sitting bones in Dandasana (Staff Pose) and start gently hinging forward from the hips. Back is straight, the core is gradually activating to bring the torso on the thighs. Hold for 1 – 3 minutes. Consider placing a stack of bolsters under the torso and head.
13- Viparita Karani (Inverted Leg Pose): Legs and torso should form a 90 degrees angle. Elevate the pelvis on bolsters, or use a wall to support your lifted legs. Release the arms and shoulders onto the floor, and stay for 5 – 10 minutes.