Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Restorative Practice, for Menstruation and Other Times I Feel Like Shit

By Anytimeyoga @anytimeyoga

Over the years, a lot of different people have offered me opinions — sometimes asked for, sometimes not — on what type of practice works best during menstruation. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions:

  1. Overall, recommendations vary so widely that I’m sure there is no single type of practice that works best for everyone or even almost everyone.
  2. For me, what tends to work best is a practice with a higher level of movement but a lower level of exertion (so, like, yes to the sun salutations but no to the three minute plank hold).

However, sometimes I just feel like shit and don’t think doing a more vigorous practice — or doing a full-length (for me, this typically means between 45 minutes and an hour) — sounds like a fabulous idea. I’ve noticed that this tends to overlap with Arizona’s monsoon season, which itself includes decreased efficiency on the part of our swamp cooler, so there is the very real possibility I’m just looking for an excuse to lie down on the floor.

Either way, this is a sequence that I’m happy to do:

  • on its own.
  • as the second half of a 45-60 minute practice.
  • as the second practice in a given day, when I am so lucky as to be able to practice twice on a day.

I’m fond of this sequence because the postures tend to come with both supported and unsupported options. If a particular part of me is feeling especially ughh, I can support the pose with pillows or folded blankets (or blocks or bolsters, for folks who keep them at home). If I feel like I don’t want the props, I don’t use them. Either way, it’s a fairly accommodating sequence for me — and may be for others as well.

Typically, unless I specifically mention a different time frame, I hold each posture for 3 minutes, a common hold length for yin classes. (For poses with two sizes, I do both sides.) I do this because I am habituated to holds of about this length, not because it is a magic answer for anyone else.

  1. Constructive Rest for however long I need, usually somewhere between a few breaths and a few minutes.
  2. Reclined Bound Angle — I generally do not want knee support for this and go back and forth between wanting to lie back over a bolster (or folded body pillow). However, the link contains illustrations of both options.
  3. Reclined Spinal Twist — I do the version with the knees stacked, especially if it’s early on in my practice, but other options work as well. If that twist is too intense, using a “windshield wipers” variation and/or a support (bolster, blanket, etc.) under the bottom knee can help reduce the strain on the low back.
  4. Rolling Bridge — Into and out of the posture with breath, about 5 rounds. If rolling bridge is not a great option, simple pelvic tilts may offer a similar motion but with more support.
  5. Spinal Rolls, about 5 rounds, same as the rolling bridge. If a full spinal roll is not right for you, apanasana may be a good alternative.
  6. Pigeon — I tend to stay for at least a minute upright and at least two minutes prone. Support options include padding under any hip unevenness and/or taking reclined eye of the needle.
  7. Upavistha Konasana — Adjustments include sitting up on a folded blanket, supporting the legs under the knees, limiting the forward fold, and/or taking a reclined version of this pose with the legs against the wall. I’m pretty sure I’ve used every variation at some point or another.
  8. Child’s Pose — Supported option here.

It’s not perfect. For me, a perfect menstruation sequence would lessen the pain or make it go away, and this does not do that. But it does help me to pay attention to the different parts of my body when I am in pain. To support the parts that cannot release and to release the parts that can.

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