I was asked a very valid question recently about women practicing yoga with a coil and what they should and shouldn't do. Uma is my inspiration for answering this, and I would encourage you, if you have a coil, to watch this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh34PVZgl38
I've also been asked a number of times the reason I give options for women who are menstruating. My answer is because when you're menstruating, really you need to take things gently - I'm impressed you're even at class. At this time of the month often what our body needs is deep rest, darkness, stillness and the opportunity to truly tap into our womb wisdom. This is a time to get down on the Earth and get into yourself.
If you do come to class, I encourage you to be particularly gentle with yourself and this is the reason for the options. Of course there are always options, if you're ovulating, maybe you want to practice a different way, if you're menopausal then maybe you want to practice by a window and take some time off to cool down, if you're lactating then maybe you need to rest more frequently than others and avoid lying on your front with your breasts pressing to the ground.
I'm a woman, I bleed, I breastfeed, I ovulate, I'm still technically post-natal (for two years after birth), I've been pregnant a few times, I've had two Caesarean sections and IVF. I bring this experience with me into class and share as much as I can. We're all different though, so I encourage you to check in to your own bodies and your own body wisdom and adjust the practice as you choose.
For many years I ignored my body wisdom and I resented my monthly bleed as it made practicing yoga more challenging as I would be tired and there was the small problem of bleeding to consider. I just kept practicing as I practised the rest of my monthly cycle - in a masculine and yang way as I didn't know that there was another way.
I ended up with menstrual problems. My periods stopped essentially. I then found out I had cysts on my ovaries. This is a whole other story but I set out to heal myself and part of that healing was learning about womb wisdom and the need to honour my body and respect it's monthly cycle and to tap into the wisdom that it provides.
I've been deeply inspired by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and am full of huge and massive respect for her speaking her truth and walking her talk and being a shining light to us wild yoginis.
So I know from experience, how important it is to respect whatever stage of life we're going through, and especially our menstrual cycle. In Ayurveda (of which I am a huge fan), there are five energies (or pranas) and one of these is called Apana. Apana is a downward moving energy, which is involved in excretion, urination, ejaculation and menstruation.
So I encourage menstruating women to avoid the inversions, such as headstand and shoulder stand, which reverses the natural downward flow of apana upon which menstruation relies. I also encourage them to avoid deep twists, certainly in the first couple of days of menstruation, maybe after then it feels good to do a deep twist.
I would also avoid poses like bow and or anything that presses on the lower belly. I don't even like to practice steamed forward bends where my lower tummy makes contact with my legs, I much prefer legs apart if I'm folding forward during this time. basically i feel it's important to keep the practice gentle and give the womb lots of space and nurturing energy. Reiki hands on the lower belly is essential if you're Reiki attuned!
I've got a free video coming out soon on yoga for menstruation so keep an eye out if this interests you.
I'd also encourage any menstruating woman to read "Code Red" by Lisa Lister. It's an inspiring book, which teaches you all about the menstrual cycle in a really accessible way. She's funny! It's inspired many women with whom I've shared it, and it certainly helped me to re-align my menstrual cycle with the moon post baby and drop a little more deeply into womb wisdom and the cyclical nature of being a woman.
With love and gratitude!