Yoga is probably one of the more soothing fitness-adjacent things you can do for your body when you’re super crampy, bloated and hormonal. But not all poses are created equal when it comes to practicing on your period — and many yoga teachers say staying away from inversions might be in your best interest. Some yogis don’t see a problem with inversion poses while you’re menstruating, others suggest to go with the flow and not against it.
“Those who encourage a ban on inversions [during menstruation] cite fears that certain physical problems may arise. Until recently, increased risk of endometriosis was considered the most common risk. But since more is known now about that disease, the idea has been debunked,” as Yoga Teacher Barbara Benagh told Yoga Journal. “There is also a theory that inversions may cause ‘vascular congestion’ in the uterus resulting in excessive menstrual flow. If true, this risk is probably most relevant for women who hold inversions a long time. Some teachers say that since a woman’s energy is low during menstruation, high-energy poses such as inversions should be avoided. This makes sense, yet not all women experience low energy during menstruation; indeed, many feel quite energized.”
Depending on your comfort level and the period products you swear by during your workouts, this might not be a huge dealbreaker for you — but it helps to understand why these positions may not make you feel as great while you’re on your period as they do when you’re off. Regardless, it is always best to follow what feels right for your body and makes you feel the most comfortable — especially when you’re menstruating. Laura Conley, an experienced yoga teacher, says she performs inverted positions during her period, but adds that she is sure not to stay in the pose too long. As Conley told World Lifestyle, “Ultimately, it goes back to why we practice yoga in the first place, which is to strengthen our intuition and our gut feeling and if you’re tapped into that, I think your body will basically tell you whether or not it’s okay to go upside down.”
“Since I know of no studies or research that makes a compelling argument to avoid inversions during menstruation, and since menstruation affects each woman differently and can vary from cycle to cycle, I am of the opinion that each woman is responsible for making her own decision. Pay attention to how you respond to inversions (indeed, all asanas) during your period,” Benagh adds. “A short Headstand may be fine while a longer one isn’t; maybe you will find that backbends or twists adversely affect your period. If your energy is very low, restorative poses may be just the ticket, though you may find a more active sequence of standing
poses alleviates cramps and the blues. You really won’t know what works and what doesn’t until you feel it in your own body.”
If you plan to play it safe, consider skipping these seven poses while on your period — or, at least, proceed with caution.
A version of this article was published January 2016.