The practice of taking rest from practice during menstruation is sometimes referred to as “Ladies Holiday”. It is recommended that women take rest from the Ashtanga practice during the heaviest part of the menstrual cycle (generally thought of as the first three days, but this can vary from person to person.) There are several reasons that this is important. According to Ayurveda , the sister science of yoga designed to keep the body functioning optimally, the downward and eliminating flow during this time may be counteracted by inversions and application of bandhas in the asana practice. Applying bandhas redirects the flow of “apana”, which is the downward flowing energy that governs acts of elimination such as menstruation, and to practice vigorous asana without proper engagement of bandha can be physically unsafe. Additionally, excessive activity can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle or the complete cessation of menstruation (amenorrhea). Taking rest from vigorous practice is a wonderful opportunity to rejuvenate and honor the natural ebbs and flows of energy inherent in being a human being and in particular in being a woman. Alternative practices that are recommended include restoratives (which we are glad to teach any student interested in learning), chanting, japa and walking.
For more information about this topic, listen to a very informative podcast featuring authorized teacher Christine Hoar
Practice and Pregnancy
The Ashtanga tradition encourages taking rest from the asana practice during the first trimester and for three months after giving birth. A modified practice can absolutely be undertaken and is very beneficial during the second and third trimesters. The choice of how, what and when to practice during pregnancy is an extremely personal one and we encourage any female student who is interested and feels in need of guidance to speak to Meghan directly to formulate a practice plan that supports your individual needs.
For more information about practice and pregnancy consider reading the incredibly comprehensive book Yoga Sadhana for Mothers
Practice and Menopause
Menopause is one of the three times (in addition to the onset of menses and following childbirth) that a woman is able to “reset” herself physically, mentally and energetically or spiritually. It is a time where old patterns that do not support us can be reassessed and changed. It is also a time of great physical change, and like menstruation and pregnancy, is an extremely individual and personal experience.
For more information about practice during this stage of a woman’s life, consider reading this interview between Certified teachers Lousie Ellis and Sharmila Desai: Embracing Impermanence