On Yoga, Chocolate & Periods.

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kathryn budig yoga period

To Yoga or not to Yoga during one’s Period?

via Kathryn Budig

For years now, an epic battle on whether to practice yoga during a feminine cycle has been raging.

Some yoga teachers simply promote no inversion practice during a period. Pattabhi Jois, head of the Asthanga tradition, encourages a woman to take her entire “ladies’ holiday” off from practice.

Personally, I’m an avid fan of “no flow on my flow,” because anything more strenuous than reaching for my Trader Joe’s organic dark chocolate truffle bar is a…stretch. This is, of course, in the non-forward fold sense of the term. Not to mention, bulky pads won’t look so cute in your skin-tight Lululemon pants and if you’re thinking tampons will save the day, can i just say: queef? If you don’t know what I mean, just pray you don’t make any interesting noises as you come out of your headstand. Yes, we can’t help it, it’s natural. Yes, you will get weird looks. Spare yourself the pain and embarrassment because you won’t be the only one who knows you didn’t “drop a rose.”

I officially mark myself as senseless during the preceding days as the first few of the actual holiday. When you can normally find me working flips in a handstand till I can’t see straight, this time of the month it’s more common to find me propped up on the couch, my handy Jane Austen novel du jour next to me, and an artillery of spoons ready to attack a fresh mint and chocolate chip gelato.

The idea of lifting my frontal hip points to engage more core makes my poor little ovaries scream in surrender—and I’d like to point out that surrender is a wonderfully common yogic theme, and one I like to teach. I admire the yoginis who have a daily asana (posture) practice, but even the most astute practitioner can use a rest. The whole theory behind taking a break from yoga during a period, in my mind, is a form of respect. Some teachers will say you shouldn’t invert on your period because the blood will get stuck. Okay, honestly, that sounds like a poorly conceived old wives tale to me, but logistically speaking if something is trying to get out, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to turn it upside down. Or twist it. Or strain it. Or do anything more than supine postures, snuggling a bolster, light walks and all those bites of chocolate.

But seriously, (and I am serious about my chocolate) the period should be treated with great respect. It is our bodies’ time to cleanse and begin a new cycle, much like the full cycles of asana that we go through each time we take a class. I constantly teach my students to stop before they begin and observe. Notice what is happening in your body and mind before you race past it to where you think you should be.

Same goes for ladies’ holiday. Don’t ignore it by trying to keep life the way it is everyday. Stop, acknowledge, observe, respect and rest.

Honestly ladies, we’ve earned it.  Period.

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About Kathryn Budig

Kathryn is a lover and teacher of yoga by day, a wizard in the kitchen by dinner time and a professional dog snuggler at night. Follow Kathryn @kathrynbudig or on Facebook. Find her at kathrynbudig.com


54 Responses to “On Yoga, Chocolate & Periods.”

  1. sj* says:

    seriously rest. if you can't do that, than maybe you aren't practicing yoga?!

  2. sarah says:

    …i love all kathryn budigs articles– they are alway informative and make me laugh out loud…i look forward to reading more from ELEPHANT…

  3. Stephanie says:

    What do you do if you're scheduled to teach a class during your "holiday"?

    • Camilla says:

      You can so easily teach without doing much at all, give your students all of the attention and focus walk around the class and be there for them do small demos where needed and do more therapeutic sequences 🙂

  4. yogadude says:

    Brilliant! If you flow, don't go…

  5. "T" says:

    You have given me a great excuse to skip out on your classes when I'm on my cycle 🙂 I can be type A and push or force myself to go to yoga class or for a run because its good for me, but the worry is always there when one pose or twist could potentially will ruin a cute outfit. Your advice makes complete sense and a wonderful excuse to rest too!

  6. Farnoosh says:

    Interesting thoughts, Kathryn – Oh it's such an inconvenience though…….I tend to practice during my lovely "flow" time did you call it? :)) – but I take the first day off…….And you love Jane Austen too. You are just perfect! Thanks for the sweet thoughts here………I'll have more excuses to eat chocolate and read :)!!!

  7. johanna says:

    i miss my flow.

  8. Love your lively fun post on no inversions period when you flow. It is a vata time. Stillness calms vata and of course chocolate by the handful, well not sure if chocolate calms vata but it sure tastes good when you are lying around calming your vata!

  9. Brittany says:

    I usually do yoga to support the downward moving prana. No inversions or half-inversions such as forward bends, or down dog. Yoga today has a great segment for your cycle if you are interested and it isn't strenuous, but relaxing!

  10. TiffanyYoga says:

    Budig ROCKS! Love you Kathryn…

  11. The Deacon says:

    I personally have found I am more flexible during this time and while I don't do strenuous arm balances and hang out in handstand …… backbends, twists, splits, deep hip openers are on the menu. Often it feel just too good not too. I just need to work out the kinks to help the flow flow. This means listening to the body and indulging and doing what feels good without the rules….Then after some supine asana's and super hips the organic chocolate bar is next on the menu.

  12. guest! says:

    i only read the 1st paragraph because all the name brand dropping made me roll my eyes.

    • guest2 says:

      name dropping like Trader Joe's or name dropping like "tampons"? or Jane Austen? you missed out!

    • Giz says:

      agree!!! I found this article to be utter rubbish. Once upon a time, when women in the west did everything to keep the family mocing…fair enough…grab a rest whenever you can, -(in some parts of the world this "Red Tent" theory still holds, and of course thses are areas where women work from dawn to dusk…but for those of in living a modern life style, that can buy bread, or bake it from choice not need, this idea of a monthly holiday is a nonsense. Of course you should listen to your body. You should ALWAYS listen to your body…and that includes sounds it makes when coming down from an inversion- I attend Iyengar classes where the tradition is not to practise inversions during menstruation…but the only person who really knows whether or not you are menstruating is of course you…so if I feel like inverting I do so…incidently there is research which supports the idea that inverting during a heavy period, ie first few days of a cycle may increase cramping etc..
      I found it hard to believe this article was written by a yogi, perhaps the whole thing was tongue in cheek and I'm just too grumpy (yes I am having my period!!) to get the humour…

  13. iloveginger says:

    very fun read!! im wondering what "queef"ing is in regards to tampons. anyway- people! we should not be using tampons or pads! I have been using the Diva Cup.. the environmentally responsible, convenient and reliable alternative to tampax, etc! check it out on http://www.divacup.com

    • Louise Brooks says:

      Please don't lecture women on what forms of feminine hygiene products they "should" be using. I dislike the diva cup and have something of an allergic reaction to it anyways.

      • iloveginger says:

        i am sorry to hear you have an allergy to it! my comment was far from a 'lecture' -i did not indicate we should all be using the Diva Cup. I simply stated what I AM using. i certainly believe we need an environ friendly option to pads and tampons- do you disagree?

        • Visitor says:

          I do not recommend it and my OBGYN doesn't either, ever since I went to her for help because it was too far for me to reach and it wasn't pleasant for me to have that removed by her… She didn't even return it to me and said I had to go back to conventional feminine products!

    • Jennifer says:

      I use one similar but it looks way smaller and softer than that. http://www.softcup.com and I say use what you think is right for your body. Everyone is going to have a different experience so never take one persons word for it unless you have tried it; but it's also nice to have other people's feedback so you can make a decision for what's right for you. Thanks for putting another alternative out there to the peeps iloveginer and I didn't take your comment as a negative one. Peace, Peace, Peace.

  14. Tia Ukpe says:

    Great insight 🙂 I would love to try to really stick to that and just take time off during my cycle, not even just my yoga practice, but from other things that I feel " I must do".

  15. maria buchsbaum says:

    Love you kathryn!

  16. bernadette says:

    Ok, in short, everybody stays on the couch except us diva users? 😉

    I often feel that I need yoga more during my period and my favorite asana happens to be an inversion. And it's a good idea not to try to deprive me of my favorite asana during my period 😉 Now, please pass the chocolate!

  17. Lisa says:

    Great article! I get really tired for a few days before my period- I usually take those days off and I also take the first 2 or 3 days off as well- it's generally about 4 to 7 days that I take off altogether. I have tried to fight through it in the past, but it never felt right for me. My body needs rest, so I give it rest (and chocolate. and chips) :). Btw, I use Diva Cup too!~ but I am still on the couch! I think it all comes down to we are all different. Some women will feel perfectly ok to practice all the way through their periods, some will not. We need to listen to our bodies and do what's best for us, and not judge others for being different!

  18. queefree says:

    she said queef! hahahahaa… literally *just* had that experience on my mat last week (not the actual event, but awareness of its potential). thanks for putting it out there, kathryn!

  19. Ella says:

    Great post Kathryn 🙂
    I remember being told to not get into wheel and plow at my first yoga class, still subscribe to the anti-inversion school of thought. However, I find that being in my flow (vinyasa and menstrual) helps me out big time when it's my monthly holiday. Crazy cartwheel hatha classes aren't my cup of tea but durga/restorative floats my boat. To avoid visible panty liner lines I donned a tutu to really celebrate my stance on womanhood. Ha! My BFF still cackles about it.

  20. […] the gift of yoga, I may have already flipped—perhaps this explains the sublime improvement in my inversions these […]

  21. Frances Dolsen says:

    Definitely its important to respect our body and give it a rest

  22. Charlotte says:

    My experience of inverting on my periods (back when I had them) was that it is a big no-no. Even if I inverted only long enough to show students how to get into an inversion, my periods would stop for a half day, usually resulting in horrible cramps until the dam broke and all hell broke loose. The other thing I noticed is that the more sensitive I became over the years I could actually feel any disruption of the apana flow that was predominant during my period, and it was extremely uncomfortable not only to invert but even sitting on a meditation bench (which supports upward energy flow) was too much.

  23. Aurora says:

    This was a good article. Since I started doing/teaching yoga, I totally even forget I'm having a period because there is no pain involved anymore….it was good reading this article to help me remember to cut myself some slack during those days….I shall remember: “no flow on my flow” and avoid inversions at that time as well 🙂

  24. I think if I had developed a serious yoga practice ten years ago when I was experiencing horrible periods and erratic mood swings then perhaps I would have been less likely to undergo the hysterectomy which save me from those awful things. I'm not complaining as not having periods has been one of the most transformational changes in my life. But what a shame that not one doctor (in literally dozens seen) EVER suggested trying yoga, meditation or breathing techniques for the symptoms.

  25. yoyoyogi says:

    Just a word about the Diva cup — nothing against it but I find even better for me is an organic cloth pad. Putting anything up in there seems to restrict flow, whether it's absorbing it like a tampon or catching it like the cup. And for me that restriction is what causes cramps, as much as any inversion. Anyone who has issues with cramps might want to try a washable pad … No waste, it's soft and comfortable, and you can feel it there which reminds you to honor the flow! Happy moons to all …

  26. home page says:

    A cracking abstract is it to use or test.

  27. Maj says:

    Well, this article was a bit bullshitty, wasn’t it? Way to promote ridiculous stereotypes that women can’t do anything but sit on the couch reading romance novels and eating ice cream during their periods. I continue my life, work, and exercise for the majority of my period, as do many of my fellow badasses. Also never experienced a tampon-induced queef! 😉

  28. Hey, you used to write wonderful, but the last several posts have been kinda boring¡K I miss your great writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track! come on!

  29. […] Bonus, via Kathryn Budig: On Yoga, Chocolate & Periods. […]

  30. Jill D. says:

    Promoting a "ladies holiday" during your period sets women back 50 years. What evidence do you have for your position here – your own self-pity? Many of us carry on with regular activities during our periods because guess what? That week is just like any other, except you're bleeding. If you take one week out of every four off, that's a quarter of your life spent being a wimp on the couch and making excuses to not exercise. I don't need Jane Austen during my period any more than I need her the other 75% of the time. Get over your self-pity and stereotypes about delicate women and get your butt off the couch.

  31. […] Hmm, either the narrator is a computer, or has forgotten that the beginning of your “lady time” is best spent curled up on the couch with a sad movie and some high quality chocolate. […]

  32. […] Ashtanga is a six day a week practice, with Saturdays, new moons and full moons off, as well as “Ladies’ holidays.” After practicing daily for the past 25 days, the idea of taking a day off made me a little anxious. […]

  33. kay says:

    i was looking whether or not to do yoga during my period and found this article. I have a desk job and doing yoga loosens me up. When my period comes I have terrible cramps and I get so nauseated. It effects my work! I missed days of work because of it. I always wondered if doing yoga will help cramps (usually it’s so bad I can’t do any streneous exercise. I usually walk and stretch and lift light weights)

    Now that I’m self employed I don’t work as hard when on my period (instead of pushing papers and acting like Im working when I feel absolutely terrible and eating pain meds to get thru the day). I have a tablet now so I do my work on it while in bed and curled up with a heating pad.

  34. […] of energy in the body. It is advanced in a retro-ditz-delicate-flower piece by Kathryn Budig on elephant journal. “I officially mark myself as senseless during the preceding days as the first few of the […]

  35. Personally, I've found that working out while on my period really helps with cramps/bloating. I've even read a couple news articles supporting physical activity as a means to lighten flow/decrease cramping. I suppose it's just personal choice, though.

  36. DeeDee says:

    personally, a go about my normal activities including yoga, gym, running… during the "flow" , i guess it all depends on a person…. i dont experience , and never have , any pains, discomfort, pms or other common period "side efects, and feel completely normal those 2-3 days it normaly lasts in my case, so i really dont see a reason why should i behave differently then usual on those days….

  37. Carolina says:

    Thank you for this article Kathryn ! I shared it with the women in my circle – Time to honour our bodies indeed and embrace our cyclic nature ! It is ok to give ourselves a break, go with the flow 🙂 indeed, eat chocolate and get the insights we need to find creative solutions and new directions in our lives. Our period gives us tremendous opportunities , let's use them!
    My practice during the flow is resting my lower back and spine on small cushions that I designed for this, allowing the hips to open up and relax, relaxing the abdomen area with a very gentle "pull" thanks to gravity and my own body weight – I top it up with visualisation on the internal organs and I breath the pain away in the posture – that is all and it feels good .

  38. fly says:

    way to disempower women and make a joke of a very sacred and beautiful time of the month. this flippant treatment of yoga and menstruation is a disappointment.

  39. Alex says:

    Queef! Hilarious! Thanks Kathryn. Although I can't stand the term 'ladies holiday' ha ha I don't know why. I just judge how I feel, if I am sludge I rest and that is all. Raw cocoa is my best friend mixed in yoghurt with cinnamon and xylitol during the cycle. Oh and Matcha and Floradix heh heh.

  40. Vane says:

    India didn't want ladies practicing on the rag. If I'm up to it, I will. If I am not i listen to body and ont. I heard you disrupt the flw. Rubbish.

  41. Jessi Farley says:

    This article, though I am sure not intended to be, is hurtful, insulting, oppressive, and damaging to women and I suppose yoga too. I don’t need to curl up with ice cream on the couch at any point in my cycle due to my hormones. I recognize my need for sleep and heightened emotion prior to menstrating, but other than that, I am not incapacitated during any point of my cycle. My yoga practice and yoga teaching is strong throughout. I do not practice inversions regularly other than down dog, and I don’t practice forward folds anymore because they are debilitating to the SI Joint from overstretching the ligaments, which I personally experienced. If you can’t sustain a practice during menstrating, maybe you should look at how valuable those poses are in the first place. I will be taking a solid class this morning and rock it on my period and I will teach one tonight and work in between the two classes. Why do we feel we need to shut down and not function on our period. Why is Pattabhi Jois become the expert on the uterus, ovaries, and menstrating? Just because he has inappropriatly touched a lot of vaginas during adjustment doesn’t mean he is a OBGYN. Seriously, think more before you write. Women, let’s empower women!

  42. Adam Sewell says:

    Being a MALE yoga and tai chi instructor probably lessens my credibility somewhat but I would say if your 'Ladies Holiday' is that bad, maybe a more meditational based practice works better. However, I have read dozens of studies from all over the world and never found one that states women should not invert during their cycle. Physiologically it doesn't quite make sense and although I have heard it before, it was always in the context of having come from Guruji or someone associated with asana practice in the days before exercise science got involved….The bottom line is, if it doesn't feel good, don't do it….but there ya go – I'm just a guy! Namaste.

  43. sina says:

    really funny and beautiful article…best is do yin yoga..very restorative and healing, certain poses even help to release pain in back and belly. And the big topic of inversions..if you feel good , you can do them..the body was smart to put some small hairs along the uterine tubes..so nothing can flow back…:)

  44. Jackie says:

    Lovely post. Ever since I started to experiment with Yoga I feel calmer, fitter and my periods are piratically painless. I have actually managed to convince a few of my friends and one of them said that it's a lot better if you using a mooncup, which I will be trying soon.

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