There is a lot of discrepancy around the Do’s and Don’ts of exercise while on your period. There’re also a whole lot of mixed messaging (depending on who’s telling the story) around menstruation in general. As always, my aim is not to convince you to listen to me above anyone else, and CERTAINLY not above yourself. However, I have done some research and personal reflection, and have found ideas, tips, and information that I believe are worth sharing!
First, let’s talk menstrual phases
THERE ARE FOUR PHASES IN THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
- MENSTRUATION PHASE — Day #1 of bleeding. It is often associated with intuition, introspection, forgiveness, and death. When thought of seasonally, it pertains to Winter.
- FOLLICULAR PHASE — Begins during the first days of your period, up until Ovulation. This phase is frequently associated with hope, high-energy, focus, and communication (as sociability is peaking). When thought of seasonally, this phase corresponds with Spring.
- OVULATION PHASE — Generally happens 13-15 days prior to the onset of bleeding. This phase is associated with playfulness, ripeness, creativity, sexuality + sensuality, and adventure. Ovulation is seen as Summer, when thought of as a season.
- LUTEAL PHASE — This is the 11-17 days following Ovulation. The Luteal phase is commonly associated with inwardness, hunger for sustenance (knowledge AND food), stillness, and evaluation of what’s working in our lives and what’s not. This phase corresponds with the season of Fall.
Now that we have a general idea of the phases of the menstrual cycle, let’s dive into why we’re here today: Menstruation and Movement.
LOOKING AT THE MENSTRUATAL PHASE
This is Day 1 of your cycle. The bleeding we call Menstruation is really the shedding of the endometrium — the innermost layer of the uterine wall. If no fertilized egg is implanted, then the lining is shed so you can start the cycle over again.
This is a time of deep reflection and intuition, not of strenuous activity or intense physical/mental exertion. With that said, it does not mean you have to lay down all day and not move a muscle, but, prioritizing mindfulness and gratitude for your body might be well received.
(suggested) Do’s and (maybe) Don’t’s
I am presenting you with information I have found that feels right to me, but I could never tell you exactly what you should do, since YOU are the only person who knows what feels right to YOU. However, these are generally what seem to be helpful, “healthy”, and make menstruating humans happy in the research and recon I’ve done. With that, again, listen to your body. Your mind may not know what’s “right” for you (yet), but I believe the body always does… and is always trying to tell us, if we just listen.
Feel who you are in each moment, and give yourself space to be that — especially during the gift of bleeding, since intuition and sensation often express themselves more freely during this time (for me, at least).
LIGHT MOVEMENT IS KEY
Walking, stretching, yoga, tai chi, gentle Pilates, dancing (intuitively; sacredly; maybe mellowly; maybe sensually), etc. could offer you some relief in physical discomfort and minor (or major) mental/emotional distress. I find that the phrase “motion elevates emotion” is nearly always true, but again, this is about YOU and YOUR body’s desires and needs, so only move if it feels right — and move how you want to.
* If tapping into your Divine Feminine energy through swaying hips, circling torsos, and/or rolling around on the floor to music (crying, yelling, sighing, moaning, singing, whatever) makes your soul delight, try this playlist made with you in mind. This is my preferred way to get out of the mind and into the body, whether blood is flowing or not.
If you are planning on getting your lymph flowing, muscles moving, and maybe even your heart rate up, don’t do any crazy high intensity workouts during this phase. Your body is already doing so much for you — not to mention what could arise in your heart (or energetic + emotional bodies in general) during this time — so be compassionate with yourself. Don’t stress/fatigue your physical body any more than it already is while bleeding. Do things that promote pleasure, recovery, relaxation, variety, and joy 🙂
If yoga is your homegirl during menstruation, don’t push yourself harder than necessary. Even if it’s not a sweat-dripping flow, “overdoing” it can simply mean over-stretching, and now there’s something else your body has to focus on mending.
Sometimes it feels as though our bodies are saying “dude wtf, this sucks and I’m hurting” while we bleed, so it could be a good thing to focus more on the poses that bring rest, healing, and indulgence over ones that will build muscle strength and endurance. Some nice, tender twists and forward folds can be absolutely DELICIOUS to help relieve cramps and yucky abdominal discomfort.
Another suggested “don’t” is to avoid inversions, if you’re someone sensitive to/aware of the energetics of the body. Now this might be a little hippie-dippie for some folk, so only take what you want:
If you think about menstrual bleeding, the energy is moving downward and out of you. When you’re upside down, the energy that naturally wants to flow down and out, is now flowing up and in. It’s not that your period blood is actually flowing up through your torso and you’ll start bleeding out of your eyeballs… but, steering clear of inversions while bleeding could aid in your body’s optimal alignment — whatever that means to you.
One last movement-based proposal while on your period is to keep the core work to a minimum (or paused all together). It’s not life or death, but crunching motions and extreme core activation could stress the parts of your body (abdomen, pelvic region, low back, reproductive organs, etc.) that are already doin’ their best to keep up with the high demands of menstruation. Again, just suggestions… you do you boo boo.
A fantastic, 8-minute long video from The House of Yoga that you can check out here has a woman named Veronica sharing an abundance of wisdom pertaining to yoga and the menstrual cycle, as well as some of the energetics, societal perspectives, and the hardships/blessings of being a menstruating human today. I had multiple videos prepared to link, but this one (as linked above) is THE one. Please give it a watch/listen if it appeals to you.
Almost anywhere you look for information on this topic, you will probably find different results, depending on the narrative. You’ll get a completely different response from the holistic practitioner vs. the clinical, textbook OB-GYN. The same goes with the women’s body-building community vs. the chick who uses the pill to skip her period each month, vs. you, vs. me, vs. your grandma, vs. the average Joe-Shmoe on the street with a *cough cough* potentially-patriarchally-rooted societal viewpoint of women’s inherent bodily functions *cough*… (Not totally blaming the patriarchy, but also kind-of-definitely blaming the patriarchy). ¯_(ツ)_/¯
What I’m trying to say is that no matter where you look, you’re going to be told (and sold) a variety of conflicting evidence. This is why thinking for yourself is the only option that will serve you best. Heck, don’t even listen to me! Question this friggin’ blog post and go out and do more research for yourself — and your friends, and daughters, and sisters, and others.
The biggest take away from this…
If I could leave you with only ONE thing out of all of this, it would simply be: Don’t push yourself. Listen to your body. Period. (wink)
Period products we like:
Cora Organic Cotton Tampons: Regular and Super