Women of a certain age understand that they are at the mercy of their hormones, particularly when it comes to energy levels. With changing hormonal patterns during the four phases of the menstrual cycle, energy levels fluctuate. During some parts of the cycle, women feel energised, and at others, exhausted. According to Yoga expert Rina Hindocha, the fluctuation in energy can be minimised by adjusting the practice of yoga to suit each phase, to work with the ups and downs and experience better ease all month long.
One of the aims of practicing Yoga is to gain energy to do everything that needs to be done in a day; and gain peace too. It is meant to reduce stress, not add to stress levels. It should support a positive outlook and a balanced way of life, rather than promote unhealthy patterns and behaviours.
Rina highlights the key features of each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle and suggests yoga exercises apt for them all.
Menstrual Phase — Days 1-7
Key feature: REFLECTION
With energy at its lowest ebb and possible physical symptoms associated with the period, this is a good time to slow down and reflect. While a feeling of lethargy is very likely, the body can be nourished by capitalising on this particular state of mind. Yoga practice can be gentle, seeking to restore energy balance and ease bloating and pain. Consider a light stretch, meditation with breath work, or a Yin Yoga session for long, deep stretches along with Yoga Nidra. Inversions and core work are not needed during this soft phase. Be gentle.
l Bada Konasana
l Eka Pada Rajakatpotasana
l Ardha Mukha Svanasana
l Supine Twist
l Supine Goddess
Follicular Phase — Days 8-13
Key feature: CREATIVITY
This is the time for creativity to flow. Energy starts to lift, endurance increases. Try listening to some inspiring music or mantras and feel the dance-like qualities evolve. The phase can be used to gradually build up to bringing back inversions, stronger core work and big back bends.
Luteal Phase — Days 22-28
Key feature: LISTENING TO YOUR BODY
Listening to your inner voice becomes especially important during the Luteal Phase, lasting 10 to 14 days, as the body prepares for the period. You may experience increased energy during the beginning of this phase, followed by a need to transition to lower impact activities toward the end. Start with a Heated Vinyasa and end the phase with a slow Hatha. The Hatha flow will slow things down, giving you time to discover what your body craves, to listen to your intuition and to reduce anxiety.
If you start to feel PMS at the end of this phase, gentle but rhythmical, dynamic sequences such as Surya Namaskar may be the answer. Poses such as the Yin Sphinx which work the kidneys and the adrenals are great at this time. Yin as well as Yang Yoga move energy around the body and keeps one balanced and grounded.
l Surya Namaskar
l Flowing Downward Dog and Warrior sequences
l Crescent Lunge twists
l Cobra, Shalabsana, Bow pose
l Shoulder Stand and Halasana
l Twisted Roots
The phases will vary in length from person to person, but paying attention to your body will allow you to maximize your unique potential during each part of the cycle. With so many types of yoga classes available, whether it be indoor or outdoor, a group class or online sessions, there will something to meet each person’s specific needs. Relax, have fun, and enjoy the positive effects of a regular yoga practice!
Follicular Phase — Days 8-13
Key feature: Increase STAMINA
This is the prime time to burn energy, as hormone levels peak. Explore new poses that you thought were way too difficult (obviously under expert guidance). Try Ashtanga Yoga or Vinyasa Flow to generate internal heat, or Yoga Sculpt classes, incorporating lots of poses and testing your stamina.
It’s a good time for elongated balance poses, like Warrior 3 (aka Virabhadrasana III or Eka Padasana) which test and complement inner steadiness.
l Ardha Chandrasana and variations
l Handstand preparation and practice
l Urdhva Dhanurasana
l Arm balance exercises such as Bakasana, Astavakrasana