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It’s the Holiday Before Your Ladies’ Holiday

March 7, 2011

The topic of Ladies’ Holiday is much debated in yoga circles.  In some traditions, women are encouraged not to practice during menstruation. Others will say you can practice, but should not do any inversions.

In Ashtanga, women are asked not to practice during the first three days of their LH.  BKS Iyengar also recommends no asanas during The Monthlies, but he does allow that a handful of poses – namely Upavistha Konasana, Baddha Konasana, Virasana, Janu Sirsanana, Paschimottanasana, and Uttanasana – can be beneficial to a woman having an usually heavy month, though he also stresses that one should never stand on one’s head while Aunt Flow is in town.

Most of the women I know ignore all this advice, and I myself long thought the whole contraindication was silly.  Exercise helps relieve cramps, and my biology degree lent me an understanding of human anatomy that tells me that I can stand on my head all damned week if I want to without risk of bits of uterus breaking off and heading northward.  The only thing I noticed about my Special Lady Time in my first couple of years of practice was that I seemed to be a little weaker, my joints a bit more flexible, and my balance totally shot.  If anything, I would avoid headstand because I always felt like I would tip over, not because my Lady Prana was going to get all confused.

Then I started practicing Ashtanga six days a week, and while I didn’t do this math at the time, my reproductive organs took on a life of their own.  For a solid year, I no longer knew my own body.  I was suddenly unable to predict this thing I’d been doing for almost 20 years.

One day, I listened to a podcast by the inimitable Kino MacGregor.  She mentioned something about intense bandha and core work making the whole Monthly Ordeal part of womanhood way more intense and painful.  So I gave the “Holiday” part of “Ladies’ Holiday” a try.  Ten months later,  I’m still a believer.

This past weekend, during Mysore practice, I started to wonder if PMS might not be even worse for yoga than menstruation itself .  In case anyone is confused by the distinction, I refer you to the helpful commercial that taught a generation that PMS wasn’t their fault, and that medication, as usual, was the answer:

Never have so many purely evil thoughts crossed my mind during practice as did this Sunday.  I hated almost everyone in the room, anyone with a good pose or a sloppy one, people who were or were not sweating; I was upset about being left alone by the teacher, then equally annoyed when she assisted me…  I should’ve taken my Premsyn!

When practice was over, I left and hated some more. On my way home, I hated snow and slush and puddles and cars and dog poop and the owner of the Weimaraner from around the corner who lets his dog off leash to crap up the neighborhood.  When I got home I hated the sticky lock on the front door, the pile of boots in my way (my own, of course), the dusty floors, the empty fridge, the coffee that would have to be brewed before I could drink it.  (Can you imagine, in this day and age, that I would need to brew my own coffee?  Why do I not have a robot for stuff like this?)  Anyway, it went on like that, and didn’t stop until probably seven or eight at night, when my mood went on holiday, so to speak, and I became my old sweet self, just like the lady from 1986 predicted.

Do you think it would be okay if next month I take four days off instead of just the three?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2011 9:05 pm

    Yesss! Love the blog! I did not know you wrote, blogger buddy 🙂 PMS sucks, I am jealous of all men who don’t have to take a 3 day holiday. I wonder if you notice though that there is less of a level of ‘something’ maybe lactic acid (I know nothing) in the body during, that makes some postures more easily attainable like back bending? Either that or there are higher levels just before, which makes it more difficult. At any rate, viva la holiday!

    • March 7, 2011 9:54 pm

      I’ve mostly noticed it in the hips… but yeah, something definitely seems to open up. Small consolation for the rest of it, though!

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