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To Invert...or Not to Invert (for the laaaaadays)

Posted May 15 2010 12:00am

So, okay, if you've ever been to even a single yoga class, most likely you've heard the teacher, when prepping everyone for inversions, say something along the lines of...

"If you're not inverting today, you can ________".

Which, if I may do a quick yogi-to-english translation, means: if you're on your period, don't go upside-down.

This is one of the first pieces of yogic lore that gets imprinted on you, if you're a woman, when you start practicing. Don't invert on your period! Your uterus might EXPLoooooooooode! (Not actually, your uterus won't actually explode.) And normally one is not given a lot of information about WHY this is the case. Just. Don't. Do. It.

I, for one, have never paid a lot of attention to this, for 2 reasons: 1. I f-ing LOVE inversions! They are my favorite favoritest thing. If I get 10 minutes in the day to do yoga, you can bet that I will manage to fit a headstand and some handstands into that brief little window. I looooove them, they are the part of class I look forward to the most (that and backbends), and I am not going to let some sticky little hormonal monster stop me from doing them! And, 2. I suffer from the sin of pride and I am going to be hard-pressed to sit out something that I am good at.


But, yesterday, I was in class...I'm (ahem) having my monthly visitor (please reread that sentence but make my writerly voice sound like an elderly british woman) and we were about to do headstand...a 5-minute headstand...and before I could even begin to get myself set up, this little voice inside me said a very teensy tinsy quiet little, NO.  And I just knew, for whatever reason, I am not going to invert.

So I had to sit there, waiting for Hagar (check her out people! She's AMAZING) to finish setting up headstand for everyone...waiting until she noticed my expectant little face so that she could tell me what I was supposed to do...instead.  (Horrors!)  She knew instantly what was up and she looked right at me (the ONLY one not getting ready for headstand) and said
"If you're not inverting today, you can do..." (looking at me, searching my face for inspiration) "...Hanuman." (That's the splits, for those of you who haven't gotten to "h" yet in your sanskrit primer.)

Great, Hanuman.  The pose that lately makes me feel like I need to run screaming from the room, that, if held for too long, makes my whole body start shaking uncontrollably and me have to put my head down so as not to cry.  That sounds like a great pose to do.  For 5 minutes. On my period.

(That last paragraph makes it sound like this post is going to be about some revelation I had in hanuman...but it's not.  Sorry...if any of you were waiting for that.)

No, the point of this whole little story is that I had a very clear very intutive message from my body that I was not supposed to go upside down during my special lady time this month.  (And it was pretty awesome, by the way, and my pride was not bothered one bit...because I got to do lots of juicy hip and groin openers while everyone else sweated it out on the top of their head, yo. Word.)  But, after class I was suddenly really curious...why AREN'T we supposed to invert when we're men-stroo-ating. (Oh my god, I'm just going to see how many weirdly embarrasing ways I can reference my Aunty Flo in one blog post.)

So I did a little research, people, for my own benefit and for the benefit of my loyal readers, and here's what I found out
There is no good reason you're not supposed to invert during your monthly visitor.

Okay, so I guess people used to think it contributed to endometriosis (that to me sounds like it has about as much a medical basis as masturbation induced blindness, but you know...).  Apparently there also is some tiny tiny tiny risk for vascular constriction in the uterus, but that also has been pretty debunked.

There is some yoga science behind it, which is that the energetic properties of your goddess time (eesh, that one made me cringe!) are "apana" or downward flowing, and it is disruptive to the system to reverse such a strong downward movement by turning it upside-down.  This makes some sense to me, and when I pinpoint the feeling I had about not inverting it was definitely related to not jarring my system--so to me, this little gem makes the most sense.  The flow is down and out for those 3-5 days, so don't screw with it.

HOWEVER, I read an article in Yoga Journal that said even THAT is a little bit unfounded, because some ancient wise-type yogis say that doing inversions can be a remedy for too much downward flow (all the ladies in the house say yeeeeeeeah.) and that if you have an irregular or over-zealous period inversions can actually be a cure, not a hindrance.  AND, the uterus is inverted in many many poses, including downdog and standing forward bends, and no one ever warns against doing those during your laday-time.

So...grand conclusion....(drum-roll, please)...

It. Is. Totally. Your. Call.

It's totally totally up to you.  You can be like me who, if I practiced with the same teacher everyday, would appear to get my period once every 5 years, or you can consider your special time a free pass to do restoratives while everyone else's face is turning red from's your perogative.  What I discovered, which is always heartening, is that my body will tell me when it's okay and when it isn't.

So, listen close, and let those other non-hormonal SUCKAS do the inversions for you!

Or don't.

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