Last week, Rebecca forwarded us an email that had come in from one of the SGU listeners, Stuart in India. He wrote:
I have recently been listening to women who are practicing yoga asana and they have been told by their teacher (Trika Yoga) that to perform inverted postures so as to prevent menstruation is beneficial to women. They argue that reabsorbing the chemicals produced during menstruation helps to prevent disease and also gives you renewed energy. One lady has practiced this for a year approximately and she says by her own experience that she feels generally more enlivened.
As you can imagine, I was intrigued. I have practiced yoga for many years because it keeps me in good shape and helps my back and posture. At the core, yoga is generally good exercise and a healthy practice, if you want to strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. However, yoga is also surrounded by mysticism and spirituality and it can be difficult to get the reality when learning about it. I’m very used to glazing over during the talk of ‘oneness with the universe’ and ‘interdependence between mind and spirit’ that you inevitably hear as benefits of yoga. Luckily, you practice yoga on a mat, which is very convenient for nodding off during the boring bits.
Stuart’s question, however, was one I hadn’t heard of before.Â Most of my yoga instructors have advocated against doing any inverted postures while playing in the Ragtime band. The reasoning was never very clear to me but as far as I could tell, went something along the lines of ‘things will go upside down and be icky.’ Apparently, this yoga teacher was claiming that not only should you perform inverted postures, you should perform a LOT of inversions; so much so that you actually stopped the siege of the Red Army altogether.
First, I tried to find anything on the interwebs about this practice. Nada. I found nothing that referenced yoga for stopping a girl from trolling for vampires, nothing that said anything about benefits of reabsorbed menstrual chemicals preventing disease. I’m sure this yoga teacher was saying these things; unfortunately, this is so nuts it hasn’t even made it to the internet. Which, I’ll admit, is pretty impressive. I also talked to the always awesome SkepDoc, Harriet Hall, who checked the PubMed and other sources for any research around this and found nothing.
Regardless of the research or lack thereof, the facts are that inverted postures are not going to stop your red badge of courage. Although gravity might temporarily slow menstrual flow, as soon as you go back to right side up, the accumulated flow will continue. As to reabsorbing chemicals during Shark Week, again, there doesn’t appear to be any research around this either; it appears to be a new variant on old detoxification myths.
I also did some research as to whether there is any real danger around doing inverted postures while surfing the crimson wave. This also appears to be a myth. Staying in an inverted posture could slow the menstrual flow due to gravity and could potentially cause additional cramping due to accumulated flow but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of long term harm.
One of the concerns with inversions is that doing an inverted posture while donating to the red cross could cause menstrual tissue to end up in the fallopian tubes and this could cause endometriosis.Â This seems to have come from an early theory of the cause of endometriosis which is no longer considered plausible. Most women (90% of women) have “retrograde” menstruation but most do not develop endometriosis.
So what’s the conclusion? Like most exercise, yoga can help relieve some of the discomfort of composing a period piece. Doing inverted postures doesn’t appear to do any harm, but like with most yoga, listen to your body; if you feel pain, don’t do it. The same is true for most exercise, really.Â And if you have excessive cramping or other reactions to any exercise.. yep, you guessed it – check with your doctor; there could be something else going on.