I suffer from very heavy periods, with a lot of pain. I’ve been practising yoga for about 10 years, but this hasn’t changed. Do you have any suggestions? Vanessa Gorens, via email
When there is dysfunction at a physiological level, there is usually a disturbance at a pranic and/or mental or emotional level. So, we need to work a little deeper than at the level of the purely physical body. The practices of soothing and cooling pranayamas, mantra repetition and “witnessing” meditation techniques, along with non-aggravating asana practice, are all recommended.
When we think of asanas for “moon time”, we often think of poses such as Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose) or seated forward bends. Though these may be beneficial for some women, all of these postures increase the flow of apana prana (the prana in the area of the lower abdomen that is in control of the menstrual flow, as well as excretion, urination and other eliminative functions). They therefore would all tend to increase the flow.
To reduce the flow, avoid all postures that either stretch, or compress, the lower abdomen (and thus stimulate apana prana). The following exercise is ideal, as the abdomen remains soft.
Lie on your back, with the calves on a low chair or stack of bolsters and blankets—this relaxes the lower belly. From this position, gradually lengthen the exhalation until it is twice as long as your natural inhalation. By lengthening the in and out breaths by one count at a time, work towards a count of 5 for the in breath and a count of 10 for the out breath, if that is comfortable.
Begin to chant the mantra Om on the exhalation at these six points: below the navel; navel; above the navel; heart; throat; eyebrow centre. At each point, chant the mantra once softly, once only with lip movement and once mentally. Repeat three times. Practice this and only this in the morning and in the evening, and avoid exertion at other times during your period.
During the rest of the month, practice this exercise every evening. Also include cooling and soothing practices in your yoga routine, and avoid heating practices, as well as stress.