The final days of my menstrual cycle…
I lay on the floor in Savasana, wiped out. The sweat rolled off my entire body. And yet I felt embraced by the weight of the heat and humidity.
In that moment, I knew day 1 of my menstrual cycle would be the next day or possibly the day after. The cramping had been so intense I didn’t even want to attend the hot yoga class.
Earlier that day I felt sluggish. And I honestly had not wanted to move off of my position on the couch.
Funny how inertia keeps us from acting. It’s the first step that’s always the hardest. After taking a first step there’s at least some momentum. But I’ll admit, there wasn’t much. Not that day.
Give Yourself an Out – Especially During Your Menstrual Cycle
And yet, I did it. I had promised myself I could leave if I still felt too much cramping or too lethargic after 10 minutes in the hot yoga room.
That’s my trick. If I give myself an out, I can usually at least get some benefit. I had a fitness coach a while back who would tell me, “Tina, don’t sabotage yourself because you think you can’t make it through an entire workout. Five minutes is better than no minutes of movement in your life.”
Turns out, Coach Christine was right. Not just because five minutes is better than no minutes. But also, giving myself a small goal with an easy out usually leads to a full workout in the end. Not always but most of the time it does. So, during the final days of my menstrual cycle, when I feel fatigue constantly, I give myself the out.
Once I get started, I typically feel like making it through the whole class. And it was definitely true this particular class. Even though my cycle was about to start, I made it through. On top of that, I felt exhausted, but in a good way. And my cramps had significantly decreased.
The Science Behind Yoga and Your Menstrual Cycle
Dr Mindy is all about women aligning their workout with their menstrual cycles. And she says the final week of our cycle, our bodies need the most rest and exercises that decrease stress. Why? Well, stress induces cortisol. And cortisol, as it turns out, decreases our body’s ability to produce progesterone. And we need progesterone in order for our cycle to end and start again.
At the end of our cycles, progesterone lets our bodies know to release the old and flush out toxins. It’s a natural rhythm designed yes, for reproduction, but also to protect us from disease. A menstrual cycle is a beautiful thing really.
To keep stress at bay, Dr. Mindy says we should avoid high stress exercises like HIIT and other extreme cardio routines during the final week of our menstrual cycle. And she specifically recommends yoga. Because it’s a stress reliever while it gives you a full workout. Plus, movement does give our bodies the chance to use up some of the extra cortisol. But overdoing it can put us in a cycle of stress.
For me, the heat has the added benefit of relieving cramping as well.
The good news is, yoga comes to the rescue! We know there’s good evidence of stress relief from yoga. Dr Mindy suggests yoga is perfect for the last week and first couple of days of our cycle.
And as I mentioned, with hot yoga, I received the added benefit of pain relief. Plus sweating it out on the mat is just another way to help your body release all those toxins at just the right time in your cycle.
Back to my Hot Yoga Class at YogaSol
I felt another drop of sweat roll off my stomach onto the mat. I deeply inhaled the heavy air. And I lay there in Savasana for another full minute.
The relief I felt was my body was telling me I had made the right decision coming to class. And I thanked myself for giving my body exactly what it needed at the end of my cycle today.