14 January 2011

What are ladies' holidays in Ashtanga yoga?

Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic form of yoga practiced six days a week. Ladies' holidays are when women are menstruating and are advised to refrain from practising Ashtanga yoga, during the
first three days of menses.

I have looked at the different anatomical reasons for not practising Ashtanga at this time and here are a couple of examples:

Inverted poses

Where the head is lower than the heart, affects the downward flow of the menstrual cycle. Mula bandha and uddiyana bandha Are internal muscular locks, used during this yoga practice, to increase the upward flow of Prana (energy). During menstruating the natural flow is downward Apana, therefore affecting a woman’s natural cycle. A lot has been written about this subject but I have chosen not to list them (see last paragraph)

When I first started to practice Ashtanga yoga I did not adhere to “Ladies' holidays” and I still have a little bit of a problem with the “ladies” word, but I am not about to try and change Sri K. Pattabhi Jois' language to suit my own.

As Ashtanga became a regular part of my life and I became more aware of my bodies needs, I have grown to love these "ladies' holidays" and find a quietness and stillness in these non-physical practice days. When I return to my mat, I feel softer and it feels like a renewal on all levels. This is how I seem to practice yoga these days. My body [and mind] now has a cycle that is flowing. I no longer feel the need to go against my natural cycle and can now embrace the feminine changes (most of the time).

This, of course, is a personal view on "ladies' holidays" and probably says a bit about my personality. When I first started I did not want to be told by a man that I could not do something during my period. I thought if a man can practice Ashtanga yoga everyday, then so can I. I looked at the pros and cons, I analysed the bio-mechanical reasons for and against Ashtanga yoga "ladies'
holidays" and I eventually withdrew from the debating society.

When I discussed this with one of my yoga teachers, who has been practising for over thirty years, she laughed and said that also felt like that in the early days but soon changed her
mind and looks forward to those days off from this physically demanding practice.

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