By April Tesson for Yoga Medicine®.
Did you know that your body goes through four distinct cycle phases each month? Hormonal changes during each stage can lead to dramatic shifts in your mood and energy levels.
This helps explain why some days you get on your yoga mat, and your practice is strong and effortless; but other days, your body feels heavy, tired, and you desperately crave Savasana.
I will show you how easy it is to track your cycle and then share a few recommended yoga practices to support where you are at in your cycle.
Let’s get started!
How to Track Your Cycle
These are the main things to think about when you are tracking your cycle to optimize your yoga practice:
- Cycle length (day 1 is the first day of your bleed and the last day is the day right before your period begins)
- How many days you bleed or spot
- The intensity of flow (heavy vs. light)
- Physical symptoms like headaches, cramps, bloating, energy level
- Emotional symptoms like moodiness, excitability, focus
I recommend starting today with a super simple approach and building from there. It doesn’t matter where you are at in your cycle; if you try to wait to start on the first day of your cycle, you may forget by then, so you might as well start now! And an easy place to start is by tracking your emotional symptoms.
Recommendations for the Phases of Your Cycle
If you are interested in adapting your yoga and movement practices for the different phases of your cycle, here are some recommendations for every phase based on the hormonal fluctuations.
Remember that every body is different, and the best recommendation is always to listen to yours and do what feels right for you!
Phase 1: Menstruation
The theme here is “Letting Go,” but it’s not all rest. It’s important to find types of movement to support the clearing out and release of the uterine lining in this phase.
Think breathwork, movement through the pelvis (cat/cow), slow sun salutations, and compress/release methods focused around the belly that will bring nutrients to local tissues.
It’s essential to listen to and honor your body’s wisdom, Day one/two of your cycle may be a therapeutic practice focused on rest, while Day 3 may be slow sun salutations. You know your body best, trust your intuition, and listen deeply.
Phase 2: Follicular
The theme here is “Nourishment” – when the development of the follicles and the endometrium (the uterine lining that thickens to prepare for a potential pregnancy) occurs. You’ll likely feel more energized in this phase, making it an excellent time for higher intensity flows, with longer holds and a slightly faster pace. It’s important to balance energy output wisely and leave space for nourishment to happen.
Think sun salutations with flowing movement and breath to create gentle circulation and gradual warming balanced by restorative and yin poses that calm the body and reduce stress levels. Extended Savasana’s are a great idea here too!
Phase 3: Ovulation
The theme here is “Movement + Warmth.” Movement of energy, blood, and a dominant follicle being released to travel down a fallopian tube. This is an excellent time for a more vigorous practice to generate heat in the body balanced by calming practices and postures to support opening both physically and emotionally.
Think faster-paced flows, whole-body movements, twists, and heart openers. Equally important, though, are the calming posture/s that come after that heat to support energy balance, such as supported Baddha Konasana or child’s pose and extended Savasana (we’re a fan!) to amp up those relaxation, stress-less vibes.
Phase 4: Luteal
The theme here is “Warmth + Calm.” The first half of this phase may feel very different from the last half leading up to the start of your period! Early luteal may have you feeling full of energy and lightness, while late luteal may bog you down with physical discomfort and fluctuating moods as your period approaches. Know that within this phase (it’s a long one, 10-16 days), you could experience quite the range of physical and emotional shifts, so choose classes that support where you are at each day.
Think slow flows that will create gentle, gradual warming in the body. Fluid, rhythmic, repeated movements between two poses, movement through the pelvis, compression and release techniques, and longer holds to calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels. Overall, honor and tune in to what your body needs to feel nourished and be ready to adapt and adjust!
To Wrap Things Up
Women are hormonally more complex than men. Let’s honor our bodies’ cyclical ebbs and flows and enjoy our yoga practice in a way that supports our cycles and facilitates whole, optimized health.
If you want to see for yourself what it looks like to adapt your yoga practice to your cycle, check out my FREE video series here. Enjoy four short and sweet practices that meet you where you are at hormonally.