Over the years, Jill has had many aerialists ask her if it is harmful to do aerial while on their period, so we decided to do a deep dive into this somewhat taboo topic.
Should you do aerial while on your period?
Our answer is do whatever feels good for you! There is no empirical evidence that aerial while menstruating is harmful, and there is limited research around exercise and menstruation. If you feel like it, go for it! If you don’t, then don’t! Everyone is different. If you decide to opt out of things that wrap tightly around your lower back and pelvic area during a phase when you are cramping or feeling bloated, then abstain. We want to empower you to make your own decisions for your body.
Is it harmful to invert while menstruating?
Some classical yoga schools assert that it is harmful to invert while menstruating. In fact, some yogic schools forbid women from practicing yoga at all while on their periods. These schools forbid inversions during menstruation because it is thought that inverting disturbs the natural movement of downward flowing energy (or apana) for healthy elimination of the endometrium and blood.
Yogic flow of energy aside, a quick dive into western medicine and scientific viewpoints show little evidence that inverting while menstruating is dangerous. The main concern is retrograde menstruation, where blood flows backwards into the fallopian tubes. However, there is no scientific evidence that inverting causes retrograde menstruation. In fact, its cause has not been studied. What IS known is that 90% of all menstruators experience retrograde menstruation. Because of the prevalence, doctors believe that retrograde menstruation is a normal aspect of menstrual function and is only a medical concern if and when it causes symptoms and leads to other conditions.
We couldn’t find studies on doing aerial while on your period. There are however some studies that show that yoga can help with irregular periods, some adverse premenstrual symptoms, and overall well-being during the luteal and menstrual phases of the menstrual cycle.
Where does this exclusion of menstruating women from yoga come from?
Abstaining from yoga while menstruating may have roots in strict Brahmin practices in India where women were considered “dirty” during their period. Though one could surmise that this was to allow menstruating women to turn inward and have time at home while menstruating, forcing women to be cloistered during menstruation is more often a patriarchal banishment than a celebration of a menstruating woman’s cycle. Menstruation is a globally stigmatized issue, and cultures all over the world (not just in India) have developed harmful, even destructive ideas and beliefs about menstruation. In the Western world, menstruating women in tune with their lunar cycles have been considered mentally unwell for centuries. The English word “lunantic” comes from the word “luna” meaning “moon.” The word “hysteria” comes from “hyster” meaning “uterus” or “womb,” and many women were prescribed hysterectomies for acting “crazy.” Menstruating women have even been deemed “witches” and were persecuted and killed for having intuition and “crazy” spells. As a result of this taboo, there is a critical lack of health education resources available to people about the menstrual cycle, which perpetuates myths that isolate and shame menstruating women.
Why We Believe That It’s Important to Track Your Menstrual Cycle
A lot of menstrual cycle knowledge has been lost due to systemic misogyny; many menstruating women are made to feel like they are unclean, and that their feelings or moods during this time are to be ignored or invalidated. However, we believe that the phases of the menstrual cycle have an important role to play in our lives. We believe that by understanding and getting in touch with the phases of the menstrual cycle, we can reclaim this knowledge! Getting to know who you are at all of the phases of your cycle is a radical act of self love! We encourage you to love all of the parts of you--the brighter shinier parts and also the parts that are perceived as “darker” and that society doesn’t always believe are important. We suggest logging your menstrual cycle and symptoms in period tracking apps, journals, or calendars. This can help you tune into your body and help you plan and structure your training around these changes.
Understanding the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Suggestions on Strategies for Each Phase
The Menstrual Cycle, also called the luteal cycle, can range from 21-35 days in most menstruating women with regular cycles. Each phase of the cycle comes with a word that we believe embodies a useful strategy to take during that phase. These are generalizations and vary from person to person.
Luteal Phase - FEEL: The luteal phase commences the day after ovulation and continues until the period starts. This phase is commonly known as the PMS or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome phase. Progesterone shoots up and estrogen increases slightly. You may feel more sensitive or low-energy, and you might feel like you are unable to do what you normally can during a different phase. Many menstruating women feel cramping or pain. Emotions are high, and you might be more affected by things that you would “normally” not react so strongly to. During the luteal phase you are generally going to be more reactive to some underlying issue that is not being honored properly. This is a great time for introspection--take note of what it is that you are reacting to. Whether this is inner work, or an issue that needs to be brought up with a coworker or roommate, this is important life stuff that needs to be addressed. Even if you don’t understand your feelings at this point, let them happen and take note of them!
In aerial, this may be the time to do a solo training session, maybe at an open gym or at a safe private rig. You can also take this time to do yoga or cross-train in a way that you can go at your own pace and avoid comparison. Some people feel that PMS symptoms decrease with exercise due to the natural endorphin high that can also alleviate cramps.
Menstrual Phase - PROCESS: The menstrual phase starts after the luteal phase and is commonly referred to as the “period.” Progesterone and estrogen decrease, and the creative and logical parts of your brain work well together. Many people feel a sense of calm, relief, and clarity. Some people feel more tired and less energetic with the crash of hormones. Some feel less efficiency, stamina, and effectiveness. This is when you can process the feelings that you were having during the luteal phase more objectively. You can see the big picture and patterns more clearly and can figure out why it is that you felt the way you did. However, this is not the time to take action, but rather to process the information and figure out why you feel what you feel. If you are able to give them the time and space, this is when deep desires and connections emerge. It’s ok to say “no” to parties and networking events and take this time to hang out with yourself, think about what you want, and where you’re going. We encourage you to not resist and feel bad about not being able to do everything during this time. Take time to be with yourself and not feel pressure to be anything for anyone else.
If you decide to partake in aerial while on your period, allow yourself a bit of grace to take it a bit easier than you normally would. With that said, if you are a professional performer there aren’t ‘off’ days for being on your period. As we know, the show must go on. If possible, it may be beneficial to avoid extra training on those days to protect your energy. A little pre-show meditation followed by uplifting music may help too.
Follicular Phase - PLAN: The follicular phase starts at the end of the menstrual phase. Estrogen increases to stimulate follicular growth. Serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, aka the happy hormones, also start to rise! You feel happier and see things more clearly. You are interactive, vibrant, and excited during this time. Now you know what the problem is, so it’s time to fix it! This is when you make the plans and figure out the creative solutions; you’re great at figuring out how to do and accomplish things and solve problems.
In aerial, this is a great time for choreography play, wrap theory and fine tuning that sequence you may have found challenging during your luteral or menstruation phases.
Ovulation Phase - EXECUTE: This occurs when the ovary releases a mature egg. It is time to execute and take action! Your verbal skills are at their peak during this time. Write website copy, grant proposals, reports, and have the hard conversations during this time.
In aerial, this is a great time to book an aerial photo shoot, record your Teacher Training application video, create Instagram content, maybe even get out of your comfort zone and try a new apparatus or class.
Do you track your menstrual cycle? Do any of these phases resonate with your own experience? We’d love to open up the conversation about this topic to make it less taboo.
Written by Nafeesa Islam & Jill Franklin
Sources Used & Further Reading
Belluck, P. (2016, April 21). Periods in Space Are Not That Different, Though a Bit More Complicated.
Martini, Frederic, et al. Human Anatomy. Pearson, 2015.
Sourial, S., Tempest, N., & Hapangama, D. K. (2014). Theories on the Pathogenesis of Endometriosis. International Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 9.
Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. William Morrow, 2015