Lady’s holiday refers to the convention of women taking rest during the first three days of the menstrual cycle. However, I have it on good authority from my wife, Rachelle, that it is no “holiday” at all.
Guruji and Sharath have always encouraged women not to practice while on their periods, and to take “lady’s holiday”.
It recently came to my attention that an ashtanga yoga teacher here in Toronto has been pressuring female students to practice while on lady’s holiday and making them feel guilty or bad about themselves if they took rest.
I vehemently disagree with this behaviour. It makes me very angry to learn that an authorized teacher is spouting such garbage that contradicts what Guruji and Sharath have always taught.
There is a very eloquent answer to why women should take rest during their periods at http://joisyoga.com/practice/ladys-holiday/. I’ve also included it below. The italics are mine.
“It is recommended that women take three days of rest – often referred to as “ladies’ holiday” – during their menstrual period for several reasons. The purpose of the menstrual cycle is to prepare the body for pregnancy; when conception does not occur, the thickened lining of the uterus is shed through menstruation.
“One reason to take rest during the menstrual period is that the downward and eliminating flow during this time may be counteracted by inversions such as sarvangasana and sirsasana.
“A second, more subtle, reason is that engaging mula bandha may be more difficult and/or may counteract this downward flow. Without engagement of the bandhas, vigorous practice can be physically unsafe.
“A third, more general, reason is that excessive activity can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle or the cessation of menstruation (amenorrhea).
“Menstruation may therefore serve as a convenient time to rest as the body begins the next cycle. Though taking rest is recommended, it remains an individual choice. As the external and internal practice changes over time, the physical and spiritual importance of taking rest for a particular woman may change as well. If a woman decides to observe ladies’ holiday, she is still very much practicing yoga during this time, as yoga is far more than just asana.”
Any women who have experienced regular menstrual cramps can testify that engaging bandahs would seem an obvious common-sense bad idea during one’s period.
It is a woman’s individual choice whether she wants to observe lady’s holiday. However, I always encouraged female students to take lady’s holiday regardless of their menstrual symptoms. Even in a scenario in which individual women may not have strong symptoms of fatigue or cramps, I still have suggested rest as a way of practicing non-attachment. In rare cases when a student came to class while on her period, while I wouldn’t send the student home, I would encouraged going very easy, not engaging bandhas, not doing invesions. I would let her do what she could without pushing deeper, etc.
So, if there are any women in Toronto who have been feeling that practicing during their periods is counter-intuitive, physically exhausting and/or making their menstrual symptoms of cramping, etc. worse, you need to listen to your bodies and take rest.
There is not now nor has there ever been any prescription in Ashtanga Yoga practice for women to practice during the first three days of their cycles.
Hope this helps. Just trying to do my part to encourage sane practice in Toronto.