The luteal phase is the fourth and final phase of the Menstrual Cycle, coming in at around days 18-28 (this varies from person to person and cycle to cycle). Adapting your yoga for the luteal phase can be a really useful tool to help with many of the different traits that can affect you during this phase.
What is happening during the Luteal Phase
Progesterone becomes the most dominant hormone during this phase. It is produced by the corpus luteum at Ovulation. Progesterone works to thicken the lining of the uterus and breast tissue. If you are pregnant, what happens next is the body will start to produce human chorionic gonadotropin to maintain the corpus luteum. If you are not pregnant, then the corpus luteum will start to dissolve, leading to a drop in progesterone, which is the body’s signal to start menstruation.
Common Symptoms during the Luteal Phase
This can be a tricky time in the cycle for many. Physically, women may start to become troubled by bloating, cramps, insomnia, digestive upsets, headaches and tender breasts. Emotionally, it can really knock you sideways, with rising feelings of anxiety, self-criticism and irritability, among others. These symptoms are also often grouped under the term PMS.
A study was undertaken in 2015 to examine the effects of attending a short-term yoga class to help alleviate PMS symptoms. The study concluded that yoga can make women feel more relaxed and peaceful after moving through a yoga practice, compared to the group who did not practice yoga.
Adapting your yoga for the luteal phase is definitely worth exploring if you are looking to alleviate some trouble-some PMS symptoms.
Yoga Poses to Avoid During the Luteal Phase
To reap the benefits of practising yoga during this phase, it is important to adapt your practice to meet the current needs of your body. Progesterone has a heating effect, so it is best to avoid poses that are going to increase the body’s temperature even more. It’s definitely not the week to try out a Hot Yoga Practice!
There is mixed research on the level of injury risk during this time. The individual mix of hormones can make you feel more flexible and, therefore, more prone to over-extending yourself, which could result in injury. Always listen to your body and find your edge. It’s going to be counter-productive to push yourself too far if your body is not in the right place for it.
I find my balance can be more off during this phase. I have definitely experienced a few more wobbly Tree Poses during this time. If you feel that your balance is off, then use the support of a wall or a chair during your practice to help reduce your risk of injuring yourself.
Yoga for the Luteal Phase
On my YouTube Channel, Sunflower Yoga, I have a collection of short videos to help adapt your yoga for the luteal phase and to support the common characteristics of PMS.
Yoga to Soothe your Inner Critic
In this 12 minute yoga practice, I will help you to soothe your inner critic by guiding you through a series of mantas and yoga poses to fill you up with self-compassion, which you can then carry into the rest of this phase of your cycle.
Yoga to Cool Hot Emotions
We will be staying down on the yoga mat for the duration of this practice. Keeping your physical energy grounded will help to create a cooling effect in your body.
We will work through a series of poses to work into your liver and digestive organs to help unblock and cool down your hot emotions.
The physical heat of hot flushes can also become troublesome during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. You can use the Sitali Breath Technique to help cool down this physical heat.
Yoga to Soothe Pre-Menstrual Anxiety
This 10-minute yoga flow has been designed to help soothe away these anxious thoughts and feelings during the Inner Autumn phase of your Menstrual Cycle. We will begin seated down on the yoga mat and then move through warms up, child pose, forward folds, tree pose, triangle flow and wide-legged forward fold. All are designed to calm and cool your nervous system.