Practicing Ashtanga yoga as taught by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois , R. Sharath Jois and Saraswati Rangaswamy was and is indeed Sadhana in its purity. In following the daily rituals inclusive of observing moon days and ladies holidays by not practicing the asana sequence, my body naturally flowed with the biorhythms and respected as well as supported feminine rites of passage such as menstruation and later on pregnancy.
As women our monthly cycle mirrors the cyclical nature of the universe, following the same length as the moon’s cycle. Menstrual cycles remain in harmony with the cycles of the moon especially for women who live close to nature, starting their menstruation on either the new moon or full moon. As we observe our own cycles and those in nature through the practice, we come to understand that our bodies are influenced by the earth, the moon, and the sun; our bodies are also influenced by other women around us. As dedicated yoga practitioners living in congruence with the lunar calendar we become better able to observe the myriad fluctuations in our energy throughout the month and in connection to the earth. And as we become better observers of the changes within us we as women in turn become self empowered by being active participants in our own healthcare.
In Yoga Sadhana for Mothers, Sharath says ‘It is not simply about respecting the body but about respecting the nature of the body’. This has always been my guiding tenet when in doubt. Breathing with sound during asana not only affects the muscles and joints in the body but also our internal systems – respiratory, nervous, digestive, circulatory, immune, reproductive and endocrine. Regular practice harmonizes the subtle energies of mind and body, calms and steadies the nerves lessening physical tension.
With yoga practice as part of our daily existence we learn to ebb and flow with the demands of life, making us better equipped to carry out our worldly and family responsibilities. Detaching from the physical practice during ladies holiday facilitates in maintaining the health of our internal systems and with the body’s purification process . For the body to properly cleanse, all of the channels in the pelvic region during menstruation need to be soft, dilated, open, relaxed and flowing. Our observance of ladies holiday supports the natural downward moving flow of apana vayu eradicating the toxins [physical, mental, emotional] from the body accumulated during the month. When we choose to support the body’s natural cycle our whole beings then organically move in synch to the waxing and waning of our energy, hormones and strength.