Expert Q and A: Menstruation and Detached Retina in Yoga Inversions
Posted on October 10th, 2011
Question: I have been practicing Yoga for years and have asked several teachers this question before and looked in books but never get an answer - I know you should not do Shoulder Stand pose when you have your period or have detached retina of the eye - but I don't know why - Can anyone help me?
Answer: The contraindications of inverting during menstruation can be viewed in philosophical and physiological terms. Hindu philosophy teaches that during menstruation, the natural direction of energy is down and out of the body. Inversions should be avoided to prevent obstruction or reverse of this flow of energy.
Physiologically, the vascular bed in the pelvis contains more blood during menses than at other times of the menstrual cycle. Blood is delivered to the uterus by blood vessels, which are located in broad ligaments that suspend the uterus from the pelvis. When you compare the structure of uterine arteries to veins, the uterine arteries are muscular and have thick walls where as the uterine veins have thin walls and are susceptible to collapse.
During inversions, gravity pulls the uterus down towards the head, which causes these ligaments to stretch. When these ligaments stretch, an occlusion or partial collapse of the uterine veins occurs. Meanwhile, the uterine arteries remain open due to the thick walls and continue to deliver blood to the uterus. As a result, more blood moves into the uterus than can be drained away by the veins. This build up of excess blood can lead to increased menstrual bleeding.
Inverting with retinal detachment and other eye problems is very contraindicated. A retinal detachment is the separation of the retina, the thin, delicate membrane covering the rear portion of the eye, from the optic nerve. This condition usually results from a hole in the retina that allows the vitreous humor fluid to leak. A retinal detachment can be caused by high blood pressure or an air embolus. When one inverts, a large amount of blood flow is directed into the skull, which increases the blood pressure on the thin vascular walls of the eyes. Retinal detachment can be worsened by this large increase in blood flow and pressure during inversions like Shoulder stand. If you do have retinal detachment or other eye health issues, consult your physician before performing inversions and other yoga postures.
Expert Q & A provided by My Yoga Online teacher and Co-Founder, Kreg Weiss.
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