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What Style of Yoga is Best for Hormone Health?


Having a regular yoga practice is a great way to help balance your hormones naturally.


Yoga can help improve circulation to the reproductive organs, reduce stress and anxiety (lowering cortisol and allowing the body to focus on producing sex hormones instead), and increase body awareness, helping us become more in tune with our bodies.


But what kind of yoga is best, and when should you practice it?


I’m a big fan of cycle-syncing exercise (adapting our workout regimes to support our female hormonal cycles). This means keeping the high intense exercise for the first half of the cycle (follicular and ovulatory phases), and moving to slower, less intense, exercise in the second half of the cycle (luteal and menstrual phases).


Based on this method, here are the best styles of yoga to practice, and when, to help balance hormones naturally.


#1 Follicular phase (days 1-10)

Counting day 1 as the first day after you stop bleeding (rather than the first day of bleed) – since this makes more sense from a cyclical point of view – the first phase of your cycle is the follicular phase, where your hormones are slowly beginning to rise. This phase usually lasts around 7-10 days, depending on the length of your cycle.

In the first half of this phase your energy might still be low, as you’re just coming out of your period, when all hormones are at their lowest. As the phase progresses you might find yourself having more energy, as the (sex) hormones start to increase. Cortisol, however, is low during follicular phase so you could try more intense exercise (particularly in the second half of the phase). Your metabolism is naturally slower during this phase too, so lifting weights may help gently increase it.

According to Eastern medicine, the follicular phase is like your internal Spring season, where seeds (your hormones) are beginning to sprout. Since Spring is associated with new starts, you may want to try new things during this phase (including different styles of yoga, or take up a new exercise), or tap into your creative side.

As a result of all of this, the best style of yoga during follicular phase would be a creative Vinyasa Flow class – something that’s not too intense, but still energetic and fun, and helps you tap into your creative side (like a class that uses music, or that incorporates dance, for example). Or, since this phase is associated with Spring and new beginnings, you could try a totally different style of yoga that you’ve never done before, like Aerial or Acroyoga – anything that feels fun and playful will be great during this phase!



#2 Ovulatory phase (days 10-14)

Ovulation technically happens during one day (when the egg is released) but we class it as a phase, lasting around 3-4 days, partly because you're fertile for up to 7 days a month (5 days before ovulation, when sperm can still survive in the body, and up to 2 days after ovulation) and partly because of all the hormonal changes that are happening during this time.

During this phase, LH rises (to trigger ovulation) and estrogen peaks. There is also a surge in testosterone. Cortisol is still low, and your metabolism may be naturally slower.

Ovulation corresponds to your internal Summer in Traditional Chinese Medicine, so is associated with high energy, being naturally more sociable and outward-looking.

The best kind of yoga in this phase would be something very high energy such as Rocket Yoga, or something that involves other people and is outdoors (given that ovulation is your inner Summer!) such as Acroyoga or SUP yoga.


#3 Luteal phase (days 14-28)

The luteal phase can last between 10-14 days depending on the length of your cycle, and is the phase during which many women experience PMS, cravings, and mood swings, etc. (in the second half of this phase). At the start of luteal phase, progesterone begins to increase in preparation for pregnancy, while the other hormones slowly start to decrease. Progesterone peaks in the middle of the phase before (if you’re not pregnant) decreasing. There is also a second peak of estrogen during this time, and then all (sex) hormones decrease. Cortisol, however, is naturally higher during this phase, so you might want to work on reducing stress during this phase (including intense exercise), especially closer to your period. Your metabolism is also naturally faster during this phase so you might need to eat a little more (it’s estimated we need an extra 200kcal/day in this phase) especially if you’re doing a lot of exercise.

Luteal phase is considered as your internal Autumn/Fall in Eastern medicine, a time for wrapping up projects, bring things to a close, and starting to slow down in preparation for Winter (your period). As a result, you might find your productivity is high during this phase, and you’re able to breeze through your ‘to do’ list, or those mundane tasks you’ve been putting off all month.

As a result, the best kind of yoga in the first half of this phase would be one that is still fairly intense but not too fast-paced, and one that is quite structured – something like Ashtanga-Vinyasa, for example. In the second half of luteal phase, you might want to change to a slower and less intense practice, something like Hatha or Iyengar yoga (focused on alignment), or even Pilates (as long as it’s quite slow and steady).


#4 Menstrual phase (days 28-32)

The menstrual phase is the most infamous phase of the cycle (our monthly bleed), usually lasting between 3-7 days, depending on the length of your cycle. During this phase all (sex) hormones are at their lowest, so some women may find relief from their PMS symptoms once their bleed comes, although for others this can be the phase they experience cramps and other hormonal symptoms. Cortisol is still high during this phase, so, again, this is a time for de-stressing (to lower cortisol), not doing stressful activities like high intense exercise*. Your metabolism is also faster during this phase so you may need to eat a little more (around 200kcal/day) especially if you are active.

Our bleed is our inner Winter, a time to look back and reflect on the month (what worked, what didn’t, what we’d like to take forward into the next month), to go inward and check in with ourselves and how we’re feeling, and to grant ourselves permission to rest.

As such, we want to stick to very gentle exercise (if any) during this phase, so the best style of yoga to practice during your period would be Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga (the latter is particularly helpful if you are dealing with a lot of stress or fatigue).


Key Takeaway

Phase

Best style of yoga to try

Follicular

Creative Vinyasa Flow, Aerial Yoga

Ovulatory

Rocket Yoga, Acroyoga, SUP Yoga

Luteal

Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Iyengar

Menstrual

Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga

So there you have it, the best styles of yoga to practice at different stages of your cycle to balance your hormones and help you feel energised and in touch with your body!


Have you tried any of these styles? Are you going to add any into your monthly routine? Let me know in the comments below!


I also offer 1-2-1 yoga tuition or private group classes if you'd like some personalised support with your yoga practice, or learning more about how yoga can support your health. Find out more here. *Every body is unique, and you may find that it feels good for you to continue exercising during your period. Just pay attention to your body and its needs; perhaps try both (exercising during one period, not exercising the next period) and see what feels better for you.

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