Saturday, January 23, 2010

Astanga | Book Review: The Woman's Yoga Book

First, the necessary disclaimer: I normally never practice the full Primary Series of Astanga Yoga during my menstrual cycle.

But I’m certainly not opposed to some form of yoga during menstruation. Along with my daily yoga practice over the past year, I have been practising Yin Yoga and a special Iyengar Restorative Series during my cycle and I’ve found that yoga can be very helpful, relieving menstrual symptoms and soothing my frayed nerves (more on this later).

Because I set my WoYoPracMo intention to do a full Primary Series every day of January, I practised the full Primary today despite the start of my Lady’s Holiday. I did take it easy and slow things *way* down. No downward facing dog, no vinyasa between sides in the seated poses and no closing sequence. It was Astanga, to be sure, but it was VERY modified.

And it wasn’t bad. This is saying a lot, given that I was up half the night with the worst cramps I’ve had in months, the dog was fussing and my neighbour woke me from a deep sleep to get her spare key (she misplaced hers at a party).

Two years ago, I faced this same challenge (Daily Primary during WoYoPracMo) and found it incredibly difficult. I think that I've learned a lot about modifying my practice since then; I was able to shape the Primary Series to meet my needs.

I wasn’t feeling great this morning, but I had a pleasant practice all the same. I always feel stiff during my Lady’s - my joints feel gumby. My balance is also off. I usually don’t notice it because I’m not usually doing standing postures. It was good to observe this differences.

Book Review:

Today seemed like a good day to settle down with a book. A few months ago, I won a copy of Bobby Clennell’s ‘The Woman’s Yoga Book’ from YogaDork. I’ve spoken about it before, but hadn’t had a chance to read through it.

This is a great book and a must-have resource for women in their reproductive years. The first chapters set a foundation by offering a history of cultural traditions around menstruation, then familiarize the reader with the physiological processes of the menstrual cycle.

Clennell goes on to offer comprehensive descriptions of the standing, seated, and supine poses as well as backbends and pranayama techniques. She relates all of these to the different phases of a woman’s cycle. Further chapters explore sequences specifically designed for different times of the month, as well as for specific menstrual symptoms.

The illustrations in this book are comprehensive, clear and delightful. Clennell is a professional animator and her skills shine through in the quality and clarity of these drawings. They’re colourful, respectful and easy-to-follow.

The sequences are so clearly illustrated that they give a home practitioner the visual information required to guide her own practice. I was able to dive right in and use these illustrations to set myself up in various complex Iyengar-esque configurations of straps, blankets and bolsters. It can be overwhelming, but Clennell makes it easy.

I can absolutely attest to the efficacy of these sequences. The sequence for ‘during menstruation’ has become my go-to resource for menstrual cramps. It always offers me relief. But I was surprised and delighted to discover that Clennell’s sequence for ‘soothing the nerves’ actually works! I even use this sequence at other times of the month when hormonal changes get the better of me.

In an industry flooded with new yoga books, this one is an instant classic. I’m delighted to have my own copy and I recommend it heartily.

Thank you, YogaDork and Rodmell Press for the opportunity to review it.

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