Do you dread that time of the month? Does your partner and family dread that time of the month with you? Do you think of your monthly moon time and the time leading up to it as an annoying interruption that you would rather not have to deal with? Or do you quietly carry on with life as normal menstruating or not menstruating?
For me, I was the latter. My period, as I used to call it, came and went each month with not too much trouble, pain or moodiness. I would carry on as normal, full steam ahead. My menstruation education, like most other woman my age, came from a health professional at school. I was taught that the menstrual cycle prepares the body for pregnancy each month. If you are not pregnant you shed the thickened uterine lining and extra blood through the vagina. To my 12 year old ears I interpreted that to mean that I either had my period or didn’t and, if I had it, it meant I wasn’t pregnant. And so for the first 14 years of my menstrual cycle that was what I believed, no questions asked.
Then in 2002 my husband, myself and our daughter moved towns. After settling in my first mission of course was to find a regular yoga class. I soon found a teacher that I resonated with and started attending regularly. Although I had had plenty of previous teachers, this wise woman was the first teacher to advise me not to practice certain postures during menstruation. I must say at the time I didn’t really get it, and was rather resistant. I thought to myself ‘it’s just my period, I am not sick or pregnant, so what is the big deal?’ But I trusted her and took the advice of taking on a gentler practice when I was menstruating. Slowly over time and consequently, with the arrival of more children, I began to really enjoy and relish this quieter practice and noticed how nurtured and renewed I felt afterwards.
I was inspired to delve deeper into the much un- talked about subject of menstruation and the whisperings I had heard of our monthly cycles being linked to the moon and nature. What I discovered changed how I viewed myself as a woman. Through my questioning and exploring I learned just how connected I am as a woman to this beautiful planet, her seasons, to the cyclical nature of the moon and the cosmic dance between the two.
The first realization I found in my inquiries was that just as the moon has four main phases in its monthly cycle, so too does the menstrual cycle. I also learned that these four phases resonate with the four seasons of the earth and, when understood, honored and acknowledged, a harmonious balance can found in daily life.
Let us start with Spring time. By its nature, this time of year bursts forth with new life and new beginnings. If you are a keen gardener you will know it is the perfect time to plant new seeds. There is naturally more creative energy abound and more life force to support these budding ideas. In the Lunar cycle it is the time of the waxing moon where the amount of illuminated surface as seen from earth is increasing. So what does all this mean for us woman folk and our day to day lives? This is the time in your cycle where you are leading up to ovulation and you may notice creative ideas flowing more freely. It is Spring though so rainy days can still be expected. To stay balanced during spring, my practice focuses on; standing twists, core strengthening postures and back bending postures. I round this out by adding in sun salutations to warm up and forward bends, hip openers and supported inversions to quiet down in preparation for relaxation. Spring Awakening is a great practice for this time of the month:
Next comes Summer. Plants and flowers have gone from fledgling seedlings, to plants in full bloom, drinking in the energy of the sun. By its nature, Summer is about reveling in the full bloom of life. The moon is also full and is illuminated in all her glory. This is ovulation time and energy levels are naturally higher. You may find you can stay up later and get out of bed earlier without much trouble. Although it is easy to revel in this energy, there is a need to be mindful not to overheat, or overdo, or you may find Autumn can be a rough ride. During summer, if I am feeling balanced and full of the joys of life, I practice Summer Flow:
Or if I have been on the go and feeling a little overcooked I practice Summer Yin Practice:
Autumn follows summer and the earth begins to cool and slow down from its busy productive time. It is the time of year when the leaves begin to fall to the ground to feed the trees in preparation for the winter months ahead. The moon also begins to turn, starting to wane, descending steadily towards the dark moon. It is the time in your cycle of pre menstruation and you may notice a natural turning in of your energy also. You may find a natural tendency to want to stay home instead of going out and playing and a need to nourish the body in preparation for the dark moon. To stay balanced at this time I find it is especially important for me to focus on simplifying my diet and I often depend on Ram’s wonderful Sattvic vegetarian recipes at this time:
On the mat if I am feeling good in myself I practice Autumn Flow:
If I am low on energy or irritable I practice Autumn Yin Practice:
Lastly we move into the winter months. During this time the earth rests, replenishing and restoring herself for Spring. The moon is resting in darkness in the sky. It is the time in your cycle of menstruation, of letting go of the old, so that when Spring comes again the body is ready to receive the creative impulses that come with it. The natural mood at this time is introspection and it is a great time for meditation and deep pranayama practices. For me to stay balanced at this time it is important that I focus on following a quieter practice for the whole of my moon time, and not just for the first few days. I find that when I do this I have much more sustained energy for the next moon cycle. To support this quieter practice I often practice light detox’s removing caffeine, alcohol, wheat, sugar and diary from my diet. I honor my moon time by committing to the quieter practices of Winter Introspection and Winter Yin Practice:
For me learning to listen to my body and its needs is an ongoing practice of deep inquiry. My body, like yours, is completely unique so what works for me is not necessarily going to work for you. Also it took my body quite a while to learn how to cycle with the moon and sometimes it still goes off. To help create synchronicity between my body and the moon, I took anything electrical out of my room at night, especially my phone. I opened my curtains on the full moon and bathed in her light and closed myself in darkness on the new moon. I sort out herbs and foods to help synchronies my cycle. But mostly I was patient, quietly listening to what my body had to say to me, instead of what other people had said to me about my body.
All the best for your practice.
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