Wild Woman, it is time to rest
Place your head on Gaia’chest
The softness of her breasts is the same softness in your flesh
So rest, Woman. Take a deep PAUSE. Rest.
A women’s period is a blessing. For women who suffer monthly before and during their menses, it may be difficult to embrace the period as a blessing. Information on the bright side of our monthly cycle has become scarce or distorted. This monthly blessing has been downgraded to a monthly hassle that women have to begrudgingly go through and even control. The sacred regard of the indigenous people and ancient societies for the monthly cycle as a rite of passage worth celebrating has been replaced by either incomplete information in primary school health education, misguided information by the media, and for some cultures, shame and silence. From a yogic perspective, this rejection and shaming of a very vital aspect of being a woman is a very subtle violation of ahimsa or non-violence. With the increase in interest in wellness, including the practice of yoga, it comes as a surprise that the health of our monthly cycle is still left in the dark.
SHINING LIGHT ON OUR MONTHLY CYCLE
Artwork by Nica de Erquiaga
A healthy cycle, including the menses itself, is a reflection of good health and is essential for fertility. It is also a woman’s monthly detoxification that takes away the toxins we have accumulated from modern life’s daily stresses. It connects us to the creative power embedded in our wombs, one that our Mother Earth also shares with her seasons. When we learn to observe and read our Inner Moon female energy cycle, it becomes a source of information and wisdom for the changes we need to make so we can move through life’s phases with grace and ease. Our monthly flow inevitably reflects our life’s flow.
For example, if you are regularly suffering from any or a combination of these pre-menstrual symptoms – migraines, bloating, nausea, cramping, extreme mood swings, tenderness in the sides of the breasts, dark red blood clots during the blood phase – you may also be experiencing some frustration, anger, or stress in your daily life. It is tempting to just pop a pill or to just live with the discomfort. However, if we do this, we are losing valuable opportunity for self-awareness.
Embedded in our wombs is the ability to Pause. It is our birth right, as women, to come into a deep rest every month to renew our bodies and ourselves. This has been forgotten with the demands of family and society to be productive 24/7. This forgetfulness has led us to disconnect to our true nature. When we drop all this doing and really go back to our nature, we will find our Inner Moon, our female energy cycle that goes through seasons just like our Earth Mother.
The days leading to our period, our internal autumn, is a call to slow down until we reach that profound Pause once our blood phase begins. During the pre-menstrual phase, our energy begins to move internally. At this time, we are invited to support our cycle by allowing the smooth flow of energy through our body so the blood sheds naturally and fully. As we slow down and allow smooth flow, we become more aware of the other things, people, relationships, and situations in our lives that need to be shed as well.
MINDING YOUR FLOW
Perhaps one of the biggest distortions about the period is the expectation of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and dysmenorrhea. Women all over the world are conditioned at an early age to expect discomfort from simple bloating and slight breast tenderness to more severe symptoms like depression, cramping, migraines, and debilitating physical pain. Industries have built fortunes on promoting medicine to temporarily address these symptoms.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these symptoms are caused by the imbalances of the flow of energy or Qi in your body, remembering that the flow of Qi is affected by the conditions of your life. Qi, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the vital energy that eventually manifests in our body. This Qi flows through energy channels called meridians. Our symptoms give us a clue about where the Qi flow is blocked and what energy channels are imbalanced, the most common being the Liver/Gall Bladder meridians which may lead to PMS and dysmenorrhea.
As the regulator of the flow of vital life force, the Liver/Gall Bladder meridians play a central role in common PMS symptoms. For example, migraines (sometimes called liver headaches) at the top of the head or at the temples can indicate excessive Qi and heat trapped in the upper part of the body. Heating emotions such as stress, frustration and anger common in modern women who are expected to play multiple roles in society may have caused this excess Qi and heat. If the body’s Qi flow, specifically the Liver/Gall Bladder Qi, is smooth, these emotions or energies in motion just pass through. If there are blockages in Qi flow, the energy stagnates and Blood does not flow smoothly manifesting in painful symptoms during the pre-menstrual and blood phases. These also include extreme emotional expressions with depression and withdrawal on one end and rage on the other end.
The Liver/Gall Bladder systems also govern the contraction and expansion of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons leading to cramping and PMS pain when there are disturbances in the these channels. Other PMS symptoms related to these meridians include insomnia, breast tenderness and bloating.
For most women, PMS and menstrual pains can be easily managed through nutrition, rest, a stress-managed lifestyle, and therapeutic yoga – specifically Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga which focuses on the energetic meridian channels of the body from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM.
YIN YOGA SEQUENCE TO EASE PMS focusing on the Liver/Gall Bladder Meridian
In this intentionally sequenced healing Yin practice, we address the Liver/Gall Bladder Channels of the body. The Liver channel begins in the big toe and goes up the inner thighs, through the groin, up the torso into the head and ends in the eyes. The Gall Bladder channel begins in the outside corner of the eye, passing through the side of the face, neck, breasts, side body and runs all the way down the outer hip and the side of the leg.
Hold each pose for 3 minutes, eventually building up to 5 minutes. Focus on the exhalation to relax the body. Use props to ease unnecessary muscle contraction and tension. Coming into a mindful, meditative state throughout the practice is encouraged to further promote relaxation and flow of Qi.
This sequence can be done at any stage of the cycle. It is highly recommended during ovulation and the pre-menstrual phase as these are governed by the Liver/Gall Bladder channels.
1. Begin in Sukhasana or Savasana to bring awareness into one’s present moment.
3. Sleeping Swan (right leg forward)
4. Modified Sleeping Swan (right leg forward)
5. Cat Tail (right over left)
6. Rest in Savasana
6. Repeat 2-5 on the left side.
7. Supine Butterfly
Painting and photos by Pavlos Dasiras, shot on location, Arillas, Corfu, Greece
At the beginning of the period, it is recommended to just take a deep rest. Pause. Lie down and observe. This is your Inner Winter. There is nothing to do, nothing to be. Drop even the desire to relax. During this pause, practice deeply listening to inner Self for what you need to shed and what you need to bring into your next cycle.
When we can embody our Inner Moon Cycle, we can consciously move towards well-being and transform this monthly bane into what it truly is – a monthly blessing.
Dona has taught Yoga, Women’s Wellbeing, and Human Energy Management Programs in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand, India, Denmark, Estonia and the Philippines. Attend her upcoming Women’s Well-Being immersion this September 23-24. Click here for mor e details: PAUSE.REWILD.PLAY
Dona Tumacder-Esteban is a Manila-based Integrative Wellbeing and Nutrition Counsellor at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Manila, a corporate stress and energy management consultant (Asia Pacific), a student of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the leading Embodiment and Yin Yoga teacher in the Philippines. Dona’s personal experience with her own wellbeing as well as counseling many others has fired her passion for women’s wellbeing. She has created an integrated approach called Inner Moon which brings together movement, yoga, and integrative life force nutrition for every phase of the monthly cycle. Dona has helped women live fully, fierce, unapologetically and embrace their monthly cycle with grace and ease through her workshops in Asia and Europe. For those seeking to align their spiritual practice with their energy cycles, Dona also provides face-to-face and online mentoring and guidance as you go through the different phases of your Inner Moon. Visit her at widerandwidercircles.com or follow her on @mindbodydona