Why ‘traditional’ yoga doesn’t really accommodate the bleeding lady and how to adapt your practice according to your cycle.

Why ‘traditional’ yoga doesn’t really accommodate for the bleeding lady and how you can adapt your practice according to your cycle

Whether you attend yoga classes or not, you will probably be savvy to the demographic of people that attends yoga and will be aware that it is saturated with women. Before I divulge further, I must note that yoga is also for men, and many men do attend.  Though as a teacher and student of yoga and a regular attendee at yoga studios I cannot help but continuously think of how it is probably the activity that has the highest female domination with a rapid growing rate. Yet many of the practices where designed for the male body and the male hormonal system.  Things are changing I must say, but there are some practices that might actually be dangerous for a woman at different phases of her life, and some different practices that can support her best health. 

The yoga practices I have previously studied and practiced have been intense, 6 days per week practices with one day off per week and the new moon and the full moon days off.  The full and new moon are widely respected in India and when I asked why we take those days off from practice I was told that the moon effects the body and makes you more flexible on these days so it is much more dangerous for the body.  However something tells me that maybe these days off where put in place as women often bleed around the new moon or the full moon, so maybe some consideration has been taken in regards to the female cycle.  Mostly though, other than inversions not being advised, in my personal opinion, the menstrual cycle is not discussed enough in yoga classes and we need to open up the conversation.  I mean, it is not discussed enough in the world, though I’m speaking on yoga here so I will stay on topic.

Given the fact that female hormones change on a weekly basis, and our energy levels rise and fall, you would think we should most likely adapt our physical practices accordingly, rather than repeating the same physical practice every day with no break.  

If you have ever spent any time in Mysore, India then you will have heard the conversation amongst many women that they haven’t had their cycle. *note* if you haven’t spent time in Mysore it is the home of Ashtanga Vinyasa - a popular yoga system made famous in the 1980s.   Last time I was in India completing a 2 month TTC I didn’t get a period for the full amount of time I was there, when I asked the teacher why his response was “we have this feedback often from many women, we are not sure why it happens maybe too much heat in the body”.  In India a lot of reference is made to Ayurveda and the elements so for reference that is what the ‘too much heat in the body’ meant.  My question was though, why is this really happening to so many women and why is nobody concerned about it?

One of the main reasons I think many women are not concerned about it is because of the language and experiences we have always had around our bleed, periods are considered an ‘inconvenience’, especially in a practice such as the ones described, if you can avoid having a bleed then thats great isn’t it? We can remain disciplined.  We can remain focused.  We can continue to wake up at 5 am each day, we can fast throughout the day, we don’t require water.  

When you get a bleed though, you’re tired, you require food and rest, your external focus isn’t as strong, you want to internalise and move in.  Which doesn’t really fit into the narrative of doing more is better.  So when your period suddenly dries up - great right? You can practice everyday with no problem, inversions too! 

I had this view, I was so delighted when I didn’t bleed for 2 months, yes I had questions about why but nonetheless, I was ecstatic with my ‘Superwoman’ status that my fellow students had given me, I practiced yoga 5 hours a day and ate only one meal per day.  When I arrived back home, my cycle was extremely erratic, sometimes I would not bleed for three months at a time.  Eventually I was concerned, I became increasingly aware of how my cycle was a marker for my health, if I wasn’t bleeding then I wasn’t ovulating and if I wasn’t ovulating then I wasn’t fertile and that was a concern to me.  I decided I needed to do something about it, so I began to investigate further, I found the book Wild Power which opened me up to the wisdom of the menstrual cycle and the different phases, naturally I began to adapt my practice, I then discovered Uma Dinsmore-Tulis book Yoni Shakti and went on to complete her Well woman Yoga Therapy course. 

A healthy reproductive system is indicative of overall health, so our lifestyle and yoga practice should honour the natural cyclical phases that we experience in our monthly cycle.  Yet, most popular yogic practices are focused onto upward energy.  

In yoga there are many concepts and understandings and we have what is described the 5 Prana Vayus, these are Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana, Vyana.  These are the 5 functions of Prana as defined in the traditional Hatha system.  They each govern different parts of the body and different subtle activities.  The full functioning of all the vayus assures health and vitality of the body and mind.  They are the five major currents in the body of vital energy.

To give you a brief understanding of each of the 5 Pranic Vayus I have included this chart below. 

Most yoga classes are focused onto the upward flow of energy, menstruation of course is the downward flow of energy, so Apana is responsible for menstruation. For this reason when we are bleeding we need to focus onto the downward flow of energy, practices such as Ashtanga Vinyasya that put a lot of emphasis onto Mula Bandha, restrict the flow of Apana and it is in my belief this reason why many women who practice in Mysore lose their cycle for a while, especially during intensive practices.  Due to our hormonal changes our flexibility also changes throughout the month, and energy levels, so when you wonder why you killed that hot vinyasa class last week and this week you feel like you might collapse, thats because your body is asking for a different type of practice during this time.  

Its not to say that the intensive practices should be totally disregarded, at different times of my cycle I can really reap the benefits of particular breathing techniques that involve the use of Mula bhanda and encourage upward flow, but I now have the tools, skills and knowledge to know when to adapt my practice and exactly how to adapt it.  I also know how to support my students in what ever stage of their cycle they are in, or what ever phase of their female life they are in. 

It can be overwhelming, when I started to open up deeper to the deep feminine and how many yogic systems take no consideration for our innate cyclical wisdom, it shattered a few worlds for me, and a few spiritual beliefs.  That is though, all that they are, spiritual belief systems, that you have to be, or say, or do certain things in order to achieve the most high state.  Let me tell you a little secret its already lying within you, and as women we have very natural yogic altered states of consciousness that occur throughout our life, without us having to sit in mediation for hours and hours, we merely have to surrender to the deep feminine wisdom of our menstrual cycle. 

Anyway, let me give you some constructive information. 

My first tip is; start tracking your cycle, it is the most empowering thing you could start to do for making changes in life according to your cycle.  Day one will be the first day of your cycle, and on each day you will write a couple of words about how you were feeling that day. If you want more details on the different stages of the cycle, please send me an email and I will send you my FREE ebook on conscious menstruation and FREE menstruation chart. 

Questions to start considering and reflecting on: 

What is your body saying and how well are you listening? 

Does your practice and daily life activities take into consideration the circulating hormones and their effect on your overall health? 

How to adapt your practice, I have given some further information on each phase below the chart but this chart has been created by Uma and is a great resource especially if you are a teacher.

During menstruation(inner winter), both progesterone and oestrogen drop at this time, as the uterine inner lining begins to shed. this is a time for compete rest and renewal, I personally do not perform any physical activity during the first couple of days of my bleed, out side of some restorative postures to relieve cramps and breathing techniques to support to blood flow moving down. Sadly, most cultures favour pushing women to continue to keep doing, doing, doing and though you might have the choice to refrain from your gym class or favourite vinyasa class, you might not be able to avoid the daily chores that come with being a human being, however eliminating as much of the tough physical practice as you can is going to help you maintain some vital energy, and taking what ever time you can to yourself, even if it is just five minutes, make sure to prioritise yourself during this phase. 

Try this breathing technique: Inhale through the nose with soft open lips and visualise a circle expanding as you breath in, exhale out from the mouth and imagine an upside down triangle opening up, and focus onto releasing completely.  The visualisation helps me a lot.  If you must go to class, think yin, restorative, gentle non hot classes, try a yoga Nidra online too! 

After menstruation (inner spring), your oestrogen starts to rise during this time, which facilitates the development of a follicle into an egg.  This is a time in your cycle when you might feel you want to explore your creativity a bit more in your practice, it is a good time to learn new things and embrace more energetic classes. 

Ovulation ( inner summer), LSH and FS spike during this time to release the developed egg.  Inner summer is when your outward energy will be at its most high, perfect time to work on your strength and inversions, personally I find I’m naturally more inclined to move more and attempt more strenuous things in this time, my energy feels almost endless.

Pre Menstruation (inner autumn), after all the excitement and energy pike of summer, progesterone starts to prepare the uterine lining to potentially receive a fertilised egg (of course when this doesn’t happen you will get your period).  This is a time for deep inner reflection, look for sequences that support calm, and be gentle with your body, you might find you tire more easily or get more muscle soreness, I really start to slow down my practices during this time and focus onto releasing and a lot of journalling. 

Wow if you have made it to the end then thank you! 

I hope this information supports you in your yoga practice, as always on and off the mat! 

If you are looking to start your own yoga practice then please send me an email or catch me on instagram or facebook as I have an online beginners course starting on the 1st March! 

Happy Healing 

Rebecca 

The Divine Union : Finding balance in a same sex relationship

The Divine Union: Finding balance in a same sex relationship

I was informed quite recently that a plug and its socket are sometimes known as male and female, the plug being the male and the socket being the female.  In electrical trades, each pair is assigned as the gender of male or female, the female connection is the indented chamber, her duty as a mechanical appliance to graciously “receive” and hold the male connector in its penetrative being.  To connect the two is ‘to mate’.  The analogy of course is in reference to male and female genitalia and the act of sexual intercourse, the penetrated being female, the penetrator being male, the giver being male, the receiver being female.  

Of course naturally, being a in a same sex relationship, you imagine the absurdity of trying to press to sockets together to create and energy flow.  Electrically and mechanically speaking it just wouldn’t work. 

 

 

The correspondence of trying to relate myself or the female species as a socket, of course is a disservice to all that is feminine, in real life terms, we are much more complex than a compartment created only to be filled. Though, I imagine many women could relate to the feeling of being almost worthless until, their life is penetrated with a male energy. I have definitely subscribed to those feelings in the past. That my ability to obtain the other masculine half of myself defines me, that if I could not find my male counterpart to complete me, then I was not worthy. 

Know what I mean?

My partner now though is a female, turns out I was looking on the wrong team for my captain the whole time, and through weird metaphors and electrician talk, I would like to share some of the psychological difficulties that come with the identification of being “gay” and how our energies naturally find ways to balance themselves, no matter what our gender. 

 

I cannot say I have faced any obvious adversity in my ‘coming out’ if you can call it that, it was not quite the show Philip Schofield had, but I am sure some people were pretty shocked. Myself included I must say. My Mum was a little bit shaken at first, but that was mainly due to my deficient decision to inform her the typical fairytale life wasn’t happening – through a text. I know it was an awful decision, I am a little separated at times from what is the right way of doing things, I knew she had her suspicions so my text was just a confirmation.  Anyway after the initial shock, she came around and voiced that it would explain a lot of my melancholic nature and disobedient behaviour growing up, she didn’t use those words, I am trying to poetic.  It resonated though to be honest, maybe my denial of my true sexuality had led me to a life of feeling unsettled, of not knowing who I was, of not understanding myself, so I reacted as any normal human being would, by searching for all that was external to me to bring me happiness, inevitably of course, it gave me the spade to dig a deeper hole into desperation and searching. 

 

My Mum and Dad both said, they always knew.  I was astonished, I suppose they do say your parents know you better than you know yourself, but I cannot say the same for myself that I had “always known”.  It had crossed my mind, but I am a daydreamer, I had thought it nothing more than my imagination speculating the potential of finding my other socket.  I obviously pushed it to the back of my mind, to the “thats not normal” section of my brain.  And thats what I want to bring some awareness to, the normal-ness or apparent lack thereof of pressing to sockets together.  It is not the done thing. Right? Because everything and everywhere you look, inclusive of the electrical world, the “Divine Union” is a male and a female.  

Yin and yang fit so perfectly together in their masculine and feminine bisections. Shiva and Shakti in their divine dance.  So what happens when you don’t want to dance with Shiva, but Shakti is looking quite appetising.  Are you less divine? If you don’t want your socket to be filled, but instead are curious as to what might happen if you stuck your tongue in the socket. What happens when you are searching for more of an electrical shock, looking outside of the ‘norm’. 

You face an internal struggle. 

#loveislove hash tagged all over the internet and rainbows on street signs really help to emphasis the “normalness” of your relationship. *que eye roll*. I understand in its entirety the relevance and significance of this, but I cant help but wince from the inside when I see young straight people head to toe in rainbow colours, hash tagging love is love and letting everybody know its okay to be gay.  The magnitude of fuss made, somehow has the opposite effect of normalising and makes you feel somewhat strange. Do not misunderstand me in that, I truly understand and respect the significance of the gay rights movement and I know that without it I would not even be able to write this blog post, but something about it glorifies your relationship, in a way that makes you feel everything less than normal.  

There is a sense of homophobia in the collective consciousness, same way there is sexism and  racism, there is a sense of feeling like ‘something isn’t quite right’ when a person is gay.  Everybody wants to work out why this person is gay, maybe they just haven’t found the right person of the opposite sex yet, maybe its daddy issues. It was only in 2005 when same sex couples were granted the right to enter a civil partnership and only 6 years ago in 2014 was same sex marriage legalised in the UK.  It is still not legal in many countries of the world.  Naturally the history of misconduct towards men and women who identified as homosexual/bisexual is ingrained into our DNA. So on a subconscious level, there is a fight going on, though not one ounce of your conscious mind thinks your relationship is wrong, small messages and indicators that surround you somehow imply that it is. At present we are in Bali, before we came here I had to google ‘is it legal to be gay in Bali?’ my google search results informed me it was legal but it was also ‘frowned upon’ now I am an open minded and understanding person, I appreciate how societies have been developed and constructed and even appreciate that a person might not have the capacity to understand how to people of the same sex could ever fall in love, because once again social norms and religious beliefs have taught us only of the male and female union.  Therefor I do respect that it might come as quite a shock to a 70 year old hindu balinese woman to see two young white girls kissing in the middle of the street, it is within my nature to ‘respect’ peoples feelings towards it.  We always joke if we kiss in public and hold hands and say ‘dont its “frowned upon”’ it is half a joke, but half of you is wondering if people are onlooking in dismay at your poor decision to engage in this unorthodox behaviour.  

 

What is noticeable throughout history and these behaviours and understandings toward same sex relationships is the lack of understanding of energies, of how the energy works beyond the plug and socket.  How energy existed even before the plug and socket. Nature has a a beautiful way of restoring equilibrium, in any relationship gay or straight what you will usually see is a more masculine dominant energy and a more feminine dominant energy.  And thats what it is all about really energies. And I want to share with you the beautiful and majestic way that Emma and myself have found our own divine dance between Shiva and Shakti. 

Energy; you see, is genderless, though we express as one particular gender, we hold inside of us both energies, masculine and feminine, the divine union is within us.  And most of our problems are rooted in the idea that it is external to us.  Spiritually speaking we are attempting, to get back to that sense and feeling of oneness.  That feeling of oneness does not manifest from your ability to find the most divine being of the opposite sex to complete you it comes from embracing and nurturing your own inner masculine and feminine energies.  

Within my relationship neither of us is especially masculine, there isn’t one set role between either of us, in fact; as is the only constant we are ever changing and transforming from one energy to the next in accordance with each other.  

As women, we have a beautiful divine dance between the masculine and feminine energies that presents itself in our internal cycle, of the 4 weeks of our inner cycle, we interchange between two polar energies, masculine(via positiva) and feminine(via negative).  When we are in our more ‘feminine state’ it is our pre-menstrum (week before bleeding) and bleeding phase, when we are in our ‘masculine state’ is is our pre ovulation and ovulation phase.  If you already have an understanding of these energies and seasons working within your own being, your comprehension of what I am going to explain will be better, if you’d like to better understand these energies and how they unfold in your cycle email me and I will send you out my ebook.  

As a female or even a male observer I am sure you have noticed how women cycles tend to sync up, this is a well known fact amongst women.  The more time you spend with another woman the more likely it is that your cycles will sync up, so you will bleed at the same time.  I am not sure if science has an answer for this, but let us call it a force of nature.  It is quite incredible, even the ladies in my morning yoga classes would sync up with me, most of the women close to me were bleeding at pretty much the same time as me.  

So you would assume right, that me and Emma bleed at the same time? 

Your assumption would be wrong.  Our cycle is completely opposite, when she bleeds I am ovulating when I am ovulating she bleeds.  Incredible right? 

We always pondered this and speculated how bizarre it was that I could be synced up with the women in my yoga class but not with my girlfriend with whom I share almost every moment of my life and share a bed with.  

Then we realised, the two sides of the cycle.  The masculine and the feminine, when I was in receiving mode, Emma was in giving mode and vice verser.  My shiva dances with her shakti. So within our relationship, the energies are finding there own unique way to balance, and its a beautiful thing to be able to see the contrast between the two, as you watch your partner slowly emerge from the inner world of the feminine and moon like energy into the external world and sun energies. It also gives you the opportunity to work on your internal energies in each phase of the cycle, to embrace the pulse between the two.  

Ultimately we have found our own flow, and there are no plugs required. 

Thanks for reading, I hope your can find your own unique dance, free from judgement. 

Happy Healing, 

Rebecca