Your menstrual cycle is a completely normal and healthy part of being a woman. It is a reflection of your body’s natural rhythm, and it’s something that should be celebrated and cherished at each of its unique phases.
I understand that sometimes the monthly menstrual cycle can be a challenge, but it’s important to remember that your body is doing exactly what it’s meant to do. And by taking the time to care for yourself during each phase of your cycle, you can not only ease any discomfort but also thrive throughout your cycle and your life.
Menstruation – What’s happening?
The Menstrual Cycle starts on the day that your full bleed arrives. All hormones are at the lowest levels as your body begins to release the lining of the uterus. Your energy levels will feel depleted for the first few days of your bleed until your hormones start to rise again from around Day 4.
“I Give Myself Permission to Rest”
Self-Care Practices for Menstruation
It’s time to draw inwards to rest, reset and restore your body. During the season of Winter in nature this is a time of hibernation, a time to conserve energy and plan for the seasons ahead. Just imagine what would happen if the daffodils decided to skip this important season and tried to keep going through the cold dark months. They would no longer thrive, and they would not survive into Spring to share their blooms.
- Enjoy tender walks in nature or sit in your garden and linger over a warm drink in the morning.
- Nourish your body with warming foods and drinks to support your sluggish digestive system.
- Let go of some of your responsibilities and make time to Rest. Red School suggests starting with the 1% rule. What 1% of activities can you take out of your day and replace will rest?
- Allow yourself time and space to be on your own without judgment. To journal, to dream, to listen to your intuition.
Yoga & Menstruation
Whether you chose to practice yoga or not during your period is a very personal choice. There is no right or wrong. Listen to your body and trust in the answer it is giving you. If you do decide to practice:
- Find stillness in a meditation practice if movement feels like too much.
- Use the added support of a Chair in your practice during this delicate time.
- Withdraw and enjoy a restorative yoga practice to invite your body to rest and restore deeply.
- Instead of taking a nap, nestle down for a Yoga Nidra practice. This will deeply refresh you for the rest of your day or help prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
Follicular Phase – What’s happening?
The Follicular Phase begins once your bleeding has stopped. Oestrogen is the dominant hormone again as your body works towards ovulation. The lining of your uterus is starting to thicken as it awaits the arrival of an egg. You will feel a surge of energy and a lust for life again.
“Wonderful Things Unfold Before Me”
Self-Care Practices for the Follicular Phase
It’s time to tend to your inner spark as your energy levels build again. Explore the possibilities for the rest of the cycle ahead. Like the flowers of early Spring, protect these new shoots and give them time and space to come into full bloom.
- Put a Spring in your step again when you go for walks or have a dance around your kitchen after you wake up.
- Eat nourishing foods to strengthen and support your body as you move toward ovulation.
- Make time for a creative project or simply invite in time to play.
- Transition back into the outward world and start booking fun activities with friends.
Yoga and the Follicular Phase
Move through your yoga practice with curiosity and playfulness to help stretch out and wake up your body again after its time of hibernation. Use it to nourish and renew your body and mind, getting you ready for this period of growth, exploration, and expansion. If you’ve taken a break from your yoga practice, this time of new beginnings is the perfect place to start over with your practice. Looking forward, not back.
- Try something new in your practice.
- Start on the ground and rise to stand to work with your rising energy.
- Cleanse your body and mind with Nadi Shodhana pranayama.
- Don’t be tempted to skip savasana.
The third phase of the menstrual cycle is ovulation, the main event. It is time for the dominant egg to be released from the ovaries in preparation for possible fertilisation. This usually happens from days 12-16. Both oestrogen and testosterone are at their highest levels. You are feeling confident, sassy, and sociable.
“I am visible, I am seen, I am important”
Self-Care Practices for Ovulation
It’s time to shine bright. Enjoy this peak of energy and go and have some fun with it.
- Make time for activities that bring you joy.
- Go out and have fun with friends.
- Your appetite may decrease prior to ovulation, then rise again post-ovulation. Ensure you are eating regularly and get batch cooking for the slower seasons ahead.
- Avoid too much sugar or alcohol to support your liver function, giving it more time to process these peaks in hormones.
Yoga and the Ovulation Phase
Embrace this increase in energy with yoga to build heat in your body to help you shine to your full potential. But please be aware that the high levels of oestrogen in your body at this time can make you more prone to injury. Focus on good form and alignment throughout your practice.
- Open your practice with energizing Sun Salutations.
- Include standing Warrior Poses to build strength and focus.
- Practice Inversions and hold them for a bit longer.
- Celebrate how far you have come so far this cycle with a gratitude practice at the end of your practice.
This is the fourth and final phase of the Menstrual Cycle, happening around days 18-28. Progesterone becomes the most dominant hormone during this phase. It is produced by the corpus luteum at Ovulation. Progesterone works to thicken the lining of the uterus and breast tissue and create a calming effect in the body. If you are not pregnant, then this lining is shed during your period.
“I listen to my intuition, My body knows best”
Self-Care Practices for the Luteal Phase
This phase starts strong, and then hormones and energy levels will be on a downward trajectory again. It’s time to slow down and set boundaries in place so that you can schedule time to withdraw and rest during your period.
- Take a long walk in nature to clear your head and create space to change pace as this phase goes on.
- Add lots of fresh fruit and veg to your diet to help nourish your digestive system, which may become more sluggish.
- Balance blood sugars with added protein at snack and meal times and stay well hydrated. This will help to manage those feelings of self-doubt that can come creeping back during this phase.
- Begin to cut back on work and social commitments where you can.
- Prioritise sleep. It can be harder to settle, so commit to an evening wind-down routine to help prepare you for rest. e.g. no devices 2 hours before bed, relaxing bath before bed, listening to music instead of watching tv.
Yoga and the Luteal Phase
Progesterone has a heating effect on the body, so it is probably not the week to try out a Hot Yoga Practice. Days 18-22 are ideal for adding in weight-bearing poses to build strength and stamina. Then days 23-28, it’s time to slow down to a more gentle Hatha or vinyasa flow with a focus on drawing inwards and protecting your energy levels.
- Practicing Moon Salutations can be very beneficial during this phase.
- Restorative yoga or Yoga Nidra can help with fatigue and insomnia.
- Pick a flow to help support individual PMS symptoms. e.g. anxiety, hot emotions, headaches, cramps
- Practice the Humming Bee Breath to help soothe you through this phase.
The self-care practices above are a guide to get you started. They are not a magic formula that must be followed to the letter. Just like the seasons in nature, our bodies don’t always follow the script. Practising Menstrual Cycle Awareness allows you to recognise and tune into how you are feeling each day. This can then help you to decide on your own tailored self-care plan for that day. Trust and listen to what your body is calling for, and you might just be surprised by the results.
By honoring your menstrual cycle and practicing self-care, you can harness the power of your natural rhythms and lead a more fulfilling life. So, let’s celebrate our menstrual cycles and cherish the incredible strength and resilience of our bodies as women.
The self-care practices mentioned are just a starting point and not a strict rule. Our bodies don’t always follow a set pattern. Practicing Menstrual Cycle Awareness can help you understand how you feel each day and create a tailored self-care plan for that day. Listen to your body and trust its signals, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.