Aunt Flo. Your Period. Living Hell. Dot. The Storm. Shark Week. Red Wedding. Time of Sorrows. I'm All Woman. Oh fuck. Red Wedding. Menstrual cycle. Red Headed Cousin. Blood. Ragging. Moon cycle. Menses. That Time of the Month. This is what women and men called a menstrual cycle when I posed the question on Facebook. The actual word “menstruation” comes from the Greek root word “men,” which means month, and “menus,” which means both moon and power. In ancient times, women aligned with one another, their moon cycles and the lunar energy.
Do you feel like you have mastery of your menstrual cycle? Or do you feel like you are a victim to the waves of your periods?
Do you feel empowered in all phases of your cycle? Or do you find yourself constantly apologizing?
Do you make the most of each phase of your cycle? Or do you feel like you have one good week out of the month?
I've been talking, listening and gathering information from other women about menstrual cycles for several years. As a woman who never had periods, and once I did had irregular cycles and felt chaotic, I never truly understood or celebrated the power of my cycle and blood. Until recently.
Let's jump back to my first encounter with premenstrual outrage. I was ten years old and my 14-year-old sister and was angry, sad, crying, as well as extremely short and snappy. I was scared of her and perplexed - what happened to my sister, where did she go? I asked my mom what was wrong and she explained that my sister's behavior was "hormonal", it was a part of being a woman and my sister's period was coming. I distinctly remember telling myself, "If that is what being a woman is like then I never want to be that kind of woman". Be careful what you wish for because the mind and subconscious are a powerful thing.
So, for years, I didn't have a period. At first, it was great. I played sports in middle, high school and college and was never inconvenienced with cramps like my teammates. I swam all summer without worry about a tampon string or pad peeking out from my bikini. It wasn't until I was in college that I realized something was different - I wasn't having a cycle like everyone else - and I started feeling different, alone and left out. Through some spiritual work, I discovered that my body was manifesting that wish to never experience what my sister had years prior. (Read more on my blog about my journey with PCOS and How Creativity Heals)
So, after a long journey, I am talking years, of learning about how it felt to not have a period, desperately want a period and finally heal my mind and body to menstruate, I came to the conclusion that it was time to empower myself once and for all. It was time to heal the relationship with my blood and cherish as if it were gold. For the past two years, I've been practicing a myriad of methods and rituals to shift the relationship with my blood from one of resentment to celebration. In doing so, I've noticed that my pre-menstrual symptoms have subsided, each week of the month has its own purpose, and my cycle brings value into my personal, professional, creative and financial life.
Exercising During Your Cycle
Our society has become very workout focused and masculinized. We as women assume we should be doing the same activities and workouts during each week of our cycle. Here's how to approach each week emotionally and physically in support of your cycle.
Week One - From day 1 to day 7 is the beginning of bleeding, the feminine quarter. It is a time to be quiet and listen to your womb. Make space in your life to set intentions for the month ahead, as if you are planting seeds in your womb. Your bleeding is making space for new beginnings. Exercise includes light walking and easy yoga.
Week Two - From day 8 to day 14 is the preparatory phase, ready to receive. It is vital to set intentions, set goals, to be clear about your values. Exercise includes high energy activities such as dancing and sports.
Week Three - From day 15 to 21 is the ovulation phase, with the possibility for new life to appear through conception or thoughts and ideas. Exercise includes anything with a sensual energy - making love, dancing, salsa, and tango.
Observe your body and this concept from month to month - how we feel during ovulation predetermines how we will feel premenstrually and during our bleeding. If we feel elated during ovulation, then our pre and menstrual cycle tend to be less symptomatic. If we feel depleted during ovulation, then our pre and menstrual cycle tend to be more symptomatic.
Week Four - From day 22 to 28 is the phase where we meet ourselves at the threshold. It is during this time that our egg becomes fertilized or dies. Exercise includes getting aggressions out through kickboxing, active yoga, running, swimming, surfing, cycling.
2. Rituals To Support Your Cycle
There are a plethora of rituals that bring consciousness, love, and celebration to bleeding.
Engaging in Full and New Moon Circles with a tribe of women from month to month is extremely nurturing to our emotional and physical bodies. Rituals during the circles include singing, dancing, drumming, burning sage, palo santo, bringing a sacred item to the circle, calling in the four directions, appreciating the elements, reviewing the previous month, releasing what no longer serves us, setting an intention for the month ahead, and invoking the Goddesses. Historically women who lived in close physical contact, emotional connection, and spiritual alignment would bleed together. When women collectively celebrate the phases of their cycle, they empower themselves and one another. To join one of my circles, visit https://gwencoach.acuityscheduling.com/
Schedule Down Time
We pressure ourselves as women to keep going from day to day like men but we are not men! We are women. We are different. We are powerful. The expansive emotional capacity we have for self-introspection, compassion for others, to die and rebirth on a monthly basis is mystical and electrifying. Make time for yourself and your magic.
Put Pen to Paper
There is something so cathartic about putting pen to paper and watching our thoughts, ideas, revelations pour from our hand onto paper. I can not emphasize journaling enough, especially in this age of technology.
Eat According to Your Cycle
Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code educates women on the foods to eat during each week of their cycle as hormone levels go up and down. Eating according to your cycle will give you more energy, emotional stability, and harness mood swings.
Week One - Bleeding - Your hormone levels go down during your bleeding so you want to include foods rich in fatty acids (salmon, avocado) to keep moods stable. Root veggies (sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and beets) provide vitamin A to support your liver in processing estrogen.
Week Two - Follicular - Estrogen rises during this phase, therefore, eating prebiotics and fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi) as well as sprouted foods (bean sprouts and broccoli sprouts) help break down and metabolize estrogen.
Week Three - Ovulation - Estrogen surges, even more so this week, so you'll want to eat foods that move the hormone out of your body. Antioxidants and fiber such as raw juices, fruits, and sulfur-rich veggies support your liver in receiving enough glutathione.
Week Four - Luteal - Progesterone and estrogen surges and brings on premenstrual swings. By eating foods rich in Vitamin-B (quinoa, buckwheat) you support your brain in producing serotonin. When you eat foods rich in magnesium and calcium (leafy greens) it helps regulate hormones and move them out of the body.
3. Know Your Blood
According to recent research, the uterine lining, or endometrium, which is shed during a menstrual cycle, is a rich source of adult stem cells and scientists have discovered stem cells in menstrual blood. In ancient times, menstrual blood was known to "cure disease" and was called the "fountain of life" for skin care. Modern medicine and some spa's use a topical application of stem cells on the skin, face, scalp because it's been discovered to bring new life to aging skin. There is a movement of women who use their blood in facials and masks to improve fine lines and wrinkles. I'm one of these women and I'm just saying...its free and I've noticed a big difference.
4. Reclaim Your Pussy
Organizations and books centered on women reclaiming their pussy (Regena Thomashauer of Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts), embracing their womb (Giuditta Tornetta of Joy In Birthing Organization) and celebrating their blood (books such as The Red Tent, Her Blood Is Gold and more) are shedding light onto something we, as women (and men), have been missing for thousands of years.
Our uterus and vagina grow and birth new life. We love pleasure in the forms of beauty and we have an organ, the clitoris, that has no purpose other than for pleasure. It's time we reclaim clitoracy and pleasure in all forms as our birthright. Let's empower ourselves through our blood the way our ancestors did, versus despise and resent it the way women are taught to in the current day.
5. Use Blood for Growth
Historically women bled on hay and then dispersed the hay to their farms. Most modern farmers and botanists will admit they use "vitamins" to grow their food. Typically these vitamins are fertilizers with blood meal from slaughtered animals because blood is protein and nitrogen dense.
I know I am going way off the grid here but stay with me. By using your own blood to fertilize your plants you are winning in two ways:
Sustainability - According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, a woman will use (and waste) 16,800 tampons in her lifetime - or as many as 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy. Tampons and pads are made with toxic materials that are cancer causing and prevent appropriate air flow to your most precious organ.
Superfood Health - Your blood communicates with soil and infuses plants with the nutrients that your body is missing and needs to thrive. By diluting blood with water and using as a fertilizer, you are turning your veggies and fruits into superfoods specifically designed for you. If you experiment with this concept be sure to dilute with water in a 10:1 ratio.
To learn more about sustainable ways of collecting your blood purchase a DivaCup, MoonCup or Sustainable Moon Pads.
Since I have been exercising, eating, bringing rituals into my daily life, healing trauma related to my body, and instituting radical self-care, my premenstrual symptoms have disappeared and my bleeding has shortened and lightened. I am sure there are many more forms of celebrating your gold so I look forward to hearing your best practices, funniest experiences from applying these tips, as well as your new perspective on being a woman who bleeds.