Alright ladies, if you had to guess, how many menstrual cycles do you think you have over your lifetime? Well, the answer is 450 (on average).
That is a lot.
Which is why I am truly baffled that we spend our lives despising this part of the month---instead of embracing and honoring something that comes SO OFTEN! Unfortunately, women often view their cycles as a burden, and often it is even culturally perceived to be some kind of a burden or curse. I know in the west we have an extremely poor relationship with our cycle., but I am working to change that.
But what if you took the time to understand your cycle? To embrace and integrate it? So that instead of "suffering" through it, you could flow with the natural rhythms of your body and THRIVE! Did you realize that your monthly cycle has four unique phases and that each one creates different physical and emotional STRENGTHS within you?
Does this inspire you to actually want to learn how to work WITH your cycle instead of against it? I personally practice everything I am sharing and it has completely shifted my relationship with my cycle and I have trust that it can and will do the same for you.
Phase 1 - Menstrual Phase
The first day you start to bleed is considered day one of your cycle. But what actually happens? Well, your hormone progesterone lowers, which causes the uterine lining to shed.
On average a woman's "period", aka time of bleeding, is 3-7 days long.
While you bleed your energy is the lowest it will be during your cycle and you may naturally feel tired and withdrawn (honor this). You will want to rest more often and if you have the space you would ideally take the day off completely. Obviously that is not possible for most women but at least bring some stillness and rest into your day. This could even be something like a a few minutes of deep breathing or silence.
During the first day of my flow I always make a date with myself--and no-one else. I take a bath with epsom salt, essential oils, and my crystals. I allow myself to be held during this time, in the water- the mother. Afterwards I take time to journal and reflect on the month I just had. How did I show up? Where was I successful? What can I do differently moving forward? These questions create awareness and allow me to set intentions for the month to come. This is also the time where we are very intuitive, as the feminine energy within us is at its peak.
Remember that during the first few days we don't want to be exerting much energy, so avoid physical activity, accept for practicing restorative yoga. Be sure to add lots of hip openers to encourage your flow.
Your body will thank you.
Phase 2 — The Follicular Phase
This is the phase that comes just after menstruation. It's called the Follicular phase because your pituitary gland releases a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which stimulates the follicles in your ovaries to mature. This is where your eggs are contained.
During this phase both estrogen and testosterone start to increase. This is why you start to feel a boost in your energy and often an improvement in your mood. You may even feel more confident and willing to take risks. Testosterone stimulates your libido while estrogen makes you feel more extroverted and suppresses your appetite.
The best things to do during this part of your cycle is brainstorming and problem solving. Your brain power is strong during this phase so go ahead and initiate new projects and make big decisions. Share your voice, speak up and offer your wisdom to the world. Spend time with friends, meet new people, and allow yourself to be active in the world. This is the time of your cycle where strenuous exercise serves you incredibly well-- so be sure to get physical!
Phase 3 — The Ovulatory Phase
During this phase your body releases an egg from its follicle in your ovary, this egg typically survives for 12-24 hours. Essentially, ovulation is the culmination of all the hard work your body has been doing the few weeks prior.
During this phase your estrogen and testosterone rise to peak levels, boosting the effects of the follicular phase. You will actually perceive yourself as more beautiful during this time and your confidence will rise. Be brave, verbalize your thoughts and ideas and stand strong in your love for yourself. This will also be the time when your sex drive is highest, because your body is just asking for a baby :)
If you can choose-- this is when you want to schedule a job interview, networking, or even go on a new date. Your energy levels are the highest in this phase so keep up your physical activity as well.
Phase 4 — The Luteal Phase
The first 2 to 3 days of this phase will feel a lot like the previous phase. That changes when estrogen and testosterone decline and your body starts producing progesterone instead.
Progesterone is actually an anti-anxiety hormone, so you will find yourself beginning to wind down and naturally relax. This phase is the best time for nesting, chores and taking care of your to-do lists. Tasks that don't need a lot from you.
The second half of this phase, however, is usually difficult for most women. You might feel "PMS" symptoms like cravings for sweets or carbohydrate-heavy comfort foods. Many women experience bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, anxiety and moodiness. While these symptoms are real, it is important to realize that if you honor your previous phases that you will seriously decrease this experience.
This is the most important time to practice self-care. Begin to spend time alone, pay attention to your diet and add healthy and easily digestible foods into your meals. Integrate more restorative yoga and even massage or acupuncture. I also encourage you to take magnesium supplements which help to reduce headaches and muscle tension.
When you honor your body's innate need for rest and relaxation during this phase, you will enhance your ability to get more out of the active phases of your cycle. Please, do this.
Our bodies, as females, naturally ebb and flow. Just like the natural environment around us. Embrace this, take the time to understand your body--it will serve you well.
Ultimately, getting in touch with your personal cycle is key to maximizing your true potential in ALL areas of your life. It is beyond worth it.