I started learning about cyclical wisdom 7 years ago and I couldn't believe that this wasn't being taught to every woman starting from school age.
It is a fact that women if menstruating (not on contraceptive pill) will be experiencing their lives through a cyclical nature, mens experience is more linear.
I found that having awareness of my menstrual cycle brought greater awareness of my body. my energy and my emotions. It gave me a framework to understand myself better and that it is completely natural and not something to be ashamed of. I can remember as a teenager feeling ashamed that I was menstruating and that heaven forbid anyone find out.
It is a part of reconnecting to our bodies wisdom that we learn to honour this cyclical nature and the wisdom that it can hold. Talking about it rather than hiding it is the first step to releasing the shame around it.
There are 4 'seasons' to this cycle as illustrated by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer in their book Wild Power.
Winter - time of menstruation and connected to the Crone or Wise Women archetype.
This is a time of surrendering to the flow. Allowing yourself this time to rest and just 'be'. For me I find this a time of deep meditation, when the veils between the seen and unseen worlds become thinner. It has been suggested by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli in her book Yoni Shakti that menstruation is a time of a naturally occurring Siddhi for women. A Siddhi is like a supernatural power and a time when great insights may occur or naturally experience a sense of oneness with all of life. Unfortunately our world is not set up for women to experience this Siddhi fully. We may not be able to drop everything for a few days but even if you can for a few hours, allow yourself to descend into the void and receive fresh insights. We tend to feel at our most introspective and we want to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. I believe the more women are able to reclaim this time for themselves, the greater sense of empowerment and embodiment they will feel. The Winter season is from day 1 - day 5 approximately.
Spring - Oestrogen starts to build - the maiden archetype
Gradually we start to emerge refreshed after winter if we have been able to rest. This is a time associated with the maiden archetype when the world of possibilities start to open up and we feel light and playful. We may start to take action on any insights that have come to us during our winter.
Summer - ovulation - the mother archetype
We tend to feel at our most extrovert at this time, we are generous with our time and energy, this is associated with the mother archetype. This can feel a time of stillness and meditation but more outwardly focussed. Usually the Summer season takes place around days 13 - 15 of your cycle.
Autumn - Premenstrual - Enchantress archetype.
Our hormones flip to more progesterone during this season and we start to release what we no longer need. Associated by the enchantress archetype we tend to get straight to the point and speak our truth, even if it's uncomfortable for others to hear. We may feel that we are holding a lot of tension in our bodies. A couple of days before we bleed again our hormones drop suddenly which may make us feel vulnerable and emotional.
These are based on my own experiences of reading about the subject and charting my own cycle but you may experience something slightly different as we are all unique.
It is thought that when we are menstruating it is preparing us for menopause. We learn to embody our own wisdom when we menstruate and then we are ready to fully step into our power at menopause. I will let you know when I get there if that is true! But I like to believe that menopause will be a time of empowerment rather than the negative experience we are led to believe by our culture.
Cyclical Wisdom and the Moon
If your periods have stopped for any reason you can still access this cyclical wisdom by following the cycles of the moon and noticing how you feel. I don't believe it is any coincidence that a woman's cycle and the full cycle of the Moon is the same length, usually 28-29 days. It is thought that the number 13 is considering unlucky because there are 13 full moons and 13 menstrual cycles in a year; its association with women was considering a bad omen apparently!
Dark moon or new moon - Menstruation/ Winter phase
Waxing moon - Spring phase
Full moon - Ovulation/ Summer phase
Waning moon - Premenstrual/ Autumn phase
Cyclical Wisdom and The Pill
My experience of taking the contraceptive pill made me feel disconnected from this cyclical wisdom.
It made me feel flat and depressed, I wasn't experiencing the full highs and lows of expression and emotions. We need to experience the light and the dark in order to unpack and decompress anything that needs to be released. By facing our shadow during the premenstrual and menstruation phase we uncover the unconscious beliefs that may be holding us back or ruling our lives in the background. By facing these shadows, we see situations as they really are, we start to become empowered.
When you start learning more about the wisdom and insights that we can access during our cycle it can make you realise how harmful taking the Pill can be for disconnecting women from their own wisdom. For the Patriarchy it can be dangerous for a woman to feel empowered and to know herself. You can learn more about whether taking the Pill is right for you by reading 'The Pill: Are you sure it's for you?' By Alexandra Pope and Jane Bennet.
Cyclical Wisdom and Yoga
Hatha yoga was originally taught by men to men and a general yoga class does not always take into account the changes that occur in a woman's body throughout her lifetime.
While menstruating once I ended up going to a Hot Vinyasa flow yoga class being taught by a friend and it was the worst thing I could have done during that time. I just wanted to lie down and rest in a dark room and certainly not be jumping around in a hot, packed yoga studio. My own Yoga practice changes a lot throughout the month and it is through charting my cycle and listening to how my body is feeling that day that I learnt to do a practice that reflects this.
A Vinyasa flow class may be perfect for my Spring and Summer seasons when I am feeling stronger, more energetic, more outward focussed but not during my Winter season. During my Spring and Summer seasons I may want to do a more physical practice, challenging myself with more difficult asanas.
During my pre-menstrual or Autumn season I may start to feel more tension in my body and when I feel like I need to start slowing down and turning inwards. This is when I may do more slow flowing movements, moving my body in circles and spirals, riding the inner waves of energy. I may want to do more Yin yoga with longer held, floor based asanas to release tension and experience a more meditative practice.
At menstruation or Winter season my body needs rest. This is the time to drop all to-do lists and drop into presence. This is the perfect time to practice a Yoga Nidra, extended relaxation or to do a longer meditation. Some gentle restorative Yoga postures such as supported Supta Baddakonasana (Reclining Goddess or Butterfly pose) would also be beneficial. I sometimes find that lying face down on the ground with arms extended overhead also really grounding. It sounds strange but it gives me the feeling of complete surrender to the Earth and feeling the breath in my lower abdomen.
It is through my 121s with women that I aim to honour whichever phase she may be in and to offer a practice that will support her. I believe that remembering our cyclical wisdom and practising Yoga in a way that honours our amazing female bodies is very empowering. We begin to cherish these natural tides and the gifts that each season brings; it is the path to acceptance, understanding and self love. Find out more about booking a 121 Yoga session with me.
I hope this account has inspired you to listen to your own cyclical wisdom and begin charting your own cycle in a journal or diary and noticing how you feel during the month.
Claire is a Yoga teacher with a particular interest in teaching women to become more in tune with their bodies and listening to their inner wisdom. She is also a Reiki Master Practitioner and loves talking about all things to do with natural health. Contact her to find out about her classes and treatments.