If you know me, follow me on Instagram or receive emails from me regularly, you probably have heard me talking about Cycle Conscious Yoga a few times. But what is it really? And how can cycle awareness yoga help you create a healthier menstrual cycle?
I know many people turn up on the yoga mat to get a nice workout or to just do a physical practice. And like with any physical exercise, we often expect ourselves to feel and perform the same way every day even though our bodies and minds shift and change through the whole menstrual cycle.
The truth is that most physical exercise programs and even yoga is usually planned with just the circadian rhythm or the 24-hour rhythm in mind, and this is mostly because men only follow this rhythm. But if you’re a menstruating person, you follow another biological rhythm, called the infradian rhythm or menstrual cycle and to get the best results and benefits out of any physical activity, you should sync it with your menstrual cycle.
If you read my previous post, you already know that stress has a massive impact on the menstrual cycle because stress hormones have the power to throw sex hormones out of whack. And if you’re reading this post, you are probably quite a busy and ambitious womxn who has lots of things going on all the time, you get things done and aren’t afraid to go after your goals. You love working out and practising yoga and proudly go through your exercise routine every week.
Yoga is also an amazing tool to become more aware of your body and changing sensations so cycle awareness yoga is essentially about really tuning in, noticing what's happening during the different phases of your cycle and tweaking your practice accordingly.
Living a busy life takes its toll and I’m guessing I’m not wrong when I say that your stress levels are slightly elevated all the time. On top of that, in our moderns lives, we are constantly exposed to different stressors through our diet, skincare, pollution and so on. All this stress can be the cause behind things such as PMS (mood swings, bloating, feeling stressed out and frustrated), painful periods, migraines or an irregular cycle. And all these symptoms of period related-issues are even more of a reason to start syncing your yoga practice with your cycle and eventually overcome these issues.
But what does cycle conscious yoga and syncing your yoga practice with your cycle actually look like?
Cycle conscious yoga doesn’t mean that you need to do a carefully curated different yoga flow every day, this just simply means that you want to be mindful of your hormones and what they need in each different phase of your cycle in order to optimise your health and wellbeing. Yoga is also an amazing tool to become more aware of your body and changing sensations so cycle awareness yoga is essentially about really tuning in, noticing what's happening during the different phases of your cycle and tweaking your practice accordingly.
Here's what Cycle Conscious Yoga can look like
Inner Winter - Menstruation Phase
Firstly, take time to rest during the first days of your period. Do yin yoga, slow flow or go for a walk - this is not the time when you want to run a marathon or do an intense HIIT workout. I recommend opting for practices that help you to rest, slow down and release stress but also connect with the pelvic region, womb and your intuition that is naturally stronger in the winter phase of your menstrual cycle. Connecting with your uterus and being kind to yourself can also alleviate the period pain through mind-body connection.
Yoga is an amazing tool to really tune in and notice how you feel in your body and mind so combining cycle awareness and yoga helps you to really dive deep. Cycle conscious yoga supports a healthy cycle and helps you to recognise poses that can alleviate period pain and restore energy in the body for the rest of your cycle. But most importantly, giving yourself permission to rest on your period leads to a massive shift in your mindset and ultimately, helps you to see your body with more compassion and kindness.
Inner Spring - Follicular Phase
When you notice your energy levels increase towards the end of your period and in the follicular phase of your cycle, start doing more intense workouts and opt for yoga flows that incorporate twists, heart openers and more vinyasas. Getting the heart rate up and stimulating the digestive system with twists help you to flush out excess estrogen and produce more feel-good hormones.
Inner Summer - Ovulation Phase
In the summer or ovulation phase, focus on harnessing energy, opening your heart and creating strength. On your mat, you want to focus on longer holds and poses that help you build strength and release tension in your body. If you notice a drop in your energy levels around ovulation, honour that by sticking to more gentle poses. We tend to store emotional stress in the body, especially in our shoulders, back and hips so take the opportunity to really breathe into these areas of your body.
Inner Autumn - Luteal Phase
After you ovulate, you might notice your energy levels decreasing and progesterone increasing which is a very nurturing hormone when balanced. If you’re very in tune with your body, you will notice the shift early on, but if you’re just starting out on your cycle awareness journey, you might only notice this when you experience the first signs of PMS. Premenstrual syndrome is your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to slow down, especially because cortisol plays such a big role in the luteal phase of your cycle.
In the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, it’s important to skip strenuous or high-intensity workouts completely because they tend to boost cortisol hormone and instead, focus on low impact workouts, weight training and slower yoga flows. The main focus should be on releasing stress and unwinding to avoid increased cortisol levels that lead to a drop in your progesterone levels.
Healing Your Cycle
Cycle awareness is all about being in tune with your own body and seeing your life from a holistic perspective to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. If your lifestyle is hectic and you feel stressed out very often, it’s best to focus on resting and relaxing on your free time and find a form of physical activity that you love. On the mat, always focus on feeling good and at ease and allow yourself to explore slower practices.
Cycle awareness is all about being in tune with your own body and seeing your life from a holistic perspective to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
If your cycle is irregular and you struggle with PMS, it’s time to start healing the root cause and make holistic changes in your lifestyle.
To support you on your journey towards a healthier cycle and a less stressful life so that you can focus on achieving your goals with more ease, I want to invite you to The Cycle Conscious Collective. It’s a membership for ambitious womxn, female entrepreneurs, yogis and creatives who are ready to move, flow and connect with their cycle and harness their inner superpower. I'm offering a free 7-day trial and the offer ends on September 17th 2020!