PERIODS, LIFE AND YOGAJun 15, 2022
ON LIVING A CYCLICAL LIFE + MY PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MY PERIOD
Yoga, traditionally, was designed for the male body. A modality passed down from teacher to student, male to male. Thus, it does not always make room for the changing seasons of the menstruating body.
Ashtanga was it for me, for a while. The same, masculine, disciplined practice each day. I loved the clear window it gave my to view my mind and how it fluctuates. While practicing the same series of shapes each day, they could feel so different one day to the next. So much value in this ancient practice. Yet made no space for my cyclical body to rest, to explore intuitive movement, or to feel freedom in my body.
I respect and appreciate the practice of ashtanga yoga, but it’s no longer for me.
As I sit here now, I am curled up beneath my doona, and I can feel the rhythmic pulls of my uterus preparing to shed this month’s layer. Something that used to cause me anxiety and dread, and something now that I love and look forward to. Like a release, and a big permission slip for rest and surrender.
In adjusting my life to move in harmony with my cycle, I’ve healed a lot of the trauma and damage that once influenced my relationship with my body.
From the start, my relationship with my cycle was problematic.
I didn’t start bleeding until I was fifteen, nearly sixteen. All of my relatives and girlfriends began their cycles around age 11-13. So, naturally I felt excluded and already a resentment for my body and its lack of normality was building.
When I finally did start bleeding, it was painful and irregular. I then spent the next several years battling a fairly severe (and for the most part, unnoticed) eating disorder which caused me to stop bleeding for 18 months. During this time I was diagnosed with PCOS, potential endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea and a thyroid disfunction for which I was given diabetes medication. On top of that, I was told that I was the youngest case of menopause in human history and that I would be studied for generations to come.
For 19 year old Hayley, already battling some pretty deep self-worth issues, this was a lot. And looking back, knowing what I know now, I can fairly confidently say I was misdiagnosed for nearly all of those conditions.
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not here to bag-out western medicine, it’s a wonderful resource that I feel privileged to have access to. But I will say, sometimes, we are too quick to slap a diagnosis on someone without getting all of the information. Not one of those doctors or endocrinologists asked me if I was eating. Not one asked me if I was happy, or if I felt safe in my home. No one asked me what my relationship to my body was like.
Jumping forward nearly ten years, I now have a relationship with my menstrual cycle that I cherish deeply. It has become the rhythm that shapes my life in such a wonderful, orbital way. My periods are still painful but far more manageable, and I’ve learnt so much about myself through this journey of discovering the immense power and wisdom that exists within my menstruating body.
The healing process for me really began when I started to listen.
To continually check in each day.
To notice the changes, however subtle.
And like the moon and the seasons, these changes happen gradually. You have to watch for it, or chances are you’ll miss it.
But when we do notice, and we align ourselves with our internal rhythm, there’s a harmony that arises. A deep and tangible sense of self. A connection to nature that carried with it, for me anyway, a dissolution of disease and pain.
For those who inhabit a menstruating body, our cyclical nature is a hugely important piece of who we are and how we exist in the world, whether we realise it or not. And reclaiming our right to rest, while honouring the truth of our changing bodies is a quiet form of activism.
Yoga, as a modality is healing and human. And in learning how to lean into my cycle and adjusting my practice and life accordingly, it’s offered me more than I could have ever dreamed.
One last thing: your blood is not dirty.
It is the creator of all human life on this planet. It’s what you and I and everyone else grew from. These fleshy, human bodies. We are taught to cringe and hide a part of ourselves that is so innately pure.
The amount of fear and stigma associated with our blood really just shows its power and significance.
Healing my relationship with my cycle has been one of the most profound pieces in not only healing my relationship to my body, but in forging a deep and valuable friendship with myself.
This work is not always easy, but it’s honest and necessary.
We bleed. And it’s a blessing, if you know how.
If you’d like to learn more about cyclical living and how to adjust your yoga practice and self-care to align with your inner rhythm: ORBITAE is a self-paced online course for you to do just that.
Intakes every 3 months. Waitlist available.
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