Would you believe me if I shared there is a link between yoga, your menstrual cycle and mental health? Yes, I truly feel there is a connection and much wisdom to be gained by getting to know your own body, natural cycle and using the amazing body you were gifted with to support your mental health. Yoga is a tool to connect with your body and mind and bring yourself back into a natural state. When the body is out of whack, for lack of a better word, there is dis-ease or dis-harmony.
As I go deeper into yoga teacher training and learn more about trauma and how the body works, the more I see we live primarily in our thinking, masculine brain and disconnect from our feeling body which we are very much connected to as babies. I.e. As a newborn: my body feels hungry, I’m going to cry. As adults, we have been conditioned into remaining primarily in the thinking body and brain. ‘Feeling the feels’ is not necessarily valued in the mainstream, as shown by how we have conditioned males not to express themselves and how they feel…this along with many factors have contributed to a high male suicide rate globally. This disconnection between the body, brain and breath can manifest in illnesses like depression and anxiety.
That said, there are ways to start to connect back into your feeling body, harness your natural rhythm of your moon cycle and start to notice the impact on mental health.
Why do I say this?
Words of experience, basically! I spent my twenties on the contraceptive pill, fearful of falling pregnant, worked really hard and started binge drinking. When I came off the pill, I had an irregular cycle which matched my irregular yoga practice, sporadic gym sessions, irregular work hours, irregular drinking…irregular everything! Lol. Definitely a contributing factor to developing depression and anxiety in my late twenties.
Fast forward to my late thirties and I have started to track my menstrual cycle and adjust my yoga practice to support when I am in my cycle and also to work in with what I have on the go in my life. E.g. If I am travelling, I won’t do a full 60 minute yoga practice. I will practice for 30 minutes. On days I have my period now, I will meditate and practice supportive yin poses rather than a strong practice and avoid inversions plus intense gym workouts. Listening to my body and adjusting my yoga practice has supported my mental health in terms of finding a level place, rather than moody ups and downs in a day for example.
How can you start to use yoga poses to connect in with your menstrual cycle to support mental health?
- Track your menstrual cycle from your first day of your period. Notice your moods, bodily changes and temperature.
- Start to record what is happening in your life at home, work and your community.
- Track your energy levels throughout your menstrual cycle.
- Honour your natural rythm of your body and when your period starts, if you notice your energy levels drop, avoid intensive exercise and inversions in yoga practice.
- Adopt a gentle and supportive yoga practice like Yin Yoga during your period or busy periods at home or with your work.
- Stay watered and well-fed. Nourish yourself.
For years I used to work against my body. I went from irregular everything to the other line of thinking that ‘I must workout everyday and must do intense yoga practice everyday’ in my bid to be a ‘good’ yoga student. By working with your natural cycle and rhythm, you can start to support your mental health and wellbeing. Rather than forcing your body to move it…when it is naturally slowing down to rest.
Following a course through Bex Tyrer, yoga teacher and activist in Indonesia, I have regularly been tracking my menstrual cycle over the past 8 months and it has been so interesting to get to know my own body. I have noticed when I am stressed out, my cycle is longer and more painful. When I am settled, my period comes at relatively the same time and without pain.
Is this an overshare? It is a complete overshare about my cycle. I share honestly in the hope that you will use this information to start to get to know your body inside out and be confident to choose the yoga practice that is right for you, on any given day. This in turn has the potential to support your mental health.
If this resonates with you, check out Bex Tyrer’s upcoming courses! The courses were accessible, practical and felt like such a gift and huge information download for me.
Good luck! Let me know how you go.