Looking at your menstrual cycle as super powers

October 6, 2015

Ancient societies such as native americans, saw the power in a menstruating woman.  Women were far more in tune with their bodies and surroundings.  They would feel the changes inside them, they would use these energies  and a woman’s cycle was to be honored.  When women left their men and children behind to menstruate with others in a safe and secluded space, they left because their energies were no longer about the outside ‘normal’ world.  Cooking, cleaning, and general activities were put on hold, and the women went to be alone, or to congregate together with other women during their bleed. What mattered during this time was the inside world.  Messages, signals, voices would come to these women during their menstruation.  They would vision, journey, sleep and dream.  They would spend time contemplating and unravelling the messages. Imagine if we all did this? Woman are the healers and if we don’t take the time to heal ourselves, how can we heal the community?

The access to other realms becomes easier at this time.  Senses are heightened.  Sensitivity to sound, smell and light would allow a woman to become more aware.  The natural tendency to withdraw at this time of the month, allows a woman to become quiet, in tune and open to listen and feel.

A Native American (Lakota) said: “Follow your Grandmother Moon. Her illuminating cycles will transform your spirit.” Begin with the Grandmother Moon at her brightest and most open. This is a time of outward activity and high energy. Sleep where the moonlight touches you. Walk outside where there are no artificial lights. Feel joy and creativity. As the Grandmother begins to cover her face, begin to withdraw into a quieter, less social place. Move to that inward place that is more about “being” than “doing.” In the dark of the moon, when bleeding, the veil between you and the Great Mystery is the thinnest. Be receptive to visions, insights, intuitions. Go to a quiet separate place such as a Moon Lodge. Later, come out of the dark, a woman with a cleansed body. As the moon returns, come back out into the world, carrying your vision.”

Let me explain each phase of our monthly cycle and how to use them as superpowers, what to eat and how to honor our “seasons” of our cycle.

1.) FOLLICULAR PHASE:

The follicular phase represents the beginning of a new cycle, once a woman’s period has ended. This is when a woman’s uterine lining grows back. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen start to rise and ripen the lucky egg that is going to mature and release during this cycle.This hormonal occurrence promotes and stimulates new, expansive energy. During this time, a woman might feel like she can do anything, and it’s because she probably can! This is a time for BIG events and BOLD acts. If you’re typically more introverted, take advantage of this time to step outside of your comfort zone and go with the hormonal flow that is on your side! As you can imagine, we focus on building yin and blood during this phase. This happens from the end of the period at about day five right through to ovulation.

During the Post-Menstrual phase it’s important to nourish blood and yin after the menstrual flow of the previous week. It’s important to include ample amounts of protein, fat, folic acid, and vitamin B12, which are essential for building blood and yin. Also important during the Post-menstrual phase is foods rich in chlorophyll (that’s all the green goodies!):kale, chard, bok choy, micro-algae, seaweeds (especially dulse, which is high in iron). Other foods that are nourishing during this time include nuts and seeds, especially flax and black sesame seeds; sweet fruits: especially berries such as mulberries, goji berries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, dark grapes, avocado, dates, figs, and apricots (which are high in copper); sweet vegetables such as beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro and  legumes. Other supplements that can help nourish our blood after our period include molasses, which is very high in iron and trace minerals, royal jelly and bee pollen (builds yin and jing), Angelica root (an excellent herb for women’s health) and herbal teas featuring nettle and rose-hips. It’s recommended to limit spicy foods, alcohol and coffee.

This is the Spring (Pre-Ovulation) phase of the month, it is a time of new growth in your monthly cycle.  It is a time of innocence and playfulness.  Light and warmth are coming back to a dark earth.  Buds are opening, the daylight is growing.  The Spring bring us promise and animals pro-creating.  The earth is waking up.  Everything is fertile and the energy is to nurture new growth, feed it and begin to wake up from the winter’s sleep.  We stretch and move again.  Test the water.  It is in this phase of the menstrual cycle we will find the energy to begin projects, to develop ideas and plan ahead.

Here is a journaling activity to get you in touch with this superpower:

I didn’t think I could, but I’ve always wanted to ______.

2.) OVULATION PHASE:

Again, while varying for each woman, ovulation is approximately the midway point of her cycle. At this time, there is a surge of FSH, LH and estrogen as it reaches its threshold and releases the mature egg.This hormonal spike heightens mental and emotional creativity. Whatever ideas that may have been identified in the follicular phase can now continue to be nurtured and brought further into crystallized manifestation. The dominant energy in this phase sustains projects. So if there’s a particular project where you’ve felt creatively stuck or stagnant, this a great time to get in flow with those creative juices and be more receptive to out-of-the box approaches. During this time, many less creative women can tap fully into their innate ability to create!

At ovulation, the fullness of yin turns into yang through the act of ovulation popping the dominant egg out of its follicle. This is why it is important to nourish yin and blood during the proliferation phase. Only when yin and blood are full and overflowing can the yin be transformed into yang.

According to integrative medicine expert Marcelle Pick, ob-gyn and author of Is It Me or My Hormones?, this increase often results in a boost in creativity and innovation. Channel the power into your creative projects, like writing, photography, or cooking.

The Summer (Ovulation)phase of your monthly cycle is a time to manifest.  The body is open and ready to create.  It is highly fertile and flirty.  The Sun has returned to the earth, and it’s time to enjoy the sunny days.  Get out and socialize, work on projects, finish projects…  Like the Summer Solstice, we rejoice and worship the Sun.  This is the time in our cycle we need to be connecting to people and relaxing in our outside world.  It can also be a time of vulnerability, and it is important that we keep ourselves grounded.  It is all to make risky decisions or get carried away in the moment at this time.

 A great journaling activity would be to get you in touch with this superpower: I feel most creative when I am ______.

3.) LUTEAL PHASE: Seeing in the Dark

Just after ovulation, FSH, LH and estrogen start to decrease as progesterone starts to rise. This is known as the luteal phase and the hormonal increase of progesterone represents the beginning of the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Here is where women start to naturally want to shift and contract into a more inward state. This is when women can start to retreat inwards, to let the power of reflection and introspection flow in their sacred space.

This a time to stick with less challenging tasks, and instead evaluate and reflect on perhaps the events and experiences of the first half of the cycle.

As a woman’s energy naturally draws in, she may have less tolerance and patience for the stimulation of the outer world. If pushed in an expansive and stimulating direction regardless, it can often be met with resistance or even argument because it’s going against a natural rhythm.

The luteal phase, from ovulation until the onset of menstruation, is when women are most in tune with their inner knowing and with what isn’t working in their lives. Studies have shown that women’s dreams are more frequent and often more vivid during the premenstrual and menstrual phases of their cycles. We have access to parts of our often unconscious selves that are less available to us at all other times of the month. In fact, it has been shown experimentally that the right hemisphere of the brain—the part associated with intuitive knowing—becomes more active premenstrually, while the left hemisphere becomes less active. Interestingly enough, communication between the two hemispheres may be , ‘increased as well.  The premenstrual phase is therefore a time when we have greater access to our magic—our ability to recognize and transform the more difficult and painful areas of our lives.

During the luteal phase—from ovulation to the day before your period begins— hormone levels are high, and you likely feel more stressed and emotional than usual. Pick recommends paying attention to when you feel most out of sorts each month. On those days, plan something special and soothing for yourself, like a massage or a hot bath. This is the hardest time for me and the whole reason I researched this subject in depth.

Here, the progesterone secreted by the corpus luteum slightly warms the uterus and dries up the cervical fluid to help provide the best nest for the embryo to develop. This is the part of the cycle during which a woman notices a slight change in her temperature if she is using a basal body-temperature chart to record her cycle changes. Not coincidentally, this warming and drying phase of menstruation is the yang part of the cycle. TCM doctors realized the importance of a warm womb long ago. In fact, there is a diagnosis labelled “cold womb” or “cold in the uterus,” which is a cause of infertility. It is important to warm yang to ensure a healthy menstrual cycle. To manage some of these symptoms, TCM practice is to invigorate the blood, tonify Yang if its deficient, move Qi, keep the uterus warm and expel cold from the body.

Once again, the cycle of transformation of yin and yang renews itself by a fullness of yang being released and transformed into yin through a healthy menstrual flow.

For our ovulatory phase or Mid-cycle, it’s important to nourish the Kidney Yang and Jing with warming foods that support digestion and tonify the kidneys. Warm and spicy foods featuring cloves, fenugreek, fennel seed, anise seeds, black peppercorn, ginger, and cinnamon are helpful, along with other foods like walnuts, black beans, onion family (chives, onion, scallion, leeks). During this phase, like menstruation, it’s important to limit cooling foods like raw fruits and vegetables and definitely avoid excess salt.

Spicy foods are welcome during this phase, so enjoy your Indian or Arabic foods- look for cardamom, marjoram, cumin, fennel, dill, ginger, horseradish, rosemary, mint and lemon balm. Like other phases, beets are very helpful during this phase. Other recommended vegetables are taro root, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower Brussel sprouts, turnips onion family, and kales. Fruits such as cherries, plums, strawberries; grains such as amaranth, rye, wild rice, and nuts such as pine nut and chestnuts are good also. Suggested herbal teas include chamomile, licorice, raspberry, and ginger– all of which are healthful and relaxing. During the pre-menstrual phase it’s important to avoid cold foods, raw foods, excessive consumption of fruits, all shellfish (too yang), coffee, stimulants, sugar and dairy products. Exercise is key at this time too.

If you suffer from negative PMS symptoms, essential fatty acids might be helpful to balance some of the hormones. These can be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, hempseeds, evening primrose oil, and pumpkin seeds. It’s also important to ensure that you get enough magnesium. Fortunately, cacao (chocolate!) is a good source or magnesium- but you have to get the good quality, dark chocolate . Many PMS symptoms are based on a liver Qi stagnation. To get things moving, look for foods like dill, fennel, and coriander seed, mint, peas, kelp, and try herbal teas featuring raspberry, mint, chamomile. Also helpful is the Chinese herb formula known as “Free and Easy Wanderer”. This formula has many beneficial herbs to help keep the cycle regulated, manage stress, and keep our hormones balanced.

The Autumn (Pre-Menstruation) phase of your cycle is a time of harvest and withdrawal.  This energy can be really tough for some women.  During this phase, our focus begins to turn inwards in preparation for menstruation.  We can feel disconnected from life and our mind can become negative and critical.  We harvest and complete projects and tasks, ready to withdraw from the outside world all together, like the Autumn Equinox, we remember the past.  If the pressure is on to remain in the outside world, we can become even more confused and irritable.  This phase slows us down and brings our attention back to our own needs.  It is during this phase that women can feel out of control, and suffer from PMS or PMDD.

4.) MENSTRUATION PHASE:

Menstruation refers to the days that a woman actually gets her period. Progesterone is now decreasing and her body is getting ready to start anew. I usually feel great relief once my moon arrives.

While each woman has her own unique experience with her period and her body, in honoring the feminine cyclical nature, the first day of a woman’s period would ideally be a day of rest and slowing the pace down.

On average, women can have a period anywhere from 3 to 8 days. During these days, it’s a time for even greater introspection, and to let go of the demands of the outer world.

This is ideally a time for women to delegate and request for all the support possible, not as a sign of weakness, but as a means to tune into and synchronize with the natural ebb and flow of their body’s wisdom.

During menstruation, women also often have more active dreams. They may feel more sensitive and aware of fears or insecurities which as human beings, we can all experience.I notice during this time I feel the most urge to cleanse or take baths. But this can be an opportunity to shine light on what is not always present in awareness, and then even potentially be transformed to empower oneself. Powerful transformative superpowers are in effect during this time.Your period marks a full cycle of death and rebirth. Having the chance to renew, to be reborn each month and reinvent yourself is magical! This ability is what gives us our sparkle, just like a shining moon.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), during the Menstrual phase of the cycle the energy of the body, mind, and spirit is turned inward and is going through a cleansing process.

Foods that are recommended during menstruation are those that invigorate the circulatory system, stimulate the digestion and aid in detoxification. This includes lots of fresh veggies like beets, eggplant, greens (kale, chard, bok choi, watercress), asparagus, cilantro, celery; mung beans; seaweed ; bitter fruits like grapefruits, green apples and lemons; and natural sweeteners.  Also recommend is apple cider vinegar with a small amount of raw honey to alkalanize and help with digestion. Including herbal teas like chamomile, raspberry tea, and ginger will help keep your whole body warm and cozy.

During the menstrual phase it’s also important to avoid stimulants like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and sugar. Also, because our body needs to maintain warmth and movement during this time, it’s important to limit the amount of cold or raw foods and heavy, starchy foods that might weigh us down.

In general it’s important to have ample amounts of calcium, magnesium, and fatty oils (all found in the plant foods listed above); if these essential nutrients are lacking disorders may arise.

This is the Winter (Menstruation) time of the month, it brings our focus deep within ourselves.  We are no longer interested in the outside world.  Our mind may be busy with thoughts from the past, negative experiences or trauma.  Winter solstice is the darkest point in our year, and a time to study and learn, to keep safe and warm.  Women may experience difficult physical symptoms during this phase.  Cramps, tiredness and irritability are all signs that you need to relax into the darkness and look after yourself.  It is essential that you honor this part of the cycle.  You are in the most sacred time of the month.  Pay attention to your dreams and visions.  Sleep lots.  When we look after ourselves during our cycle, especially during this winter phase, we have a better chance of a great Spring and Summer phases. I love this idea and it feels right in practice.

Here is a journaling activity to get you in touch with your superpower:

A repeating thought or feeling that does not serve me is ______.

I choose to release it and instead believe or feel ______.

Take time  to tune in for Reflection:
What is your body saying and how are you listening? Does your practice honor and take into consideration the circulating hormones and their underlying effect on your individual energy, vitality and overall health?

As I have said in my recent post, once upon a time I thought being a female was a punishment. I am amazed how wrong I was and impressed by my bodies super powers. When I tune in, I can finally use my experience to promote my well being. I hope this information helps you as much as it has helped me!

With Love & Gratitude,

Mama Melissa

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