15 Dec Yoga and the menstrual cycle – part 1
Did you know that we at Sanga Yoga are madly in love with the menstrual cycle and that we’ll soon have a special yoga course focused on exactly this topic? In this first part in a short series about yoga and the menstrual cycle, we take you on a journey through the different phases of our cycle and you’ll get to know Claudia better, too. Come along!
My obsession with the menstrual cycle started on the day my husband and I felt we were ready to welcome a child into our lives. From that day on, I couldn’t wait to get my period back. I had been on birth control since I was 16 years old, and I hadn’t had a natural cycle for over ten years. I was expecting my period to come back soon, and after that we would start trying for a baby.
However, my period didn’t come back. What I didn’t know back then, was that it would take another three years until we would conceive our child. And although these three years were incredibly challenging, it did spark something new in me and it gave me lots of time to study and nerd out on everything related to the menstrual cycle. I later combined that with a fertility yoga teacher training to support other women on their fertility journey, educate women on their menstrual cycle, and provide the tools of yoga to connect with the cycles. The first part of this is all about educating what’s happening in our body throughout our cycle.
The 4 phases of our menstrual cycle
Our menstrual cycle has four different phases, or four different seasons as we call them. Every phase is unique, thanks to the differences in hormone levels, and in our bodies and minds have different needs during every “season”.
Part 1 – menstruation – winter
The first day of our menstrual cycle, is the day our period starts. This time of “winter” often makes us want to turn within. Many women feel more vulnerable than usual, energy levels might be a bit lower and we often want to hibernate, curl up on the couch, and stay away from hectic situations.
During these first days of our cycle, the levels of our main sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are low. As the uterine lining sheds when pregnancy doesn’t happen, the uterus is going through a mini birth: the muscles actually contract to shed the lining of the uterus, but in a much milder way than during childbirth.
This is the phase in which an important hormone comes into play: FSH, or follicle stimulating hormone, helping the body to grow follicles (usually between 3 and 30), that each contain an egg. Only one of the follicles will keep growing, and soon starts releasing estrogen.
Part 2 – pre-ovulation – spring
When our period ends, we enter the pre-ovulation phase. Estrogen starts rising to help build the lining of the uterus again (and it keeps the vagina lubricated + helps us feel good), and we often feel our energy building up. It’s during this phase, the phase of “spring”, that many women feel good. It’s the phase in which we often enjoy being among other people more than during our period, we’re more interested in sex, and we generally feel more energetic.
Part 3 – ovulation – summer
And then.. “summer” comes with all its energy, beauty and potency. This short phase is called the ovulation phase and it’s during these days, that an egg has matured so much that it will be released, thanks to a hormone called LH (luteinizing hormone).
This is also the season in which ideas are born, sexual desire peaks, energy rises even more, and if you’re hoping to conceive a baby, this is your time. Estrogen levels will now fall for a few days, and progesterone rises.
Part 4 – Pre-menstruation – fall
After ovulation, progesterone keeps rising to help a fertilized egg implant in a nutrient-filled, thick enough uterine lining, and estrogen rises again to support growing that lining of the uterus. Both hormones also stimulate the milk ducts in the breast to widen. This is why many women have sensitive, fuller breasts in the days leading up to menstruation.
If you got pregnant this cycle, progesterone levels stay high. If you didn’t, both estrogen and progesterone drop at the end of your cycle, leading to the start of your period on the first day of your next cycle.
The “fall” season is when many women already feel the need to slow down and we often start feeling more emotional than during the past two phases of our cycle.
Knowledge is empowerment
We at Sanga Yoga strongly believe that if women know how their body works they will feel empowered. If you know in where in your cycle you are, you can make small adjustments in your life to help you feel your best, you can see the beauty of your cycle and all its functions, and you can embrace womanhood in all its beauty. Even if it sometimes comes with challenges – for example when we feel low during our menstruation – we can help ourselves by taking the right decisions for the season we’re in.
In our next article in this mini series, we’ll help you make changes in your life to follow your cycle and feel best, we talk about how to practice yoga in the different phases, and we’ll explain how yoga can help create a healthier menstrual cycle and how it can support women on a fertility journey.