I’ve never had an easy time with my period. Just this past weekend, I was doubled up in bed, gasping with pain as the cramps kicked in. I thought I was going to pass out and vomit all at once.
Over the years, the dizzying menstrual combination of migraines, mood swings, nausea, abdominal bloating, and painful breasts usually put me on a heady cocktail of over-the-counter painkillers for days on end, until it passes and life returns to normal. And then the next cycle begins again.
This time, I’ve decided this can’t go on. There must be more I can do to help myself through my womanly times.
Avoiding Pills and Studying Hormone Shifts
I can’t take the pill or indeed ingest any synthetic hormones, though, unless I want to end up utterly irrational, fat, and slightly suicidal. And while herbs and acupuncture treatments are helpful as long as they're consistent and sustained, these aren’t always practical, affordable, or possible.
Then I stumbled upon an article mapping out how our hormone shifts influences how we feel in everyday life. This made me wonder what would happen if I synced my yoga practice more closely with my hormone cycle, according to how social, energetic, and comfortable my body feels.
In the week running up to my period, I dial down my ashtanga practice,increase the Yin, and make fewer social engagements. I do this so I can indulge my reclusive hormonal desires, stuff my face with whatever my ovaries demand, and then rest as much as I want – until the storm passes.
But I’m curious – could specific modifications in my yoga practice and lifestyle make my hormones more balanced and manageable? After reading what ‘Hormonology’ author Gabrielle Lichterman has to say about our ‘Hormone Horoscope,’ here is my plan.
Week One, Day 1-7: Ride Out the Storm.
During this week, estrogen rises as you get over the discomfort of your period. Your energy increases, your mood improves, and your thinking is clearer.
You will feel like engaging more socially and romantically, and you’ll be less hungry, so eating smaller portions and making healthier choices come naturally.
How I’ll honor this:
- Rest during my period, do Yin or restorative yoga, and practice more meditation.
- Increase“me time,” silence, and sleep until my energy lifts.
- Schedule some social activity towards the end of the week to celebrate feeling human again.
- Return to a light practice to get back into my body without pushing too hard. Aim to move energy and any remaining stagnation around my body.
- Eat light.
Week Two, Day 8-14: I’m Sexy and I Know It.
This week, estrogen and testosterone rise until they peak. You might feel optimistic, open, and full of self-confidence. Higher estrogen increases the output of endorphins, so your ability to handle pain and discomfort increases slightly.
As testosterone rises in the latter half of this week, you’ll feel bolder and better at making decisions and taking greater risks. There is a rise in your libido too, so it’s a great time to have sex as the intensity and ability to reach orgasms increase.
How I’ll honor this:
- Be a social butterfly.
- Start new projects and do things that demand more creative or emotional energy.
- Increase effort in practice, adopt a stronger (Ashtanga) practice, and introduce new or more challenging postures.
- Consider any major life decisions requiring attention and use this time to make plans.
- Schedule more time with my man.
Week Three, Day 15-22 (in a 28 day cycle): Slow Down and Take Shelter.
This week, progesterone rises; estrogen and testosterone drop mid-week, then estrogen rises again. At the beginning of this week you might experience a downturn in your mood and energy levels as your body begins to prepare itself for your period.
You might feel flat and fatigued. It’s like a lighter version of PMS that should even out towards the end of the week as estrogen levels fluctuate.
Progesterone rises this week, making us sleepy and more introverted. This triggers food cravings, makes you forgetful and brain-foggy, and dampens your libido.
How I’ll honor this:
- Make fewer social plans and be selective about who I spend my time with.
- Avoid taking on anything new this week and making major decisions.
- Avoid activities that require me to be super communicative or in the spotlight, busy situations, or cramped spaces. Spend more time alone and outdoors in nature.
- Reduce the fire in my yoga practice: more fluid and feminine, less pushing and striving, and more meditative and grounding poses.
- Balance healthy eating with indulging food cravings.
Week Four, Final 6 Days of Your Cycle: Be Extra Kind
During this week, estrogen and progesterone plunge. PMS will really kick in, potentially triggering moodiness, irrational thinking, anger, sadness, insomnia, tears, headaches, bloating, water retention, fatigue, and abdominal discomfort - yay!
The reduction in estrogen depletes your brain of mood-boosting chemicals, leading to irritability and negativity. Doing things that make you feel good may help you feel calmer and more upbeat.
How I’ll honor this:
- Go off grid, clear my diary, and don’t make any solid social engagements.
- Eat my favorite comfort foods and ensure meals are regular.
- Increase my water intake and be mindful of salt consumption to minimize bloating.
- Go to bed extra early so I’m resting even if I can’t sleep.
- Offer myself some TLC: bubble baths, massages, curling up to a book and some tea.
- Wear comfy clothes in soft and feminine fabrics.
- Minimise as many stress triggers as possible.
- Move however my body wants to; do a yin/yang practice, release frustrations or tension, and be sure to slow down. Include postures to sooth, calm, and restore.
- Avoid too much contraction of Mulabandha or root lock, “upside downing” or inversions, or breath retention.
Now that I’m all set with my hormone-centric yoga practice and lifestyle tweaks, I should be able to give you an update on how I’ve fared in a few weeks. Stay tuned for how to eat for happy hormones, and yoga poses to ease period pain next week!