Learning this information changed my life. I wish I knew what it meant to work with my cycle rather against it, even as a young teen. It’s empowering knowledge for all menstruating individuals, and it doesn’t need to be over complicated, in fact – it’s quite simple. Small changes to your lifestyle and daily movement practices, can make a BIG difference and a profound impact on the way you feel. We live in a culture that takes pride in productivity, striving, achieving goals, go-go-go, but often when we live in a fast-paced lifestyle, we tend to ignore or suppress our natural rhythms and we throw our nervous system into a chronic state of fight or flight. There is immense power in learning about your cyclic nature and the seasons associated with each phase of your cycle. Embracing and understanding the best ways to move during your cycle can improve your energy management, mental health, and emotional well-being, not to mention, your overall vitality.
Hormones function as the body's chemical messengers, intricately intertwined within the endocrine system. Hormones orchestrate communication between bodily systems, while the interplay of the endocrine and nervous systems maintain a state of balance. This is why nurturing the nervous system corresponds to supporting and tending to your hormonal well-being and menstrual cycle. It’s also the reason why it is so important to know the energetics, nuances, and various lifestyle shifts you can make, especially relating to physical exercise – that will not only benefit your nervous system, but also your menstrual cycle.
Menstrual phase: Menstruation is known to be your inner Winter. It’s the time to truly prioritise REST and recharge your batteries. During your bleed, it’s a sacred time of self-nurturing, reflection, self-care, and relaxation. Gentle movement practices like Yin yoga or restorative stretching as well as walks in nature, self-massage and journaling are beautiful ways to honour this time of slow inward energy. Every phase (not just this one) should be about compassionately listening to the body’s needs.
Follicular phase: Phase two is known as inner Spring. In the follicular phase, the body prepares for ovulation and energy levels rise. I might be biased, but tis’ the season for a dynamic vinyasa flow, which does wonders for blood flow and energising the body & mind. It’s the ideal phase for goal setting, igniting creativity, and channelling energy into your intentions. Other movement practices might include forms of light cardio, swimming, Pilates, dance – who doesn’t love a boogie to get the heart rate up.
Ovulatory phase: Ovulation is our inner Summer season. It’s fun, flirty, and vibrant. It’s the time to embark on movement that makes you feel strong, radiant, and powerful. Energy, fertility, and vitality is at its peak which may ignite a sense of confidence or connectedness. This kind of energy is magnetic and, in my opinion, feels quite outward or extroverted. Movement practices that are higher in intensity suit this phase very well, for example, HIIT, strength training, running, hiking, Vinyasa yoga. This might be the time to invite a healthy challenge within your chosen movement practices.
Luteal phase: During the Luteal phase, energy begins to shift inwards as the body prepares for menstruation. It’s said to be inner Autumn and is a phase that invites introspection and usually there’s a felt shift, energetically, emotionally & physically. Movement during this time should focus on grounding (hello slow flow with longer holds + using support of props), embrace slower movement, perhaps hip openers, and gentle twists. Breathwork is also very useful during this phase to promote a shift into the parasympathetic nervous system – I love Sama Vrtti (Box breath) accompanied with a supine body scan which can really encourage a relaxed state, perfect to carry in to phase one as the cycle starts again.
Our cyclical nature as menstruators is quite incredible and fascinating to learn about. Everyone’s experience will vary, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ – so it’s important to listen to what occurs within you. Knowing about my own cyclic changes has given me permission to ride the ebbs and flows of my energy and mental capacity, rather than expecting myself to run at the same pace or judge myself when I am feeling a shift in my mental or physical state. It’s empowering to set boundaries for yourself. It’s empowering to make purposeful and intentional adjustments, depending on your physiological state and your innate inner wisdom. It’s empowering to deepen your awareness of your beautifully fluctuating body and your seasons that naturally occur and are unique to You.
Amelia La Rosa: Yoga facilitator & Naturopathy (BHSc) student