One of the challenges with menstruation – and the female hormonal cycle – is that our bodies change. All the time. Some women naturally fluctuate between two dress sizes during the course of a monthly cycle. It seems to me that we should welcome this flow and ebb of our bodies, and celebrate the changes that take place. We can do this by preparing the body for menstruation, by ensuring energy and fluids run freely through our body so that we are ready for the monthly bleed.
One of my favorite ways of doing this is the yoga posture Marjariasana, or the Cat. You don’t need any special clothing or equipment for this posture, but you might like to lean on a blanket or a mat to protect your knees. It’s a simple posture to do – and when consciously using it to prepare the body for menstruation, it takes on a beautiful nourishing quality.
The key to doing the cat is a) alignment – and knees and wrists should be precisely underneath the hips and shoulders, no swaying back and forth, and b) core musculature. In Dru Yoga we work with the core all the time, and in time this gives an amazing control over internal muscles and tissues.
Just in case you’re not familiar working with core muscles, this is how to do it: Tighten tummy muscles a little. Become aware of tensing around the front and back, from the hips and up to the chest. The muscles should be tensing just slightly, in order to help you move and balance better. Hitch up your pelvic muscles too, and you’ve got a beautifully engaged core. Remember to breathe deeply and calmly.
As you begin to move into the Cat, keep your core engaged while breathing out and tipping your tailbone in. Follow the breath and allow your back to arch upwards gently. Let your head drop down. Take a moment to feel the arch, before breathing out and tipping your tailbone back. Allow the spinal wave to gently flow through your back as you keep your core engaged and carefully dip your back. Mind you don’t dip it too far, and let your head come up last. Keep your head facing forward as you feel into the pose. Gently lengthen and strengthen your back, flow between the two movements softly and let your breath guide you.
I find the movements most beneficial when doing them slowly, so I might take several breaths in the same spinal wave. When you feel you have done enough, come back into the Child posture, and rest.
I love how the Cat-posture with its gentle spinal waves build agility and flexibility in my spine. But it also tones the pelvis, and releases tension. When using this posture as part my menstrual self-care, I focus on the spinal waves and feel into them the ebb and flow of the body and hormonal cycle.
I like practicing late at night, preferably in the moonlight. Then I can really visualize how the moon affects the world and everything in it, causing water to move and regulating menstruation. In the stillness of the night I can feel the energy streaming through my body, everything becoming harmonious and balanced. Tensions and worries let go, and the body can concentrate on getting ready for menstruation. Doing this posture in the week leading up to the time of bleeding, menstrual pain and cramps can be reduced or alleviated.
Afterwards sleep comes easily, soothingly and heavily in a restoring, healing sleep. The moon shines gently on my pillow ass I sink into sleep. My affirmation is “change is the only constant and that everything is one”.
Do this exercise once a day, every day in the week leading up to your period, repeat for three months and notice the changes. Keep a log of your blood flow, pains or discomfort, sleep and concentration during the course of these months. Also pay attention to how your body feels, and start greeting your period when it arrives. Look at the moon whenever you get the chance and feel the tidal changes in yourself.
Images are courtesy of www.druworldwide.com