Like I mentioned in a previous post, nature and a woman’s body are not very different. Both work in cycles, seasons and rhythms.
Like the seasons, the female body goes through four main phases in each cycle of 28-30 days:
Spring = follicular phase
Summer = ovulation phase
Fall = luteal phase
Winter = menstruation phase
Each phase brings with it a unique set of hormonal, physical, emotional and mental gifts.
When we understand these cycles and eat, work, love and play according to our natural flow, we get better at working with our feminine power and not against it.
Let’s look at the gifts of winter.
For most women this is the most discernible phase of the month. This phase lasts anywhere between 3 and 10 days as our uterine lining begins to break and shed during this time and our progesterone levels dip significantly. Most women experience mild to severe symptoms during their menstruation ranging from cramps, backaches, swelling and soreness of breasts to low physical strength and energy.
In the body:
This is a time of low physical energy as our body begins the process of shedding the uterine lining. Like the latter half of the luteal phase this is a good time to rest and indulge in gentler, softer forms of exercise like stretching and walking. In terms of food, it’s best to feed the body nutrient-dense, low-glycemic and easy to digest foods and drinks like khichadi, stews, soups and herbal teas.
In the heart:
During menstruation, there is equal communication between our left and right brains, providing us easy access to our intuition. It is also a time of deep release (physically as well as energetically), introspection, review and release. Overall this is a great time to rest, review, process, set intentions, visualize the life you want to create. Writing in a journal is a great way to get clarity during this time. This phase often brings a desire to stay indoors and get some solo-time.
In the mind:
What thoughts, items and decisions are not serving you well? Perhaps it’s time to let go of them. Both at work and home, the menstrual phase offers great opportunities to introspect, reflect and release anything that isn’t serving us well anymore. Reviewing projects and employee performance, re-evaluating proposals and ventures happen more naturally during this phase than other phases.
Most women I know and work with fight the luteal and menstrual phases of their cycle vehemently. Of course these are not the same as the active-festive-relationship-oriented follicular and ovulatory phases. Like everyone else, we want to be in the summer phase of our cycle throughout the month. This rejection of the different seasons of our cycle severely damages our physical and emotional health as we experience a deep resentment towards this natural process. It is important for us as woman to understand that fighting these phases is what can cause complications in the menstrual cycle and other health issues in the body and mind.
While it’s true that our body doesn’t have equal strength, energy and vitality throughout our cycle, we do have access to many other gifts in the body, mind and heart that make for a truly wholesome, creative, intuitive and productive existence. Like night follows day, our cycles also follow rhythms where activity and boisterousness are complemented with rest and introspection. And that completes us, makes us whole, centered and aligned.
Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal. Let us also encourage our spirits as Earth prepares to come forth from this time of withdrawal into a season filled with light.
– Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr, “The Circle of Life”
Hormonal health needs to be understood from both a physiological and emotional perspective. I’m excited to share this ancient wisdom combined with practical productivity hacks in my 4-week online course Your Time is Your Life. Click here for more info.
In the comments below, please share how you plan to honor the gifts of winter – in your body as well as in the year.