Connecting with and aligning with your menstrual cycle is a revolutionary act, because it means that a woman places her unique natural energy flow as a key organising principle of her life. Aligning with the menstrual cycle means that a woman recognises she isn’t a robot and doesn’t need to be; that life is not just about being ‘productive’. She comes to better understand and appreciate the wisdom of her natural body.
Practically speaking, I would define it as being aware of where you are at in your cycle, having an understanding of how you uniquely move through your cycle and making plans that fit with your cycle, where possible.
Some people use charts to track many aspects of their cycles – including emotions, foods eaten, foods craved, energy levels, libido, bowel movements, cervix position, body temperature. I have tried to track my cycle in this way and I found that I didn’t keep up with such a level of detail. (However, if you are experiencing a chronic disease or experience extreme emotions or pain during parts of your cycle with no known cause, this level of tracking may prove very useful in empowering you with a greater insight into your body’s functioning).
The quickest way to start to know your cycle is recording when your period arrives. Day 1 is the day you commence bleeding. You can write this day on a calendar as Day 1. From there you can start to observe.
Each woman will experience her cycle in a unique way. However, there are generally four main phases to the cycle which will show similarities within each woman. Having an understanding of what these cycles are generally like can help you to review your own experiences.
Remember to always follow your own experiences and insights about your cycle.
The main phases of the menstrual cycle are listed below, with approximate days indicated:
Generally, the point of menstruation is when we are most inwardly focused. We then expand our focus outwards until we reach the most outwardly focused point at ovulation. Then we start to contract our energy and focus, once again turning our attention inward.
This means that after a few days of bleeding, if we have allowed ourselves time and space to rest and let go of responsibilities (as much as we can!), we are naturally energised to meet the needs of others and be productive and active in the world, up until ovulation. After ovulation, we will naturally become more focused on our own needs and whether they are being met or not. We have less energy to meet the needs of things outside of ourselves.
Each of the four main phases are related to elements from classical Chinese medicine theory and also the seasons of nature and the moon phases, as shown in the below picture.
It is important to use this summary as a starting point for your own exploration. When a woman starts to notice how she travels through the monthly cycle, she will start to notice and understand how she uniquely feels at different points. That then becomes her insights into how to best organise things for her life.
Paying attention to how you feel and behave at different points will also show how you uniquely relate to the different seasons. People may feel more comfortable at different points or have more resistance to particular seasons.
I have been paying attention to my cycle over the last couple of years and have gotten a range of insights. I realised that I expected myself to always feel the way I do when I am in the follicular period. I also have resistance to the ovulation/summer season – I tend to feel a type of frustration. Moving my body more during this time helps a lot. For me it is exploring ways to channel the power of this time into what I would love to express and create.
I also noticed the critical thoughts and ideas that I have during the luteal phase before menstruation. I now know that I don't have to believe every critical thought I have and that my energy is naturally lower at this time, and will increase more after moving through menstruation. Also that that energy helps me to clear out things. For instance, for the last three cycles, I have had a strong urge to clean my house the day before my period arrives. It is a natural prompt.
Below are summaries of what each phase typically is like:
Winter/Menstrual/Water element: (approximately day 27 to day 5)
A time of quiet, more internal focus, stillness and restoration. Imagine nature when the ground is covered in snow, the temperature is cold, the nights are long and dark. It is the best time to detach from your everyday responsibilities and do nothing (as much as you can!). It is a time conducive to connecting with self and your visions and big-picture purpose.
Spring/Follicular/Wood element: (approximately day 6 to day 11)
Imagine the sun shining and the greenery starts to sprout as the snow melts and new life presents. A sprout emerges from a seed and begins to grow into a tree. There will be a natural tendency towards innocence, playfulness, and positivity. This is a time to explore, play, experiment with different ways of being; allow this experimental time without being overly critical.
Summer/Ovulation/Fire element: (approximately day 12 to 15)
Energy, vitality and magnetism peak. Flowers blossom and fruit grows on the trees. We say 'yes' to something and take action, showing ourselves (as our unique selves) to the world and making real some of our ideas and ambitions.
Late Summer/Luteal/Earth element: (approximately day 16 to 19)
Energy is stabilising. It is a time where fruits ripen and harvesting occurs. We receive, enjoy and take pleasure. We celebrate.
Autumn/Luteal/Metal element: (approximately day 20 to 26)
Our energy contracts and we become much more aware of our own needs and any ways in which these needs haven't been met. It is a time of letting go - we don't have the energy to be all things to all people. We have much more clarity and discernment about life. We are clear and can be critical about what needs to change or go. We can sit in the tension of this criticalness, allowing ourselves to be transformed. Some people can experience a surge of creativity because their discernment supports them to be clear about what wants to be created. This time of breaking down things supports us to surrender back into menstruation, and the cycle repeats.
We do not simply cut and swap from one season to the next; we flow from one season and element into the next. Seasons and elements work in a cycle, flowing from one to the other.
If you want to use cycle awareness to benefit you and your health and wellbeing, my one main piece of advice would be to rest and do nothing as much as possible over the first two days that you are bleeding. If one part of the cycle is supported, the parts that flow on from there will also be supported.
Please note that I am not a master at this - I understand that it is very challenging to be a mum and/or work and/or care for others and/or have general responsibilities and be able to simply drop all those things for one or two days.
I would love to hear from others about their experiences with their menstrual cycle, whether they already track it and what they have discovered for themselves.
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