restorative yoga

5 Natural Remedies For a Painful Menstrual Cycle

 
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Yesterday I was on my moon cycle and was having one of those days where I needed to stay close to the Earth, lay in bed and really allow myself to feel what was happening in my body. 

There was a lot of discomfort, and I realized it was the kind of discomfort I haven't felt in a very long time.

It got me thinking about all the women in the world who experience this kind of pain and discomfort every single month, often for the whole duration of their cycle. 

I know many seek out painkillers and birth control pills just to get through the difficult emotions and physical sensations surrounding their menstrual cycle. 

While I am glad women have these options, I've also been learning more about adverse effects from regular use of over-the-counter painkillers and birth control pills, so I thought I would share some of my natural remedies and discoveries with you in honor of the new moon this week. 

1. Do your best to avoid sugar

I haven't read much research about how sugar relates to our menstrual cycle, but can certainly share from my personal experience on this. 

A few years ago I removed cane sugar from my diet entirely to clear my system of candida and clear my skin (this worked amazingly by the way). 

Then one month when I was on my moon cycle, I was out to dinner, had a beer and unknowingly ate sugar in my salad dressing. That night I woke up with some of the most painful cramps I had had in ages. 

It took me awhile to figure out what was going on, but after being off of sugar again and having another similar experience, I realized it was the sugar. 

This made me also become aware that sugar includes wine, beer, pasta and bread, which all turn into sugar in our system.

But what about when we're craving chocolate?  

Try opting for a dessert sweetened with dates, 100% cacao, or chocolate sweetened with coconut sugar made by my friend Jonas of Firefly Chocolate.

2. Take a warm bath (and bring your crystals)

A warm bath is such a powerful act of self-love for any time of the month, especially when you're on your moontime. I've always loved crystals but only recently discovered my sensitivity to their powerful healing abilities...

Yesterday I was guided to draw a warm bath, and bring my crystals with me. I used clear quartz crystals and placed them over my womb. While listening to my breath I felt a significant shift in the sensations as energy began to move.

3. Practice restorative and yin yoga

Part of what led me to become a restorative and yin yoga teacher was the powerful relief I experienced during my moon cycle after practicing these postures.

Here are a few specific poses that can help alleviate discomfort during the moon cycle:

  • Balasana ~ Child's pose with a bolster

  • Supta virasana ~ knees bent with heels on either side of the hips, thighs together, lay back over a bolster

  • Upavistha Konasana ~ Wide legged forward fold with a bolster in front of you

  • Bending over to one side and then the other while in the wide legged forward fold

While these poses can help get you started, it's always helpful to have a teacher show you the poses to make sure you are set up in them safely.

In honor of the new moon I'll be teaching a restorative moon cycle sequence this week at Westside yoga in Sebastopol with harmonium, singing, and sound bowls. Join me this Friday at 6:45 pm.

4. Use a hot water bottle

Do you remember using a hot water bottle in the nurse's office in elementary school for a stomach ache? 

That was the only time I ever used one until I went to nutrition school and they recommended we use one for all kind of reasons. 

Everything from when we are feeling sad and just want some comfort to providing relief for menstrual cramps. I find the heat is so soothing for my muscles and allows my body to relax more deeply. 

5. Listen to the messages of your womb

Now, if all the tools just aren't working, there is most likely a message your womb is trying to send to you that you haven't caught on to yet. 

Our body uses pain and discomfort as a way to get our attention, and deliver signals and messages that we may not be receiving from the outside world. 

Before I started having all these difficult sensations yesterday, I was actually starting to create a vision board and found myself moving full steam ahead on a particular plan and dream. 

The contractions of my womb were almost immediate.

When I was in the bath, I fully tuned into my womb and asked if there was anything she wanted to show me. 

The answer came: Slow down. Now's not the time for action or even dreaming. Now is the time to be grateful for everything you have. 

Like many of us, I too can get caught up in thinking about "what's next" rather than being in the present moment. The unknown can be uncomfortable, and my mind likes to have a plan.

But as soon as I got the message and allowed myself the physical and mental space to slow down, the physical pain and discomfort immediately dissipated. 

When I find myself in this place of moving forward on a plan before my body and spirit are fully on board, I get pretty clear signals to slow down.

So what could your body be telling you? 

Have you been honoring your relationship to your inner feminine? Is there anywhere you've been pushing or forcing yourself to move too fast? 

Feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments below. I'd love to hear. 

With love, 
Meredith

 

Your body's natural equilibrium

 
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Our body can reach its own equilibrium when we choose not to put new information in.  When we feel exhaustion or discomfort, our first reaction is to choose a new input to change our body's state - it could be food, painkillers, caffeine or new thoughts of the future or the past.  However, if we take the time to sit with our sensations and come back to the breath, our body naturally finds balance.

The body has an innate intelligence to find its own equilibrium.  When we go to sleep at night we recalibrate and feel refreshed the next day.  Restorative and yin yoga act in a similar way.  We sit with ourselves and our breath in restful postures for the mind to settle and to give the body its own space to recalibrate.

I realized this last week after taking a long flight and experiencing jetlag.  The next day I was running on very little sleep and let it affect my day.  Instead of drinking caffeine or eating sweets to lift my energy, I decided to do a restorative yoga practice.

When I closed my eyes to sit still, all the exhaustion and frenetic energy moving inside my body became apparent.  After about fifteen minutes, I began to find the stillness underneath the exhaustion and my thoughts, and over the course of an hour and a half, my energy restored itself.

Some yogis say savasana is both one the most difficult and beneficial postures.  Our more active asanas bring the mind into a single pointed focus on movement and action, but when we come down into savasana, or any restorative pose, we have to maintain that stillness and presence, without anywhere else to put our mind's focus.  In an age of cell phones and technology, it is a powerful practice to tune out the rest of the world and just be with yourself for an hour and a half.

In my own practice, I've been working with an idea from Pema Chodron:  if you are willing to be with an unpleasant sensation for more than 90 seconds without judging it, it will go away.  This has actually worked for me with menstrual cramps and headaches.  Instead of pushing away the sensation I now give the sensations my attention and allow myself to feel the pain or discomfort fully. 

When I am there for myself for even just a few minutes without judgment, the uncomfortable sensations begin to dissolve with the breath.

May we all give our body this full attention, space and presence to reach equilibrium through our own natural intelligence.