One of the simplest and most effective ways to grow one’s own sense of cycle awareness is to become attentive to the unfolding of the inner seasons of the menstrual cycle with the same spirit of observance and delight that we may bring to the turning of the cycles of the year. We can sense the quality of feeling during the pre-ovulatory time as an inner spring, ovulation as an inner summer, the pre-menstruum corresponds to autumn, and understand menstruation itself as an inner winter. Cycle awareness empowers each woman to attend to her own needs and enjoy her own unique powers at every point in the cycle. Here is an invitation to welcome every phase of the menstrual cycle and to celebrate each phase with yoga practices that really support what is happening in the body, energy levels, mental and emotional state and in the intuitive sense of what is going on in the body during the menstrual cycle.
Spring: Yoga during pre-ovulatory phase
The focus for yoga practice here is to nourish and grow. Give full attention to your full yogic breath and allow yoni mudrā to help you connect with your ovaries, nestling just beneath your palms. For meditation practice, the Heart-Womb practice optimises the energetic flow of loving connection between the heart and womb. This simple practice can be done lying down or seated, or even integrated into a standing flow.
- Sit comfortably, bring hands to heart in prayer position.
- Exhale, move hands down in yoni mudra (downward pointing triangle with the index fingers touching and the thumb tips touching ).
- Inhale, return hands to heart.
- Repeat, synchronizing breath and movement with awareness.
This can be a good time in the cycle to focus attention on a sense of growth and expansion, and to experiment with strengthening and opening practices such as the half moon pose:
From cat pose, step left foot off to side of your mat, and straighten left knee so the side of the foot is resting on the floor. Then reach left hand forward and straight up above into the air, turning head and chest to look up at the hand. Exhale and reach the arm forward and down, stretching forward with the arm forward along left ear before putting hand back on the floor. Return to cat pose for three rounds of breath and then repeat half moon variation with right foot to repeat this pose on the other side).
Summer: Yoga during ovulation
The focus for yoga practice at this time can helpfully be to nourish and release potential. Alternating the cobra with dog can also be very strengthening and vitalising at this time, and if you enjoy the camel pose, then include that in your programme too.
Autumn: Yoga during the pre-menstruum
Let the focus of your yoga practice during this part of the cycle be to nourish and grow. Be sure to allow sufficient rest period, and if you are feeling edgy, then use the ‘Golden Thread’ breath to release physical and mental tension.
This is less a ‘technique’ than a way to become more aware of the power of the natural breath. It is the most valuable tool to promote relaxed acceptance, and focuses upon exhalation to ease the body into deep rest. The Golden thread works well in any position, but be aware that if you practise lying down you are likely to fall asleep.
1 Tune into a gentle pattern of effortless full breath.
2 Yawn several times to release jaw and throat.
3 Sigh loudly for three rounds of breath on the exhalation.
4 Open your mouth very wide and sigh out a very soft ‘aaah sound’ for next three exhalations.
5 Let your lips be soft and breath out like a horse so the lips vibrate against each other.
6 Gradually let the space between the lips get smaller and smaller.
7 Let the lips be very soft. Allow there to be a small space between top teeth and bottom teeth, between top lip and bottom lip; just enough gap that you might imagine a piece of tissue paper held between. Find the size of gap that works for you.
8 Breathe in through nose using ujayii breath if that is comfortable.
9 Breathe out between slightly parted lips. Feel a ﬁne cool breeze passing out between lips.
10 Cheeks, lips and face are relaxed. There is no pursing the lips.
They are soft.
11 Feel breath travelling in through nose, and out through mouth.
Allow the breath to be so ﬁne that it feels as if a ﬁne golden thread is spinning out between the lips. It’s a thin, golden thread, like embroidery yarn, smooth and silky, spinning out with every exhalation.
12 Allow each exhalation to lengthen, without forcing, but simply letting the out-breath increase in length, as the golden thread of breath spins out in frontof you.
13 With each inhalation allow for breath to go in through the nose and feel the breeze of exhalation travelling out between the lips, into the air in front of your closed eyes.
14 Let the end of the golden thread carry the mental attention farther and farther away with each exhalation.
The heart of this practice is softness. You are not pursing the lips, or making them tight as if to whistle. The lips are soft, and the breath is silent and gentle. The exhalation lengthens effortlessly: simply because the gap through which the breath passes is so tiny, it takes a long time for all the breath to exit. There is no sense of force; simply watch the breath lengthen, following it out into the space in front of you. It should feel entirely effortless, completely comfortable and soothing. If you are struggling to exhale because the gap is too small, simply widen the gap.
Any exhalation is an antidote to pain and tension. The Golden thread’s extended exhalation makes this antidote more powerful. While staying within the comfortable limits of your own easy breath, the longer the exhalation, the more effective this breath is as a form of pain and anxiety management. The longer the exhalation, the farther out the mental attention travels, and the more the body can relax into a quiet, mind-free space of healing and ease. Exhalation is the antidote to pain
Winter: Yoga during menstruation
Let the focus for your yoga practice at this time be to nurture, release and cleanse. Avoid all inversions. A time for deep rest: it can be especially nourishing to choose practices with a focus on reconnection to earth’s nourishment, for example, these free yoga nidras are created to connect with the deep feminine knowing of cyclical wisdom in the form of the seasonal life of the womb’s cycles.