Women who are fortunate enough to receive their period naturally on a regular basis (anywhere between 28-35 days) have a clear visible sign that their bodies are “working normally”. They may not understand all the hormones involved nor all the biological terminology, but they usually feel confident and trust that their body is in-sync.
Women who keep the Jewish Laws of Family Purity feel even more confident and connected to their body when they experience their cycle of bleeding, as they monitor, count and feel their way from month to month, from period to period.
Women who have always been fortunate enough to experience regular periods and thus have a visible connection with the natural ebbs and flows of their hormonal cycle, are often faced with a new reality of disconnection when their periods cease or become less regular – whether due to contraceptive measures, illness or biological changes such as menopause.
There is an assumption that the body’s hormonal cycles have ALSO ceased and there is a resulting feeling of disconnect for the woman from her body. For example, a woman who has chosen to have an IUD will usually not experience regular periods. She may be lulled into a false sense of belief that no periods means no hormonal changes. She may then be surprised and unprepared for emotional fluctuation, unexplained stress and anxiety, and other natural biological changes that occur.
When a woman begins to experience these feelings of disconnection from her own body and doesn’t understand the natural hormonal changes she is experiencing, it can have a profound impact on how she connects to herself and those around her, and her overall health and well-being.
As a teacher of Yoga Nashit - Yoga for Women's Health, I have learned that our hormones are in a continual state of flux. These ebbs and flows often represent natural changes that occur throughout different stages of our life. Even when a woman is not getting her period, her hormonal cycle continues to affect her. It is at this time specifically that a woman needs to connect to her body the most, to discover the truest essence of who she is, without judgement or criticism.
For example, women who are experiencing menopause often have profound hormonal fluctuations. Levels of estrogen, a hormone which has been crucial throughout the woman’s younger years, fall significantly. Women will experience a range of symptoms, including emotional changes, mood swings, a reduction in bone density, dryness (including in the vagina), achy joints and hot flushes.
We are able to counter many of these symptoms, using specific yoga poses. For example, strengthening and balance poses help to prevent osteoporosis; fish and plow poses stimulate blood flow to the thyroid glands which help to balance hormones; dynamic and active yoga sessions can manage hot flushes, and working with pelvic floor muscles counter the effects of dryness. Of utmost importance is the practice of breathing techniques which naturally help to reduce stress, anxiety, reduce blood pressure and balance hormones.
Journaling and mapping of natural hormonal fluctuations is a unique and important technique used in Yoga Nashit. Through guided questions and the daily writing and monitoring of your emotional state and behaviour, a woman can view her menopause as an opportunity for her own rebirth, re-connect to herself after years of focusing on raising a family or building a career, predict how she is going to feel daily and adapt expectations for her behavior accordingly, and re-establish herself with a new hormonal balance that is appropriate for her mature stage of life.
The biggest revelation for women on this journey is the observation that even without the visible sign of a period, a woman’s body is still working hard, experiencing regular and natural hormonal fluctuations and changes throughout their whole life-cycle. By encouraging women to strengthen the “invisible connection” with their bodies, they are able to learn the lessons that their periods have taught them, and apply them to a new stage in their lives.
This was originally posted on The Eden Center blog feed in January 2018.