MOV­ING WITH THE MOON Ad­just your yoga prac­tice to moon and men­strual phases.

Men­strual cy­cles and moon phases have long been linked, but what does that mean for us? Im­proved self-aware­ness and strength, says Char­lene Lim

In the Moment - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Char­lene Lim

The can­dles are lit, mu­sic is play­ing and I’m nurs­ing a hot choco­late with added dark choco­late squares. I’m wear­ing my most com­fort­able trousers and a jumper that re­minds me to have ‘Happy Savasana Dreams’, while a hot wa­ter bot­tle rests on my belly. I am well and truly in men­stru­a­tion mode which, for me, just hap­pens to fall at the same time as the New Moon.

Men­strual cy­cles have long been linked to their lu­nar equiv­a­lent. As the moon or­bits the Earth, it goes through four prin­ci­pal phases: New Moon (where it is in­vis­i­ble to the naked eye), First Quar­ter (also known as the Wax­ing Cres­cent), Full Moon (where it is fully il­lu­mi­nated) and Third Quar­ter (Wan­ing Cres­cent). Some see it as no co­in­ci­dence that the length of the av­er­age men­strual cy­cle (29 days) co­in­cides with the lu­nar cy­cle (the time be­tween two New Moons – 29.5 days). In the an­cient world, lu­nar cy­cles were be­lieved to a ect the growth of plants, as well as the ebbs and ows of both an­i­mal and hu­man life. But what does the moon have to do with us in this day and age?

In yoga, we prac­tise to re­con­nect not just to our­selves but also to the world around us. Our hu­man, in­ter­nal cy­cles are part and par­cel of the cy­cles of nature, so be­ing aware and tun­ing in to them can bring much per­sonal un­der­stand­ing, ac­cep­tance and strength. For women, men­stru­a­tion cor­re­lates to a down­ward and out­ward ow of energy

(apana) and a re­lease be­fore the start and re­gen­er­a­tion of our next cy­cle – much like the nat­u­ral cy­cles of the moon. It can be use­ful on a per­sonal level to con­sider the two in the same way.

Hav­ing re­cently come o birth con­trol, af­ter tak­ing it for 13 years, re­con­nect­ing with my cy­cle has been a jour­ney in it­self. Ini­tially, I de­spised this new pe­riod (pun in­tended). I was used to hav­ing a steady hum of energy and a pretty neu­tral mood through­out the month – highs not so high, lows not so low, ev­ery­thing tick­ing along OK. So this new phase in my life with ups and downs in energy lev­els was rather con­fus­ing. The rst few months I pushed through, truck­ing on as nor­mal, and then won­der­ing why I was so tired. With each month that passed came more tired­ness and ir­ri­tabil­ity, and ques­tions over why I chose to rein­tro­duce my cy­cle. That is, un­til the day I men­tally sur­ren­dered and made the choice to lis­ten to my body. I be­gan rest­ing on the days when I needed it, and read more about the di er­ent phases of the men­strual cy­cle – what to ex­pect energy lev­el­wise, and how to adapt (and even en­joy) the ups and downs.

When we ap­ply lu­nar terms to our men­strual cy­cle, the bleed­ing phase can be con­sid­ered a New Moon – a time for re ec­tion, rest, restora­tion and set­ting in­ten­tions for the month to come. In yoga, this is a time to slow down, to be more yin and less yang. Try prac­tices that can be done with­out much re­sis­tance, and pos­tures that pro­mote re­lax­ation in the hips, legs, back and belly. Stay­ing up­right pro­motes the cleans­ing out­ward, down­ward energy of men­stru­a­tion. You might choose not to go up­side down so as not to coun­ter­act this nat­u­ral process. Slow­ing down your life­style at this time is also help­ful. By learn­ing to let go of be­ing on-the-go, I found that ac­cept­ing this time as one of rest gave me more energy through­out the rest of the month.

The next phase is pre-ovu­la­tion, which can be re­lated to the First Quar­ter Moon. At this time, you may nd you have a re­newed sense of energy to take ac­tion, make de­ci­sions, work to­wards your goals and ramp up your yoga prac­tice again with strength-build­ing pos­tures. Try build­ing heat on your yoga mat with sun salu­ta­tions, war­rior pos­tures or chair pose.

Dur­ing the next phase – ovu­la­tion, or Full Moon – you’ll of­ten nd that you’re full of energy, pos­i­tiv­ity and good feel­ings. This week is about cel­e­brat­ing you, hav­ing fun and be­ing so­cial. In your prac­tice, it’s about en­joy­ing space to deeply ex­press your­self. My per­sonal favourites are back­bend­ing and any up­side-down play at this time. Adding in some bal­ance pos­tures helps you nd a sense of ground­ing and cen­tered­ness in the midst of the ex­tra energy this week. It is also a great time to re­lease any neg­a­tive thoughts – try writ­ing down some­thing you would like to let go of, then burn­ing the pa­per to sym­bol­ise this process.

We move then into the Third Quar­ter, the pre-men­strual phase – a time for re­leas­ing, shar­ing and re ect­ing. In your yoga prac­tice, try cleans­ing pos­tures like twists, side bends, and more restora­tive in­ver­sions. Con­tinue to let go of neg­a­tiv­ity, both men­tal and phys­i­cal, and try not to push your­self too much as you pre­pare for the bleed­ing phase once more.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that not ev­ery woman will ex­pe­ri­ence these same ebbs and ows at the same in­ter­vals. There are many fac­tors a ect­ing the length and time of each woman’s cy­cle, and as­so­ci­at­ing it with the lu­nar phases may not be help­ful for ev­ery­one, how­ever we can all use this wis­dom of phases, cy­cles and en­er­gies to bet­ter recog­nise when we are at our most pro­duc­tive and when we should em­brace rest. Your men­strual cy­cle may start on a Full Moon or a Cres­cent, and may last 40 days or 15, but by ac­knowl­edg­ing and ac­cept­ing it, you can learn to use the chang­ing en­er­gies to your own ad­van­tage.

In or­der to bet­ter pre­dict your own ups and downs, start record­ing the days of your pe­riod. Ev­ery day, jot down your mood, any food crav­ings, your yoga prac­tice, and any­thing else of note. You could also note where the moon is in its cy­cle to see if there is any cor­re­spon­dence. Al­low your­self to ac­cept when you are hav­ing a low day, and even be­gin to en­joy it by in­dulging in your emo­tions fully. Walk slower, eat your favourite food and spend some quiet time with your­self. On the ip­side, har­ness energy when you feel it ris­ing – make a plan, have an ad­ven­ture or spend time with friends.

As time goes on, you will be­come fa­mil­iar with your moon cy­cle, discover its rhythms, and get to know your own tides. Maybe, like me, you’ll nd that you even start to look for­ward to your New Moon phase, see­ing it as that pre­cious time to open that book you’ve been mean­ing to read, slow down your yoga prac­tice and sip that hot choco­late – with­out feel­ings of guilt. Oh Moon, you’re so wise.

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