The benefits of cycle syncing your yoga practice
Syncing your lifestyle with your menstrual cycle. By Sinnead Ali
You might think that planning your life around your cycle isn’t very practical, but it can actually help to supercharge your productivity. This is because when we listen closely to our hormonal fluctuations we can work with our bodies, rather than ‘powering through’.
We also receive information about each cycle phase, our energy levels and the kinds of activities that would most benefit from that phase's gifts.
If the concept of cycle syncing is new to you, don’t panic! We’re going to look at how you can make this shift starting with your yoga practice.
The menstrual phase
This begins on day one of our period and usually lasts 4-7 days. Once our period starts, due to a sudden drop in hormone levels many people feel a sudden ‘a-ha’ moment and the cloud of irritability or low mood is lifted.
The menstrual phase is a great time to rest, so work from home if you can. If you can spend time journaling or meditating you may find that you can connect with a more introspective part of yourself.
This is a great time to just relax; think of the menstrual phase as the foundation for the rest of your cycle and taking time to find stillness by recuperating can ripple into the rest of the month.
If you do want some yoga during the menstrual phase, it might look like gentle asanas to help reduce cramps and maximise comfort. Try Yin yoga or a restorative class, making use of pillows, blankets and props. If movement feels too much, yoga Nidra and guided meditation can be powerful tools to aid relaxation.
Of course, some people find their energy is quite high by the middle of their period and want to get back into a more physical state. Be mindful of avoiding twists, and some teachers will also advise against inversions. Most importantly, listen to your body and allow your yoga practice to nurture rather than exert you.
The follicular phase
Once our bleed stops we enter an 'inner-spring' state. We may experience a surge in energy and want to make plans and take on new challenges. Our body is preparing to develop a mature egg for fertilisation, and our energy is more youthful and carefree.
With this burst of vitality, trying a new class or style makes a lot of sense. If the weather permits, yoga outside as part of an excursion will help meet your desire for some adventure. Why not try an Acroyoga class with your partner or friends? Adding more dimension and a bit of risk to your practice to challenge your coordination.
If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, simply add more balances to your practice. Twists and inversions are back on the cards so this could be a great time to work on your binds and arm/hand-balances.
The ovulation phase
The mature egg that our body has been growing in the follicular phase is released in this phase and the moment this happens is called ovulation. The mature ovum leaves the ovaries and makes its way to the oviducts to be fertilised. You may feel more social and sexual. Not only is it a great time to connect with others but it’s a great time to connect with yourself and your sensual body.
If you are hoping to conceive, some teachers may advise against deep twists and inversions at this time. The window for conception is so short and there is a lot of advice out there, so it can be very stressful for prospective parents. Yoga can of course help promote relaxation and help with accepting strong feelings at this time. If you’re feeling the urge for more connection, it could be a great time to try a ceremony, women’s circle or tantra.
Looking to bring some heat to your practice? Try Chandra Namaskar (moon salutation), this is a more fluid, feminine alternative to the sun salutation. In this sequence, you move along the length of your mat through side lunges, squats and goddess pose. Channel the feminine, magnetic energy of ovulation and full moon. The hip-opening postures in this sequence will encourage blood flow to the reproductive organs.
The luteal phase
The longest phase in our cycle can be likened to the end of summer and autumn. Many people experience strong emotions as they naturally become more introspective.
Our hormones are rising again, with the expectation of nurturing a pregnancy should fertilisation have occurred. This cocktail of hormones can make us feel irritable, teary, and even depressed. If we start to experience these emotions it is a sign to start to slow down and reduce our output where we can.
The luteal phase is not for starting new projects or making plans. If we start brand new things in this phase we can feel suddenly overwhelmed. Instead, it's a time to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. In our yoga practice, this could be like stripping things back to basics. Taking a strong, physically exerting class that focuses on form (such as Ashtanga or Bikram Yoga) will be challenging, without any distracting surprises while sweating out our stress.
As you get closer to your menstrual phase, a Yin-Yang style class will help you to wind down. Once you start to feel your energy levels decline, drop the yang and take your practice to the floor. Using props to support long deep holds and twists in a Yin class is a great way to relieve tension, support the endocrine system and melt away from the external world.
With all that being said, listen to your body. Cycle syncing is about honouring your unique self.