5 Ways of Slowing Down to Develop your Foundation for Menstrual Health
It’s so hard for us to be still! How does this impact our health?
We live in a culture that loves moving, striving for the next goal and always looking for results. Being still long enough to fully feel how we’re doing in our bodies, hearts and minds can feel very hard for us to do.
When I teach, I often observe in my yoga classes the struggle most students experience when being asked to simply remain still in a pose like the Mountain Pose for a long period of time. Being asked to be still is often more difficult and uncomfortable than a rigorous flow sequence filled with what looks like much tougher poses.
For more information on the Mountain pose look here: Tahdahsana. Tada = Mountain: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/mountain-pose/
Why is that?
We’ve become a culture where we’re having a very hard time being still, and an even harder time being alone with ourselves. We’re always distracted and disconnecting from ourselves, and seek that missing connection with our phone, TV, computer or by using substances like sugar, coffee, wine or drugs. A few years ago, there was a report from psychologists at Virginia and Harvard Universities asking this very question of why most of us find it so hard to do nothing?
The task for people taking part in this research was simply to sit still in a chair for 15 minutes and do nothing but think. Sitting alone with their own thoughts and feelings was so unbearable, that some took up the safe but alarming opportunity to give themselves mild electric shocks in an attempt to break the tedium. Two-thirds of men pressed a button to deliver a painful jolt during a 15-minute spell of solitude, a quarter of women pressed the shock button. The difference, scientists suspect, is that men tend to be more sensation-seeking than women.
I find this read so fascinating. It discusses behavior that I recognize in myself, like when I am settling in to sit in meditation and then being filled with a feeling that I absolutely have to check my phone one last time! Or walking to pick up my daughter at daycare and instead of using the opportunity to check in with myself or relax and look at trees, I want to reach for my phone.
As I keep working with this disconnect, I find myself getting better at being alone, feeling better and finding the exercise increasingly easier. I slowly have become my own best friend, rather than a distant relative which I feel awkward being alone with. My body now relaxes when I bring my attention inward. I am aware of how I feel, and I am aware why I feel the way I feel. I am aware what brings pleasure to my life and what brings pain. This helps me make better choices. Most importantly, I’m close enough to myself to care about ME. This is so valuable. That feeling of self-care and love is what helps me put myself first on my to-do list. It’s what makes me WANT to (instead of feeling I HAVE to) eat better, go to bed early, take an extra deep breath when I feel stressed, make good choices for my self in how I work, live and interact with life. I matter because I am close to myself. This, I believe is at the core of any real healing.
When we start, and as we move through our journey towards menstrual health and balance, the first step is always to pause for a moment and allow ourselves to take stock of how we’re doing at this moment, before we take any next steps.
So here are 5 ways of slowing down, taking stock and making fundamental changes in your life to support you and your menstrual (and overall) health.
1) Standing in Tahdahsana, the Mountain Pose
Allow yourself to stop reading for a moment and stand up in the Mountain Pose. Do this by first placing your feet hip width apart. Lift up through the top of your head. Align your heels, knees, hips, shoulders and ears. Relax your shoulders and face. Close your eyes. Connect to your breath. Take a few deep breaths and then bring your attention inward and ask yourself these questions:
How am I doing?
How am I feeling physically and emotionally right now?
What is going on in my mind?
Stand still and observe, listen, feel, without any judgement or need to begin fixing or changing anything.
Hold this pose as long as you can and then take a few minutes to write down in a journal what came up.
Then go back into the Mountain Pose. Be aware of your feet firmly on the ground. Feel the floor and Mother Earth holding you, rising up to meet you. Take a few deep breaths and then bring your attention inward and ask yourself these questions:
What is my true foundation in life?
What do I stand on?
What supports me?
Again, stand still and observe, listen, feel, without any judgement or need to begin fixing or changing anything.
Hold this pose as long as you can and then take a few minutes to write down in a journal what came up.
How was it? If you feel open to it, please share below. It would be great to hear about your experience.
This is where you stand now. It’s not a permanent place. Nothing in life is permanent… right? Still, you can’t begin to heal what you don’t really know. Being real and honest with ourselves like this and accepting fully where we are without judgement is so important. Acknowledging that it’s from this foundation of self-care, self-love and wholeness that the path towards balance and health begins. Fill your body with love, light and acceptance. You’re perfect the way you are right now!
Just jumping into a big action plan of healing without having taken this time first to listen to yourself, is like building a house without drawing out the structure. When we lack a sense of foundation, when we don’t connect to ourselves, who we are and how we actually feel, and when we don’t align with, and accept this reality, then when we do move through a big transition, experience pressures or struggles, we end up losing balance and breaking down. How many of us can relate? We start the process towards healing, but give up as soon as things get tough and lose trust in the process.
My teacher Swami Radha http://www.yasodhara.org/about-yasodhara/spiritual-directors-teachers/ would say that taking stock of how we’re doing, and journaling like this everyday is the fastest way to enlightenment, self-realization, wholeness and health, or call it what feels right to you. It’s so simple and yet it can feel so hard. It gets a lot easier as you continue doing it!
Alongside creating an inner foundation by connecting to yourself and knowing how you feel, it’s also very helpful to start making fundamental changes around how you treat yourself and your body everyday.
2) Water and detoxing
Drink more water: Our bodies are made up of 60% water, so it’s important to our overall health that we drink enough water. We all know that. In relation to menstrual health, when we’re lacking water, our blood thickens and it can cause clotting and cramping during our period.
Drinking enough water helps the body clean out toxins. And so it’s important that the water we drink is free of chlorine and fluoride. If you live in the city, aim to purify the water coming our of your tap by installing a water filter. Here is a good guide to follow: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/water-filter/shopping-tips/
A fun thing to do next time you’re taking a day trip or have some time off, is to find your own spring where you can drink pure water straight from Mother Earth. Water from a spring is fresh, alive and filled with nourishing minerals, and you really will taste the difference. There are lots of springs in Quebec. You can find natural springs listed on http://www.findaspring.com
Start your day with lemon water: The way we start our day is so important in our self-care. Lots of us love our morning coffee. I sure do! But it would be so healthy to start your day with hot water and lemon. Then if you must, have your coffee after. And don’t be surprised if after a few weeks with hot water and lemon you may feel less excited about that cup of morning coffee!
Drinking hot water with lemon in the morning is an ancient Yogic or Ayurvedic ritual which is used for stimulating digestion and eliminating ama, the Ayurvedic term for toxic slime that builds up in the gastro-intestinal track. Ama is the concept of anything that exists in a state of incomplete transformation. In particular, it’s claimed to be a toxic byproduct generated due to improper or incomplete digestion. Ama literally means “uncooked” or “undigested”.
Hot water with lemon also helps to gently flush your kidneys and your liver of wastes and toxins. It helps cleanse your lymphatic system, another body system that eliminates toxins. A daily support in cleansing out toxins are very important in connection to our menstrual health, especially with conditions such as endometriosis where the build up of toxins is believed to be a part of the underlying reasons for the illness.
Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning also stimulates your digestive system. This improves your bodyʼs ability to absorb nutrients. Poor absorption of nutrients can cause you to feel hungry, even when you’re not. The ability to absorb things like healthy omega 3 fish and flaxseed oils for example helps the body bring down the inflammation in connection to your menstrual health.
Lemon juice provides a high amount of Vitamin C. People who consume more vitamin C have more efficient digestive systems than people who donʼt. Lemon also increases acidity to your digestive system which helps you better absorb calcium. Vitamin C boosts your immune system.
Combine the juice of half a lemon with 1 cup hot water. Try and make sure to use 100% organic lemons if possible. You can spice it up this drink and further rev your metabolism by adding pinches of ground cinnamon and ground ginger.
3) Getting lots of sunshine and Vitamin D
If possible, get out and enjoy the daylight as much as you can. Vitamin D has such a vital role in our immune system. Even just 10 minutes in the sun will help with your energy, and mood, and give you that chance to relax and check in. Failing that, then the next best thing is Vitamin D supplements.
The paler your skin type the more easily your skin can produce vitamin D. Really fair people only need about 15 minutes of exposure, while darker skinned people will need around 2 hours per day.
Natural Vitamin D has been shown to be beneficial with estrogen balance and is really helpful with the immune function, and both for menstrual health. So, we are already heading in the right direction!
Fatty fish such as Salmon and Tuna, egg yolks and mushrooms are also great sources of Vitamin D.
4) Ground your body
I love walking barefoot. Though, it’s not easy in the big city. But I still try and do it when ever possible. Why does it feel so good?
We’re exposed to so much electricity with all our appliances, computers and devices.
This creates a positive charge within our bodies. We need to release that positive
charge through grounding.
In addition to this, daily stress also charges our nervous system causing inflammation in our bodies.
Then there’s the Earth which maintains a negative electrical charge on its surface. The best way to ground your body is to place your feet in soil, on the grass, or in the sand, as long as you are touching the ground or the earth.
Energy aside, simply connecting to the earth, to nature, I find is so very healing in our otherwise busy and disconnected day-to-day living. It helps us step up, take a breath, come back to ourselves and remember that we come from the earth, that we are deeply connected to her, that she is always there for us, supporting us, rising up to meet our every step.
If, like me, you live in a cold climate, the idea of standing bare feet in the snow is not very relaxing. What you can do then to ground your body is showering. While you’re imagining all that charged energy and stress going down the drain, relax and enjoy the moment.
Stand when possible feet on the ground for 15 minutes a day. Breath in, and as you breath out, imagine sending your stress through your feet into the Earth. Let her help hold you and ground you. Take a moment before and after to check in and ask yourself how you feel. You may be surprised by the difference.
5) Getting the right kind of sleep
Ensuring you have deep, well-rested sleep is critical to healing. Getting plenty of hours doesn’t necessarily make up for poor sleep quality. You want to truly rest and recuperate your body. Sleep does this in a way very few things can.
General guidelines to better sleep:
• Be in bed by 10pm.
• From 11pm to 3am, most of your blood circulation concentrates in your liver. Your liver gets larger when filled with more blood. This is the critical time when your body
undergoes the detoxification process. Your liver neutralizes and breaks down body toxins accumulated throughout the day. However if you don’t sleep at this time, your liver cannot carry out this detoxification process smoothly. The liver not only cleans out toxins from the outside environment, but also helps with the balance of our hormones, especially estrogen.
If the liver cannot filter out the hormones, you may develop:
• heavy or clots menses (period or menstruation)
• missed menses (period or menstruation)
• tenderness of the breast
• fibroids in breast or uterus
• hot flashes
• cysts on ovaries
• mood swings or any menopausal problems.
It’s also best to avoid watching TV or sitting on your laptop at least 2 hours before bed. Create a sleeping ritual instead like do some simple deep breathing, yoga or take a long bath.
Sleep in a dark, well ventilated room. Remove any laptops, phones or alarm clocks near your bed. Use a small battery powered alarm clock instead.
Make your bedroom a sacred place of relaxation and tranquility. Keep it tidy and loved. You can also use herbal supplements which stimulate the natural production of melatonin to calm your mind and allow for deeper sleep. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview#1
So . . . enjoy connecting to yourself. Drink lots of water. Take the time to feel the sun on your skin, your feet on the ground, and getting in bed by 10 pm. 🙂
Let me know how it goes! And if you have any questions, please feel free to share below.