Did you know that the female body goes through four cycle phases each month? Hormonal changes happening at each stage can lead to big shifts in your mood, creativity and energy levels.
This helps explain why some days when you get on your yoga mat and movement feels effortless; but other days, your body feels heavy, tired, and you just want to put your Legs Up The Wall or crave a long Savasana!
In today’s episode, I’m going to take you through each phase, and show you yoga practices to support and nourish where you’re at during your cycle.
Intro: You're listening to The Prana + Patchouli Podcast with me, Amy Davies. I'm a restorative yoga teacher and every week I'll be sharing practice tips, spiritual tools, breathwork and guided meditations to reduce stress and raise your vibration. If you haven't already, be sure to hit subscribe, so you never miss an episode.
Welcome back to another episode. I’m really excited about today’s topic because we’re talking about syncing our energy with our monthly cycle.
Our Infradian Rhythm affects everything - from our mood, to our health, our energy levels, and also our productivity. It’s mostly based around a 28-day cycle for females, although it may vary, depending on whether you have a shorter or longer cycle.
So why should we sync our energy with our cycle?
Firstly, it helps us prepare for a more easeful period and reduce any unwanted symptoms like cramps, headaches or irritability. It also helps us align with the natural state of flow in our bodies, which can enhance our energy and health, not to mention it also improves our productivity and creativity. Who doesn’t want that?
The more we allow ourselves to honour the natural ebb and flow of our energy, we’ll feel less stressed and be less prone to burnout. For me, being aware of this four-stage cycle is a spiritual cycle. After all, it is a natural process in the body. It helps me connect more with myself and the rest of the world.
Being aware of your menstrual cycle encourages deep listening and really helps you to connect with your intuition on a monthly basis and day to day as well, as you tune in your energy and the way it comes and goes.
So let’s start by talking about the first phase which is the Menstrual Phase and this happens between days 1 and 5, from the first day that you bleed. The main purpose of this part of the cycle is to shed the endometrium (lining of the uterus) to prepare for a clear cycle ahead. This is the shedding phase and so the theme here, both physically and emotionally, is letting go. There’s a drop in oestrogen and progesterone which signals that it’s time to shed the lining. So, creating circulation in the pelvis is really important for that process.
In our practice, we want to support a more easeful, downward flow in our practice, and the energy of apana. Some people enjoy more movement, and others don’t want to do anything, other than eat chocolate and snuggle a bolster! That’s me!
But meet yourself where you’re at. If you feel like going for a run, there’s nothing to stop you! Listen to and honour your body’s wisdom. But since this is our Inner Winter, you may feel called to rest and nest. I often do, and love devoting this time to long restorative yoga practices.
It’s also important to find types of movement that support the clearing out and release during this phase. For me, that’s usually just a walk, but it could also be breathwork, things like pelvic tilts, cat and cow, slow sun salutations, or compression and release methods focused around the belly, which you could create with a blanket nestled into the hip crease in certain poses, like Child’s Pose or Pigeon, for that circulation we really want to nourish at this time.
Then roughly between days 6 and 11, we go through the Follicular Phase. This is where the follicles are doing most of their growth and development, and the lining starts to grow back. To support this growth process, after the last day of your period, for about a week, it’s good to focus on nourishing practices and anything restorative in nature.
However, you’ll likely feel more energised here as oestrogen starts to rise, so it’s a great time for power flows, moving at a faster pace or just higher intensity exercise.
But, since the theme here is nourishment, we want to support that growth process, so it’s important to balance that energy output with introspection to calm the body and reduce stress levels for about a week after our period. This is anything restorative in nature, even if it’s just one restorative pose, a longer Savasana or meditation. This is our Inner Spring, and I like to ease into this phase with some slow flow, and then build up to other movement practices like strength training or spinning. Otherwise, I find that if I come out of my “nest” a little bit too quickly, I tend to feel anxious and I just want to stay in hibernation mode.
Then, the third phase is Ovulation which happens between days 12 and 16, and this is where the Yin phase of the cycle starts to turn to Yang. Just as a recap, Yin is associated with cooling, rest, being, nourishing, calming, the parasympathetic nervous system and oestrogen. With Yang, we’re focused on more warmth, activity, movement, doing, the sympathetic nervous system, and progesterone.
So here, we’re trying to spark that shift towards the movement of energy, blood and a dominant follicle being released to travel down the fallopian tube.
This is our Inner Summer, and the time for a more vigorous practice to generate heat in the body. Think power yoga, twists and heart openers, or off the mat, things like HIIT, spinning, running, or energising breathwork like Kapalabhati (Breath of Fire). Again, calming practices help us find that balance so we don’t deplete ourselves. Longer Savasanas, meditation, or restorative poses that also passively open the heart like one of my favourites, Supported Butterfly, can feel good here.
And then finally, on days 17 through 28, we go through the Luteal Phase. This is where the egg is moving down the tube and progesterone starts to rise.
You might find that your energy ebbs and flows, with high and low peaks, so find a balanced practice and listen to what your body needs day to day. This is your Inner Autumn, so early in the luteal phase, you might feel full of energy and lightness, and your practice may be similar to the ovulation phase, while later in the luteal phase, you might experience discomfort and fluctuating moods with your period approaching.
Movement is still important here as this is what shifts stagnation which can cause PMS symptoms, like irritability, cramping, anxiety or headaches. Think fluid and rhythmic slow flows or walks that create a gentle, gradual warming of the body, and calming of the nervous system and mind to reduce stress levels.
Overall, throughout your cycle, honour and tune in to what your body needs each day to feel nourished, and be ready to adapt and adjust!
And if you’d like to go deeper with this topic and find practices to support you throughout your cycle, then I’d love to invite you to join LIGHTER, which is my virtual sanctuary for restorative yoga. Our theme and mantra this month is “I respect my inner rhythm”. The practices I’m sharing are devoted to supporting the ebb and flow of your energy through each phase of your cycle. You can check that out at pranapatchouli.com/lighter and I’ll put the link in the show notes as well.
Since we are talking about our energy here, and we’ve covered how we can shift our practice to support us through our different phases, how can we apply the same to our work in order to protect our energy throughout the month?
I want to talk about this because I find it really fascinating and I love learning how we can use our energy in more productive ways, so that in effect, we can do more, with less effort.
During the Menstrual Phase, this is a time to slow down and rest. It’s about creativity, self-reflection and visualisation, so maybe this is a nice time to create a vision board. Then in the Follicular Phase, we want to focus more on planning, problem-solving and strategising.
The Ovulation Phase is our Inner Summer, like I said before, so this is the time when we may feel more energised and ready to do public speaking, presentations, networking, filming, or anything where you put yourself out in the world. As an introvert, this is particularly important to me, and it’s during this time that I often record my podcasts or film videos for the membership, because I feel like I’m ready to shine.
Then there’s the Luteal Phase which is great for administration, closing out projects, and just feeling your creativity starting to flow as you prepare for your period.
Now this is much easier to manage if you run your own business and you’re in charge of your time. But even if you are employed, just making the smallest shifts in your schedule to respect your inner rhythms and honour your energy can make such a difference to your productivity, creativity and stress-levels.
So, speaking of stress, what are the effects of stress on our cycle? Well, the more we honour our energy, the less stress we’re likely to feel. We’re less prone to burnout, when we’re living in alignment with our energy. And stress influences our hormonal cycle as it optimises oestrogen and progesterone production, so too much stress can even cause our period to stop as our system is out of balance! That’s why calming and nourishing the nervous system is good all cycle long! Hopefully I’ve given you lots of ideas about how you can create that balance in your energy system. Of course, if you want more guidance, be sure to check out LIGHTER.
Now there’s one more thing I want to mention. If you’ve been listening to this and thinking “well, that’s all interesting and great, but what if I don’t actually have a cycle?” then you can still explore everything that I’ve talked about by following the phases of the moon instead.
I want to wrap up this episode with 5 tips to support your cycle and this just brings together everything that we’ve been talking about.
So, the first thing is that we want to create more circulation in our pelvis, especially during our period, but all month long. This just helps us have a healthy cycle.
The second thing is to take time to restore after your period for about a week. That doesn’t mean you can’t do other forms of exercise or movement, especially if your energy is higher, but definitely take a little bit of extra time to recover and restore.
The third thing is to spark more of that yang energy during ovulation. Find a movement practice that feels good to you. Notice the shifts you feel in your body.
The fourth thing is to move your body 1-2 weeks before your period, and we talked about that during ovulation but now we’re talking about movement during the luteal phase, because moving your body helps to clear stagnation which can contribute to pain and PMS symptoms.
And then the final thing is to cultivate calm and regulate your nervous system throughout your cycle with restorative practices, yoga nidra, breathwork or meditation to build resilience to stress. This will really help you have the most easeful and peaceful flow.
But I really want to encourage you to individualise this and listen to your body because it knows best. This menstrual cycle awareness will encourage deep inner listening and help you connect more to your intuition.
Don’t be in a rush to change everything at the same time. Maybe just try simple shifts here and there. It may take a few cycles to notice a shift in your energy and stress-levels.
And if you do want that extra support in being kind to yourself by honouring your own rhythm and trusting your timing, then be sure to join us in LIGHTER this month because I’m sharing practices that are devoted to honouring the ebb and flow of energy during the different phases of your cycle. We’ll explore creating circulation in the pelvis, restoring the body, balancing yin/yang, easing symptoms of PMS and calming the nervous system to support us emotionally.
To check that out and learn more, go to pranapatchouli.com/lighter and I’ll put the link again in the show notes.
Just remember that every body is different, and the best thing is always to listen to yours and do what feels right for you! Enjoy your yoga practice in a way that supports your unique energy and cycle, and also creates whole, optimised wellbeing so that we can show up every month and shine brightly in the world.
Outro: I really hope you loved this episode of The Prana + Patchouli Podcast. If you want more support and inspiration for your practice, then be sure to join our community of seekers, feelers and dreamers, by signing up for my weekly emails at pranapatchouli.com. You’ll also get my free mini retreat to help you stress less and restore peace right away. I’ll be back next week with a brand new episode, so until then, from my heart to yours, Namaste.