Modern Goddess Lifestyle
How Yogis Can Flow & Eat within the Four Seasons of the Menstrual Cycle
Using your information to animate your health and happinessThe female body is the microcosm of the macrocosm: Uni ---> Yoniverse. The Earth flows through cycles with its seasons, and so do our feminine bodies within our menstrual cycle and hormonal shifts. We go through our own cycle of expansion and rebirth (ovulation), and release and death (menstruation), all within a month’s time. The Four Inner Seasons are:
- Menstrual Phase (inner winter): Days 1 - 5 of your cycle
- Follicular Phase (inner spring): Days 6 - 11
- Ovulatory Phase (inner summer): Days 12 - 15
- Luteal Phase (inner autumn): Days 16 - 29
You can track your cycle to help plan what foods to eat to support your fluctuating hormones. Day one of your cycle begins on the first day of your period. Here is an overview of each phase and the foods to eat for hormone support.
The Menstrual Phase Hormonal ShiftsIn the menstrual phase, our body goes through a deep alchemical process of releasing the uterine lining. It is a time of release, rest, and rebirth. Just like the season winter, where plant matter reduces to a minimum, our uterine lining sheds and our hormones reduce to their lowest level. Winter is a time of stillness, when animals hibernate and trees conserve their energy. Ancient tribal communities believed women were more powerful on their menstruation, and it was encouraged to take time to rest and connect with the Divine.
Yoga for Inner Winter
The first two days of the menstrual cycle are known as the most potent for harnessing the energy for the month ahead. Therefore, taking time to rest, to self-care, and for stillness and meditation can support low energy levels and invite quiet pause to incubate new ideas so they may sprout in the energy of the spring phase. Maybe self-care looks like extra stretching, a restorative yin class, deeper and longer meditation at the end your yoga flow, or walks in nature. Postures that help open the back and hips such as pigeon, can be beneficial for reducing pain and tension around the lower back that can be caused by PMS. Hang out in child’s pose or savasana for as long as you like!
Foods for Inner Winter
As the uterine lining sheds, minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc are lost is the blood. Eating a diet rich with minerals will help replenish these reserves. Foods that contain iron are especially beneficial, such as dark leafy greens like spinach, as well as beans and seafood. Sea vegetables are another great mineral source. Make sure to include foods with vitamin C in the diet along with iron-rich foods, as vitamin C is needed for iron absorption. Foods such as broccoli, oranges, red bell peppers, and strawberries are high in vitamin C.
The Follicular Phase Hormonal ShiftsThe follicular phase is a time of new beginnings and stimulating energy. It resembles the season of spring, which is a time awakened energy occurring from the longer days of sunlight. Hormonally, FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) releases about 15 - 20 eggs to grow in follicles on our ovaries. One follicle will become most dominant and the egg in that follicle will release during ovulation. Estrogen, the feminine hormone that gives us our curves, breasts, and hips, starts to rise and grow these follicles containing the eggs. Estrogen also builds the uterine lining. Whatever seeds of ideas you were incubating in the stillness of your inner winter, are now ready to grow into reality with the awakened energy of spring.
Yoga for Inner Spring
Postures that build energy include heart openers such as bow pose or bridge. Warrior Two is also beneficial as it engages the legs and butt muscles, which are the largest muscles and the heart will work harder to bring blood to this area. Pilates and yoga are both helpful for increasing core muscles, and the core will restore strength after your time of rest and release.
Foods for Inner Spring
To help support rising estrogen, healthy fats are beneficial such as avocado, coconut oil, and ghee. In addition, foods containing Vitamin E, such as almonds, peanut butter, and avocado, will protect the fluid in the follicles that contain the eggs to enhance fertility. Foods that build energy such as smoothies with superfoods like goji berries and hemp seeds, as well as young foods like eggs, sprouts and microgreens, will provide dense micronutrients to aid in the expanding energy of this phase.
The Ovulatory Phase Hormonal ShiftsOnce the dominant follicle and egg grow to its maximum expansion due to rising estrogen, the egg will burst through the follicle for ovulation. Ovulation is your inner summer, the time of the month when your energy is most expanded. It matches the fertility of summer, when the fruits are ripe and falling from the trees. This is the time of the month when your body naturally releases juicy, cervical fluid, to help the sperm live and reach the egg for conception. Once the egg is released, it lives about 6-24 hours. Estrogen and testosterone are both at their peak of the cycle.
Yoga for Inner Summer
Again, heart openers like bow pose, bridge or even full wheel will help build energy as this phase should have the most expansive energy. Due to higher levels of testosterone, this is the phase to get at those Monster Flows, do your handstands AND the extra chaturanga push-ups... Or perhaps a Booty-Barre class (especially if you haven’t tried one yet), to express your inner sexy goddess as this fertile time is all about feminine expression!
Foods to Support Our Inner Summer
To promote healthy cervical fluid production, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and leafy greens. Aphrodisiac foods like cacao, maca, and figs are libido enhancers which heighten your sex drive during your most fertile phase. As estrogen levels peak, it is important to support the liver for healthy estrogen metabolism. Eat citrus fruits like grapefruit or lemon squeezed in water, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. If estrogen is not being metabolized properly, this can lead to imbalanced hormone levels, which will eventually create symptoms such as cramping and PMS in the pre-menstrual phase. More raw foods and cold foods are tolerated at this time of the month.
Inner Autumn Hormonal ShiftsAfter the egg releases, it disintegrates or becomes fertilized. Your body shifts into making progesterone as the dominant hormone. Progesterone sustains and thickens the uterine lining, to hold the fertilized egg if conception occurs. If no conception happens, your body will eventually decrease progesterone production, which will signal the start of your period for a new cycle to begin. Imbalances in progesterone and estrogen levels can lead to cramping, bloating, and PMS. Slight symptoms are normal; however, intense cramping and pain is a sign of hormonal imbalance. Energy contracts at this time of the month, matching the energy of autumn. During autumn, trees release their leaves and the earth prepares for winter, just as our body prepares to release the uterine lining.
Yoga for Inner Autumn
First half of the cycle while we still have higher testosterone, we may feel called to continue building energy within our hot vinyasa, power flows, and Pilates. Eventually, as we get closer to our bleeds, we may feel some cramps, lower back and leg pain, and lethargy. Take time for self-care! Restorative yin classes are great for slowing down and breathing into sore muscles. For hip openers to release tension, try half pigeon, double pigeon, supine twist, happy baby, and frog pose. For lower back try child’s pose, forward fold, and downward facing dog.
Foods for Inner Autumn
Foods high in vitamin C will aid the adrenals to help support healthy progesterone production. As progesterone requires more protein, it is important to increase protein during this phase, especially if you have a heavy exercise routine. Plant based protein such as legumes, quinoa, nuts and seeds, as well as animal protein like eggs, fish, and turkey are beneficial and will stabilize blood sugar levels. Optimal blood sugar levels are important to support at this phase because imbalanced blood sugar will cause food cravings and a desire for sweets. Combat food cravings by eating whole grains with fiber and healthy fat to fill you up, as well as slow burning complex carbohydrates such as grounding root vegetables. Roasted sweet potatoes will naturally bring out the sweetness of these root vegetables to satisfy your cravings. Amp up cruciferous vegetables in your diet to support the liver in proper estrogen metabolism to decrease PMS symptoms. Also, increase anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric to naturally decrease pre-menstrual pan, and invite warm meals into your diet to aid in contracting energy.