This is my "moon time" and I am having some difficulty keeping my happy smile up. Since I've shed my estrogen-pee habits these times have become more trying. At least I can say it's natural.
Why am I sharing this? Because I am on my period and I still practice yoga. Gasp. It would seem that we talk a lot about menstruation here, with my copious praises to the Diva Cup... however I do firmly believe that menstruation is something that isn't talked about enough in our society. We hide it, continue to view our periods as dirty and *gross* when 50% of the human population (between 11-55yrs) has this week-long phenomenon monthly. So why are we still ashamed? Perhaps the thousands of years of cultural negativity has some blame. Just maybe.
I remember when I first started my period, I thought my life would END for the entire week. I shouldn't go hang out with friends, couldn't swim, couldn't do too many physical activities... What if I didn't get to a bathroom in time? Being a teenager sucks, especially a monthly bleeding one. Now, although I had grown considerably (many many feminist readings, classes and empowering friendships later), when I started to practice yoga this period-stop your life- theory applied. I had SUCH difficulties with those ridiculous tampons. They weren't comfortable, they leaked, they caught... I hated them. I hated practicing yoga during my moon time, it gave me pause to seriously consider punking out each month.
The Diva Cup completely changed that. Now, moon times mean no rush to the store, no leaks, no worries for the entire day (12 hours!), as much physical movement as I would like! Oh the freedom! Now my yoga is not dependent on my menstruation.
A recent comment has reminded me why I have resisted reading specific texts in detail... It was asked whether I was aware that Ayurveda recommends never placing plastic in the vagina, including tampons. Actually, no I wasn't aware. But now that I am... my answer is: The Diva Cup is silicone.
I agree, plastic (with it's petrochemicals and leaching BPA properties), especially chemically bleached cotton, should never have graced my beautiful vaginal walls. Just like that new chemically dyed pink breast cancer toilet paper won't come within ten meters of my bum. I am so happy that I have found a safe and chemical leaching-free alternative.
Now, if the theoretical reason behind this "no plastic in the nether regions" has to do with some sort of no-obstruction rule... than I have to say that I disagree. And this is where the ancient texts study "block" comes into the picture. For practical reasons I cannot see why I would want to use a diaper-styled apparatus to "catch" my flow. I find them uncomfortable and restricting. I don't want to be restricted by the fact that I menstruate. Further, as far as I have read there has been no overall scientific data stating that catching the flow with a silicone cup is damaging in any way to the vaginal walls or overall health of a woman.
These thoughts started me thinking about how in certain practices, women are either restricted completely, discouraged strongly or told to practice a modified sequence while on their period. The theory (and please clarify if I've interpreted too loosely as I haven't read actual theoretical Ashtanga texts) is that it should be a time for rest.
Like my body stops functioning properly when I'm on my period. Right. Menstruation has actually been found to be a time of heightened activity, intellectual clarity, feelings of well-being and general happiness. (Woman: An Intimate Geography p.107). The theory that shedding our endometrium lining is calorically expensive (i.e. that bleeding decreases energy levels) has been refuted by several scientists in recent decades. Keeping UP our rich caloric-eating uterine wall would in fact be MORE costly than shedding and regrowing once a month (Strassmann, B; Human Nature 1992). From this we can infer that women should in fact be MORE tired pre-post menstruation than during.
Furthermore, I'm always cautious when interpreting medical texts. The Western medical system has been fraught with misogyny and patriarchal roots. Modern medicine has always been a "man's" world and subsequently the study of female anatomy and physiology was either minimal, or biased. It has only been in the past two or *maybe* three decades that science has taken a more feminine spin. Also, we need to remember that most traditional texts were written by men, from a culture with a history of hundreds (if not a thousand) years of patriarchy. Blood was viewed as a reason for concern, and instead of being celebrated was often thought of as some sort of injury, malaise or "wrongness" (to name some nicer terms).
Now I may be more clumsy, I may have a bit less balance (personally trying to practice Tree pose during my moon time is wobbly!) and I may choose to practice more soothing postures... but the key word is "choose". As there is no anatomical nor physiological reason why practice a sweaty vinyasa practice should somehow "damage" my uterus, should I feel inclined I will.
The theory that inversions during menstruation could be harmful has also been poorly supported empirically. Kinda like the theory that a tampon could get "lost" up there. Up where? It's not like the menstrual stuff is going to tip up and leak back in. The cervix takes care of that.
Menstruation is most definitely NOT a passive process. We don't passively leak out from gravity's influence. Menstruation is dynamic. Our spiral arteries (three) feed two superficial layers of the endometrium. Pre-period these arteries grow longer and tightly corkscrewed and circulation to the endometrium slows down. 24 hours prior to the flow, they constrict tightly and blood flow ceases completely. As a result, the endometrium tissue starts to die, followed by a release of the arteries and blood flows again, pooling beneath the lining and forcing it to separate. A few more start and stops and essentially we have menstruation.
Where in that active process is there any indication that blood flow is controlled willy-nilly and could be redirected elsewhere (by say, an inversion?). I'd say that if you hold an inversion for long periods of time and start to feel wonky... perhaps it's because you'd held the inversion for a long period of time... and not because you have a uterus that sheds.
For all of that, I have no problem with other women choosing to: wear pads or not practice during their moon times. My wish is that we can make these decisions based on solid non-biased information as opposed to traditions that imply something lesser or restricting.
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com