Not to be TMI, but I started my period on Tuesday and this is kinda a big deal because I haven’t had my cycle since April. I am typically very regular. I knew these Sun Salutations would probably affect my cycle but I wasn’t exactly sure how. Doing most yoga, whether this is Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikrim etc they are all very masculine practices. It’s ironic that yogis in Western society are mainly comprised of women, but in India where yoga originated, women don’t typically engage in asana, they traditionally do more chanting and meditation.
Yoga as most Westerners know it, is the physical (asasa or pose) limb of yoga. As I understand, yoga asana was mainstreamed when Westerners started traveling to India and after witnessing sages and other “enlightened” beings, wanted to have those same qualities through meditation but could not sit still comfortably or for long periods of time. Poof! Asanas where created! We move the body and stretch so that we can sit still and focus on the breath (prana or life-force), and find those moments albeit small, of complete stillness and peace.
Women apparently reach nirvana from chanting, which if you think about it – makes perfect sense! Ha!!
As I explain in a previous blog post, on Women’s Health, I mention that Indian women traditionally sit in dimly lit rooms and maintain a calm and cool atmosphere during their menstrual cycles. They do not typically cook, or do heavy work and do not light candles. When a women is on her menstrual cycle, she is releasing a lot of pitta or “fire” so to be constantly around things of similar qualities to fire such as hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic – it only increases the pitta in her body and she becomes imbalanced. I learned this through a lecture given by Claudia Welch while I was living in Australia. She is the author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achiving Optimal Health and Wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science. Long title – short book, and I highly recommended if you are interested in further information on this stuff.
My yoga teacher, Zhander Remete, mentioned one time that years ago he organized a lecture on women’s health and invited two Indian women to speak on menopause. They were throughly confused because they do not suffer the same hormonal imbalances that Western women go through during this time. Their bodies transition with less complication because they honored their body during a period when it needed rest.
I used to be much more mindful during this time of the month, but over the past two years have been constantly on the go go go. I just “simply don’t have time to slow down”. Heck, I rarely allow for a svasana (resting pose) at the end of my sun salutations. I’m often rushed to get on to the next task! I also used to take the luxury of not getting out of my pajamas on Sundays and would make it a point to DO NOTHING. That sounds absolutely absurd to me now. I can’t imagine!
When I was studying at Goshen College, a Mennonite college, I became a lot more aware of the religion and customs of my childhood. I’m sure it was a combination of traveling and growing up, that I started to recognize where I came from instead of taking it for granted. In the Amish and Mennonite (and many other religions), it is customary to not work on the sabbath. While I do not claim any particular religion, I see the importance of saving a day to restore energy for the week ahead. This is something that I need to make a larger priority! I need to find that balance where I fill my cup back up, as I mentioned in my last blog post, so that I can complete my necessary weekly tasks with a happy and full heart and with actual energy and not just coffee.
So, in honor of my body, I didn’t do my 108 sun salutations this week but I maintained my yoga practice every single day. My yoga was not in the asana limb of yoga while I focused mainly on my pranayama (breath work) and meditation. And while I was a bit touchy and emotional for a few days, I now feel refreshed and more in my power. More than I have in months!
I also didn’t look at my computer screen, I limited my mobile use and didn’t watch TV or listen excessively to music. I took a few days and quieted down the areas in my life that I could control. There were, of course, days where I got plenty of stimulation and there was very little I could do about it. I started my cycle on Tuesday and I had two house cleanings scheduled that day. I was having massive stomach cramps mid-morning, but the only thing I could do was breathe through it and keep cleaning. I had a yoga class scheduled in the park that evening and we did a quiet YIN yoga class. I didn’t participate except for a few poses just to demonstrate and then didn’t come into full expression. I ate a small dinner that required very little cooking and went to bed reading.
We all have daily responsibilities that we can’t always get out of. Most of us do not have the luxury of living in a culture that allows us to sit in a dimly lit room and have dinner served. But we can turn the brightness down on our computer screens and we can say no to things that will significantly spike our pitta and cause our hormones to be imbalanced for the entire month.
The days that I did not do my sun salutations are still part of this journey. I’m not adding more days on to the end and I am going to continue to listen to my body. I’ve already completed my 108 sun salutations today, and while they took me 3 hours to finish, they felt great. I even took two LONG svasanas!! I made sure to weave parts of my personal practice into these salutations by making a sacred space before I started and warmed my body up gradually with YIN and Shadow Yoga.
I’m not sure how the end of this 108 day “challenge” will look, but I do know that I am going to have to take it day by day and evaluate what is good for my body, which is different from “what is good for my schedule”. I am finding immense pleasure from practicing yoga every day, I however need to be mindful that it is my practice that serves ME and not just a “challenge” to get through.
I started this sun salutation journey as a way to strengthen my yoga practice and reconnect with what I know is true and I was hoping it would be a vehicle to get me to India where I can connect with a culture I so profoundly am drawn to and to also reconnect with myself through wellbeing via a Panchakarma deep tissue cleanse. I’m not sure these sun salutations will get me to India via way of monetary value, but I am curious enough to go forward and see where it leads.
I encourage you, especially women – but also men, to take a look at all the varying nuances in your life. Are there little things or big things that you could cut out of your life to make space for what serves you and fills you up? Exhale to leave room for the next inhale, right? We cannot constantly live in a state of expending our energy. This leaves very little room to find the fulfilling moments that help to balance and give light to our important and often short lives.
This Tuesday’s yoga session in the park is moving to Wednesday at 6:00. A different day and a different time – but same place!! I’d love to see you at Holliday Park, next to the ruins!
Then again, maybe these salutations WILL be through monetary means 🙂 If for whatever reason you feel compelled to give I would be over the moon grateful!
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So much love to you!!