Growing up I didn’t think a lot about my cycle. To be honest it felt more like an afterthought most of my life, it was something that happened and I ‘got through it’ discreetly every month. I would take pain killers and try to go about my life as per usual, just as it was portrayed in the Kotex commercials on TV.
Marketing and cultural norms shaped my belief that the female cycle, especially menstruation, was either a taboo subject not to be spoken of or that the goal was to have a ‘happy period’ and carry on joyfully not letting it interfere or keep me from living my daily life.
Like many women my view of the female menstrual cycle was shaped by patriarchal marketing forces sending the strong message that with the right feminine products and pain killers we needn’t acknowledge our periods at all.
It wasn’t until I started naturopathic school, specifically studying Traditional Chinese Medicine, that I began to see the female menstrual cycle as something SO MUCH different; I began to see it as a way to tap into my inherent body wisdom and feminine superpowers.
In Chinese Medicine menstruation is referred to as heavenly water and our entire cycle is seen as a reflection of the lunar cycle. At different points in a woman’s cycle she’s to eat different foods and care for herself in varying ways to harmonize and nourish her body.
In other words, our cycles are considered sacred and a blueprint fostering our well-being.
This was a drastic departure from my previous understanding and what was portrayed in popular media with images of a joyful woman mounting a bicycle wearing tight white jeans and going about her day ‘unstoppable.’
I certainly didn’t feel like that woman in the tampon commercial during my period. In fact, starting a week or so before my period I typically suffered from intense PMS consisting of the glorious combination of irritability, intense feelings of sadness, cravings and just wanting the world to leave me alone so that when my period did come I could curl up into a ball on my sofa with a heating pad and a cup of tea. White jeans and ‘happy period’ be damned.
In her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Dr. Christiane Northrup MD writes,
“The menstrual cycle is the most basic, earthy cycle we have and is our connection to the archetypal feminine. The macrocosmic cycles of nature – the waxing and waning of the moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the changes of the seasons – are reflected on a smaller scale in the menstrual cycle of the individual female body… In many cultures, the menstrual cycle has been viewed as a sacred source of insight and renewal… Replacing the harmful inherited myths about our menstrual cycles with accurate information is part of a women’s healing.”
A lunar cycle is approximately 28 days long and has four distinct phases; new moon, waxing moon, full moon and waning moon. Water is affected by the moon and the lunar cycle, this is what creates tides. Our bodies are made of approximately 60% water, hence our bodies are affected by the moon too. The female menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days long and has four distinct phases as well: the follicular phase, ovulation, the luteal phase and menstruation.
There is an intimate relationship between a woman’s menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle. This isn’t hippie woo-woo nonsense, its scientific fact and studies have demonstrated this relationship time and time again. Evidence suggests that the moon and tides interact with the electromagnetic fields of our bodies, subsequently affecting our internal physiological processes.
Scientific research has documented that the moon influences the timing of the menstrual cycle, fertility cycle and labor. Environmental cues such as light, the moon, and the tides play a documented role in regulating women’s menstrual cycles and fertility. In one study of almost two thousand women with irregular cycles, more than half of the subjects achieved regular menstrual cycles of twenty-nine days’ length by sleeping with a light on near their beds (to simulate the full moon) during the three days around ovulation.
It’s also been documented that when women are living away from artificial light that our cycles automatically sync up with the lunar cycle; menstruating with the new moon and ovulating with the full moon.
What’s fascinating is the parallel between the lunar cycle and female menstrual cycle not only governing the flow of fluids, but the flow of intuitive information, energy, and creativity as well. We receive and process information differently at different times in our cycle.
During our follicular phase until ovulation we’re ripening an egg and at least symbolically, we are preparing to give birth to someone (or something) else. Many women find that they’re at their peak of expression, creativity, extroverted-ness and experience greater energy during this time. We are filled with enthusiasm and new ideas as well as being willing to care for others and fulfill the perceived feminine role of nurturers and helpers.
At mid-cycle during ovulation, women are more naturally receptive to others and to new ideas, we are in other words, more “fertile” during this time in our cycles. Our sexual desire peaks around the time of our ovulation which makes complete sense and correlates with our hormonal cascade at that time as our bodies secrete pheromones into the air increasing our attractiveness to others. We are in a sense at ‘full bloom’ at this stage of our cycle which correlates to the attributes of the full moon; fully ripe, visible and exuding feminine energy.
This is the stage of our cycle that’s more “socially acceptable” as our male-dominated culture values all these attributes quite highly (peak sexual energy, helper, high energetic output and creativity), and we internalize this in turn as the good part of our cycle versus what comes next…
After the full moon comes the waning moon, a time when the energy of the moon ‘wanes’ and the night sky slowly becomes darker as we move toward new moon, a time when (from our earthly perspective) the moon is covered in darkness. The waning moon and new moon, correlate to the luteal and menstrual phases of the female menstrual cycle respectively. Women also go through a period of darkness each month when our vitality appears to wane. We feel more introverted, less energetic, less interested in sex and more vulnerable and emotional.
Historically in our culture, this later half of our cycle has been completely misunderstood and in some instances made the brunt of jokes. Thus, we judge our premenstrual energy, emotions and inward mood as ‘bad’ or ‘unproductive.’ However, these two phases, especially our menstrual phase, offer their own gifts and assets, most notably our ability to go inward, rest, renew, access intuitive clarity, deep emotional healing and be in touch with our deepest, wisest parts of self.
I want to point out here that the first half of our cycle is the standard that many women hold ourselves to, but we are NOT linear beings, we are cyclical. I’ve had many of my patients tell me that they expect themselves to feel at ‘full bloom’ all cycle long and assume that something is wrong with them if they’re not able to maintain the same sexual desire, energy and mood as they experience in the first half of their cycle.
I’m telling you now, this is an unrealistic expectation to put on yourself and physically impossible as the very nature of our cycle is just that, cyclical! And your experience as a woman is different at each stage of your cycle for a reason.
There are distinct and different gifts ready and available for us at each stage; By trying to perpetuate only those characteristics valued during our follicular and ovulatory stages, we disregard and overlook the gems awaiting us in the luteal and menstrual phases.
Our cycles offer more than just our biological ability to conceive and bear children (although that alone is a miracle and makes us pretty awesome); our cycles also offer us a blueprint for self-care and cultivating inner harmony and well-being.
Join me for Part 2 of this series where I dive deeper into the specifics of this blueprint, self-care tips and the gifts prevalent in each stage. If you’re currently pregnant, not menstruating or menopausal, don’t worry, the blueprint still applies to you because remember, our cycles mirror the moon and the moon effects us all. So stay tuned for Part 2 and learn more about how you can reclaim your cycle and harness your fabulous female superpowers!
P.S. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or answer your questions in the comments below. Is this a new concept for you? How have you perceived your cycle and what insights have you gleaned from this article? I’d love to know!