If you’ve seen the hilarious “Sh*t Yogis say” video, then you will probably remember the moment where someone proudly exclaims, “The DivaCup changed my life!”. If you haven’t already heard of The DivaCup, Lunapads or other reusable menstrual products, prepare to expand your awareness - they are modern and effective conscious living products that can meaningfully support your health and yoga practice. Here are 5 sweet steps to extending your yogic consciousness to include your fertility cycle.
1) Mindful cycles
Most of us have been conditioned to some extent to see our periods as inconvenient, messy and/or not to be discussed as a meaningful part of our well-being, let alone honored. Yoga teaches us to seek a deeper connection with ourselves, and to listen closely to the messages our bodies are sending us.
Our fertility cycles are of course part of our bodies and consciousness, and yet ironically in the context of yoga, can be viewed as a problem to be fixed, managed or hidden. Of course this makes sense from a practical perspective, however another level of perception is that in “putting away” our periods and rushing off to class, we can forget to be present with the fact that our body is doing something important that is worth paying attention to. What changes with your yoga practice might occur if you are mindful about your period?
2) Curiosity and compassion
When we become more present with our cycles and periods, there is much to be learned. The very act of washing and re-using cloth pads and cups encourages engagement, exploration and self-knowledge. Our menses are part of us: evidence of our fertility, our power, and our humanity. When we treat our periods as a natural process that is not frightening or gross, we send a more positive message to ourselves. Throw in some curiosity and gratitude on the side, and you’ve got a recipe for a mini-revolution.
When we get more conscious with our periods, we get more conscious with our entire cycles. This is a good, true and powerful place to be. The potential benefits include being more in touch with your needs for intimacy, boundaries, creative impulses and of course fertility. Whether you wish to conceive or not, understanding your fertility is hugely empowering and important for your overall health.
Many people claim that they dislike their periods less, and even experience reduced cramping, when they switch to reusable products. Yoga also teaches us that self-knowledge leads to self-acceptance: when we know and accept ourselves, we find love, compassion for ourselves and others.
3) Conscious choices
Most of us have been taught that our only options in terms of products are disposable pads or tampons. So when it comes to yoga, tampons are the way to go, right? Not so fast.
Those of you already aware of the risks associated with tampons in particular may have already switched to organic cotton disposable products: fantastic. For those of you still getting there, consider this: tampons may contain dioxins, pesticides and fragrances. In November 2011, the FDA recalled a brand due to contamination with a bacterium. Finally, tampons are drying: they don't just absorb your menses - they also take the rest of your natural, essential vaginal moisture. Perhaps this has never bothered you, however in conversation with dozens of women at a yoga show recently, complaints about infections and the discomfort of removing tampons came up time and time again.
4) What are the alternatives?
As someone who has been practicing yoga for decades, I can tell you that the DivaCup, an internally-worn reusable silicone menstrual cup, is definitely the most practical product choice.
In the same way that you do not “feel” a tampon when it is not being inserted or removed, you do not “feel” the DivaCup. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of an internal product because you dislike tampons, I encourage you to keep it in mind regardless - it really is a different experience. Yes, it does require more practice (yay mindfulness!) to learn how to use it, however it’s a beautiful opportunity to get to know yourself better, does not dry you out the way tampons do, and is just plain awesome.
For those of us who prefer external products, I can enthusiastically assure you that you will LOVE switching to Lunapads and Luna Undies. No more glue, no more plastic, no more icky wrappers: Lunapads are beautiful, soft and geared to match the same needs as comparably-sized disposable products.
Are they thicker? Some of them, yes - pads for heavier flow need to be in order not to leak (remember, they are not chemically treated or full of gels the way disposables are to attain their absorbent capacity.) In addition to layers of soft cotton fleece (you can choose organic as an option) pad style Lunapads have an additional layer of breathable PUL to prevent soaking through.
Another great option are Luna Undies: all-in-one padded undies that minimize bunching or shifting. There are even thongs for those of us who prefer a smoother line under fitted yoga clothing.
5) Embracing and letting go
Start now, why not? And don't forget to check in with the Moon as well - are you/she waxing or waning? What do you notice? When your moon comes, notice the choices that you make around it, what products you use and how they make you feel. Consider charting your cycle, if you aren't already.
As your body releases the lining that might have become a nest for another life to take shape, take the opportunity to identify and let go of anything that no longer serves you, and in particular any feelings of loss or grief. Imagine it literally leaving your body along with your menses. Conversely, as the flow ceases, turn your attention to new opportunities and beginnings: what is within you that is now ready to manifest? How does your yoga practice change during your period?
A massive thank you to one of my favourite teachers, Danielle Hoogenboom of Love Light Yoga, who is featured in the photo above.