The winter solstice is upon us. December 21st announces the first day of winter, the darkest day of the year. As the days continue to grow shorter, we are invited to rest, reflect, and restore. It is the time of year when nature is encouraging us to slow down, to nest in the comfort of our warm homes while the cold, dry elements outside are in full motion. For thousands of years, ancient cultures have recognized and honored the winter solstice. This auspicious day is believed to hold the potential for regeneration, for recharging one’s mind, body, and spirit for the year to come.
A powerful way for women to connect with their feminine power is by tuning in and connecting to their moon cycle. Traditionally, women would menstruate on the new moon and ovulate on the full moon. The ancients considered menstruation a sacred time of the month that women were expected to honor. The Ayurvedic texts describe how Indian women were advised to rest in a quiet space on a bed of grass, nourishing themselves with a simple diet of barley and milk. Native American women were also given a secluded space to spend this time, which was commonly referred to as The Red Tent or Moon Lodge. The tribal women would leave behind their family and household obligations while elders and grown children would take on their burdens during their absence. These women would gather together. They would share stories, songs and visions being received from the etheric realms of their minds. They would sit in the solitude of their soul. They would rest. They would bleed into the earth. They would renew for the month ahead. They were deeply connected to their moon cycle, to the earth and to the inherently creative power of their wombs.
Many of us modern women seem to have lost touch with this tradition. Our lives are more fast-paced than ever, our demands have increased and our planners are overbooked. We have been conditioned to believe that it is “unladylike” to talk about our periods. We must re-learn the wisdom of our ancestors. Noticeable changes begin to happen when we start to honor our time of the month. Our bodies, our wombs, hold the key to unlocking inner and outer radiance and vitality. When conserved and multiplied, feminine energy is a powerful way of obtaining physical health and spiritual awakening. What better time to turn inward and honor our transformative, feminine potential than during the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year when full rejuvenation is in reach?
The following tips are a few ways to do just that.
Take it easy– Menstruation is a natural form of bloodletting, a time when the women’s womb sheds a layer and regenerates itself for the upcoming month. It is said that this self-cleansing cycle is the reason that females on average live longer than males. During a time when the body is hemorrhaging, serious rest and relaxation is a necessity. Schedule yourself off work for the first two days of your cycle, if you have the luxury of planning your own work schedule. If you’re not able to take off work, just take it easy! Tracking your period on an app is a great way to plan for this time of the month. Allow yourself to enjoy extra sleep during the night and if you feel like you need a nap during the day–go for it. Most importantly, give yourself permission to rest. Step away from any high-energy social commitments and instead submerge yourself in solitude or downtime with close friends and family. Slow down and attempt to halt the momentum of giving to the outside world for a few days. This will result in more energy to come.
Proper nourishment– Remember that during the menstrual phase, the body is doing major work. It is eliminating the lining of the uterus. This is a time when we should think nourishing and building in terms of food. When our bodies are naturally cleansing, foods that are rich in nutrients are key. Water-rich fruits and vegetables with minerals like iron and zinc are great. Buckwheat, beets and kale are just a few suggestions. You can easily access food charts for the best, most nutritious foods to eat during each phase of your monthly cycle. Avoid foods that are difficult to digest and instead allow the body’s energy to focus on renewing itself. Try to ditch overly processed, chemically preserved foods. Red raspberry leaf tea is high in iron, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins. The tea strengthens the uterus and is helpful for heavy bleeding, menstrual cramps and for easing labor during childbirth. If you live with a partner or family members, ask them to cook for you! Ayurvedic teachings encouraged women to not prepare food for themselves while bleeding.
Indulge in self-care– What better way to truly honor a goddess than through self-care rituals? Our ancient ancestors were well aware of the physical, mental and emotional rewards that come by pampering ourselves. Warm baths, slow yoga and walks in nature are all fabulous forms of self-care. Soaking in a bath of equal parts ginger powder and baking soda can be great for most women during the cold, airy winter months. Note that ginger baths are not recommended to individuals with excess of pitta dosha. If you have an abhyanga practice, this time of the month is a time to rest and refrain from massaging the body. Keep in mind that self-care doesn’t only include pampering ourselves physically. Curling up with a book, indulging in your favorite film or simply lounging around the house with your pet can be important parts of your self-care practice. Choose activities that make you feel embodied, inspired, and at ease. Refrain from activities that cause you to feel depleted. Distancing from social media or anything that overloads the mind with information during these few days can be a healing practice in itself.
Free writing– Journaling is an excellent way to reflect on the previous month. During this time, the communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is more powerful than at any other time. This allows the brain to better evaluate and receive intuitive-gut messages. Become observant to what exactly was bothering you around the time the PMS emotions kicked in. These emotional triggers can actually serve as clairvoyant insights for what may not be serving you in your life. Sit down in a safe space. Free write. There is a strong power that comes with handwriting words onto a piece of paper, much more than typing on a keyboard. Deeply reflect and allow the words to effortlessly pour out of your soul. What are the blessings and the lessons received from the last month? To help clear any remaining thoughts or emotional blockages, feel free to burn the paper and watch your words turn to ash. Fire burning is another powerful ritual that has been practiced by various traditions for thousands of years.
Meditation– Our moon cycle is traditionally believed to be a time when a women’s intuition is strong and the veil of consciousness is thin. Both menstruation and menopause are times when women experience a heightened state of intuition. This is possibly the most important time of the month when a woman can quiet the mind, turn a dark eye inward and meditate. It is helpful to bring the often over-intellectual mind into the physical body, the vessel that holds and contains all that she is in the earthly realm.
The following are three different meditations that can be practiced during your period. Any of the meditations given in this section can be done in a comfortable seated position or lying down. Try working with whichever practice you choose for at least 15 minutes.
- Simply meditating on the bones can be a powerful practice. Observe and connect with the breath. Focus the mind on the hips, tailbone and the entire pelvic bowl. Create a cognitive map, connecting these bones with your mind. It may be helpful to draw an imaginary line between each bone. Sit in this state of interconnectedness. Begin to send conscious breaths into your pelvic bowl. Remember that energy follows thought. Through our thoughts we communicate with each individual cell in our bodies. Rest in this cellular intelligence. Meditate on the bones. Greet any thoughts or emotions that arise with loving kindness, without judging or trying to alter them. Notice any intuitive signals that your body may be giving you. Most importantly, just breathe, focus, observe and listen.
- Meditations that evoke and transfer loving energy from the heart into the womb can be particularly helpful for healing any energetic blockages that may be stuck in the pelvic bowl. Stagnant energy can block the flow of prana (energy) into the womb, which can later lead to physical and emotional imbalances. To practice this form of meditation, imagine a time you felt immensely in love. It’s best to envision a memory that doesn’t carry painful emotions such as a breakup. This could be love felt for a child, an animal or whatever loving memory appears strongest for you. Allow your mind to rest in the chest, ribs and entire heart space and think of a time when you felt the overpowering joy of unconditional love. Breathe in this love. Begin to visualize the sensation of love moving into the pelvic bowl. Bring the mind to rest on the bones around the pelvis. Sit, breathe and bathe in this ecstatic connection of heart and womb.
- Practicing a meditation that activates the apana vayu energy can be great for ladies whose periods are slow to start and scanty in nature (characterized by vata dosha). Apana vayu is the downward movement of energy in the body, which controls the physical functions of menstruating, elimination and childbirth. It’s also a helpful tool for grounding one’s energy and resting the over-analytical mind. To practice, feel free to begin by taking apana mudra (thumb touching the middle and ring fingers). Begin to watch the breath and allow the thoughts to slow down. Bring your mind deep into the hips, into the pelvic bowl. Send your breath here. Feel the pulsation that is life itself. Begin to imagine a downward facing triangle that is blood red in color. Anchor the mind in this triangle, resting your awareness between the hipbones and the pelvis. Inhale- breathing in thoughts and emotions that are building in the bowl. Exhale- releasing the breath and any tension, toxins or unwanted thoughts out the point of the downward facing triangle. Sit with this visualization for several minutes. Letting go and feeling the pull of the downward flowing energy.
Go Green- Honoring Mother Nature is another way to honor the miracle of your womb. Try investing in a menstrual cup or reusable pad. I recommend Lena Cup if you are new to menstrual cups. These products may seem messy and unfamiliar to you at first but they are far less wasteful than tampons and disposable pads. Once investing, these reusable items are more cost-efficient considering you eliminate the need to purchase them on a monthly basis. Better for the environment and better for your budget- yes, please?
Give Thanks- Show gratitude for the pulsing, life force that is your womb. Here you hold the capacity to create. With creation comes birth. This could mean giving birth to a child and taking on the honor of becoming a mother. This could also refer to conceiving and birthing an important creative project. Whatever it is you are creating, it is a praise-worthy phenomenon and it all originates from your inherent feminine power. Our ancestors chose to celebrate the potential that arises from our moon cycles and we should continue to do the same. Simply bringing awareness to into the pelvic bowl has the power to heal irregular periods, issues with the reproductive organs and even infertility. Remember, for everything that is “going wrong” in your body, there are a million more things “going right”.
Dive deep into these practices during the darkest days of our year. Honor the earth. Honor your body, your womb.
If you are a woman who has reached menopause, you are still welcomed and encouraged to practice any of the suggestions given in this article. Ayurvedic tradition suggests that after menopause, the energy that was once used for menstruating becomes available for spiritual enlightenment. With age, comes wisdom. Energetic feminine potential does not cease with menopause, it only grows stronger.
This article is dedicated to my beloved Tantrika of a teacher, Katie Silcox. Thank you for reminding me what a gift, a privilege, it is to be born a woman.
Healthy Happy Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women by Katie Silcox
Katie Silcox, The Shakti School Ayurveda Certification Program
Photo: Ally Snead; Medicine Weaver Moon Lodge (Tarleton); Kallista Red Tent, Moon Lodge