As a woman, our menstrual cycle is in so many ways an internal compass.
Yet instead of teaching women about tuning into our own internal barometers, we have sent messages that our internal cycle is not important and can be ignored. There are no messages that women should rest during their periods and allow time for introspection. There isn't room in our society for that. But perhaps we should consider looking at how women who came before us treated themselves during their cycles for some helpful pointers.
Should women get Menstrual leave? Yes. Ideally as a fair option to those who want to avail of it. It’s simply an act of giving human needs and human health priority over corporate profitability. It should be a no brainer. Isn’t that regressive thinking? Why can’t a woman work during periods? Somehow, I don’t know any woman who feels energetic enough to work during periods, though most of them still do. Almost everyone I know closely either suffers in pain or is highly uncomfortable. There must be women who are fortunate enough to get through the cycle without any discomfort but they seem to be the exception rather than the norm.
It is easy in today's world to forget that our menstrual cycle is all about reproduction. I would love for us to reconsider our relationship with our cycles - and take the time to not only understand our bodies but connect with our inner compass. In the first week of our cycle we begin counting on the first day of menstruation which we will call "Day One". If you were trying to conceive it is a time of releasing hope of a new life. Even if you were not trying to conceive this can be a dark time emotionally. Dr. Christiane Northrup talks about this being a time of letting go and releasing what does not serve us. It is a time where we let go of death and welcoming new life. Again - even if we are not literally thinking about creating a baby - it is very helpful emotionally to tune into this primal and biologically based emotions and see how they can be used to further your own experiences in your daily life.
Some women use this time to turn inwards and grieve the losses in their life; you may cry easily as you let go of thoughts that no longer serve you. In many traditional cultures this time was honored in a woman's cycle and she was given the time to do her spiritual, private - internal work.
What does Ayurveda or Yoga have to say about this? The most common symptoms observed during periods are diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps, emotional upheavals, lower back pain and so on. In Ayurvedic terms all of these are signs of the *elimination* processes of the body firing up, specifically the Apana Vayu. It is the wind element or Vata Dosha over-acting. Body just starts to throw stuff out whether physically or emotionally. If we carefully observe, it’s blatantly obvious. Now how do we calm down the wind element (vata) in Ayurveda? Basic Ayurvedic principles suggest we counter the excess of wind by bringing stability and by creating warmth. That is why we don’t use a packet of ice to soothe our menstrual pain but may use a hot water bottle. Some people even feel very cold and lying under a blanket counters the coolness of wind. Stability can come through rest, sleep or grounding yoga postures or just being in a quiet environment without too much activity. Intuitively that’s what I feel like doing anyway. What about you?
In today's culture it is frowned on to take "Time off" to take care of ourselves during this time.There is no honoring of this time; instead it is seen as an inconvenience.
I would like to encourage you to revisit that in your own life ; see what happens if you can create some space around your time of menstruation. Try taking some time off around taking care of others, and reduce the time you give work. What might you be able to let go of that no longer serves you?
PS: this is a generic view on periods. Every individuals needs will differ.