by Shanna Small
In Ashtanga tradition, Ladies Holiday, or the first 2 or 3 days of the menstrual cycle are for rest. While some women observe this tradition, many don’t. The most common reasons are:
- They don’t believe in it
- They have to practice when they can
- They feel better when they practice
- Have not suffered any adverse effects from practicing during this time
The reasons, frequently given for taking ladies holiday are:
- Practicing messes up the cycle making it last longer
- Practicing can cause endometriosis and other uterine complications because the cleansing process is interrupted
- Interrupts the downward flow of blood out of the body interrupting the cleansing process
- Hormones make the body more flexible thereby leading to a higher incidence of injuries
- Its an excuse to rest and take time off
- Makes it hard to get pregnant
Wake Up World recently posted an amazing article giving the history of this observance and why it is important by Trinity Bourne about honoring the sacred feminine.
Many moons ago, the female menstrual cycle was celebrated as a gift of fertility and femininity. Our cycle naturally aligned with the waxing and waning of the moon. Shedding of menstrual ‘blood’ was considered a special time for rest, purification and rejuvenation.
Various cultures including Native American, Aborigine, Druid and African, regarded a menstruating woman to be incredibly sacred and blessed with a gift to heal, protect or to bridge into the higher realms of awareness. Some cultures still do honour this, although much of the knowledge has been suppressed, distorted and lost to the sands of time.
During this phase a woman is endowed with enormous power of the divine feminine, so it is no wonder that a patriarchal world of control would be afraid of it.
As I grew I felt the deep pain of the divine feminine throughout the whole planet. When we overwrite the natural flow, things start going wrong. Neglecting the sacred cycle has meant that women are plagued with menstrual disorders, pain, hormonal imbalances and severe mood swings that needn’t exist at all. All because we’ve ignored the divine flow of the universe.
The shedding of menses is symbolic of shedding any accumulated negative energy during the previous weeks. It is an opportunity to let go of that which no longer serves. It is a time to reflect on what we are ready to release, what we are ready to receive and what lessons we have learnt.
In honouring our moontime we often find balance and a re-centering of our state of being. If we miss this time of re-centering, then we may spend the rest of the month out of sync to the sacred rhythm, never quite catching up with ourselves. Thankfully we are offered the opportunity once each month (until we are not) – yet it is up to us as women to find our inner strength and love ourselves enough to honour this cyclical event.
She also gives some good advice on ways to balance your body during this time.
I’ve found some invaluable things that help me rebalance energies in the pre-menstrual phase of moontime. We are all unique, so find what works for you…
Agnus Castus herb – to me, this feels like nirvana and as long as I remember to take it, the tincture works quickly. It is the first thing I reach for when it gets too much.
B vitamins – we use up a lot of B vitamins when we are stressed, so if we are prone to anxiety and stress during the pre-menstrual phase, then it’s really helpful to replace them by taking a good quality supplement.
Maca – this the root of a South American plant and comes in powdered form. It has all sorts of properties, although the thing that stands out for me is that it’s an ‘adaptogen’, which means it helps the body adapt and find balance in stressful situations. A lovely friend of mine also said it worked for her (and she knew this, because after adding it to her smoothies daily, ‘it was the first month she hadn’t felt like killing someone!’… so I’d say that was a success).
Exercise – gets endorphins flowing and helps to flush out the excessive hormones and unbalanced energies.Meditation – even if it’s just taking a breather every now and again, sitting quietly and focusing on big deep exhales and inhales… this can feel really cleansing and nurturing.
Loving ourselves – strangely this is often the hardest for women (including myself). Taking time to stop and doing something, like having a soak in the bath with essential oils, baking a deliciously healthy treat etc…
Kava Kava herb – this is an excellent anti-anxiety herb. It helps us find a space of calm and peace within when all else fails.It’s well worth looking into different options that help to naturally re balance, although I would say that one of the most important things is to take time to replenish and rest.
Do you observe Ladies Holiday? How has it effected your life?
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.