Growing up, I never thought I had mesntrual health issues. I just took the experience as a natural process of my life as a woman. Much as that mindset is a positive thing, I failed to recognize an important truth: the irregularity of my cycle, the bloating and retention, the weight issues, the occasional discomfort (I was lucky enough to never have debilitating pain with my periods), and the other emotional symptoms that surrounded my moon cycle was NOT normal. They were indications of some forms of imbalances in my system.
I had such little regard for my menstrual cycle that I did not care if it came on time, or if it never came at all. From menarche, my
cycle period was irregular. I know now that I did not have an irregular cycle, because a cycle means something that is consistent and regular. What I thought then, however, was that it was normal for someone to have irregular periods because sometimes that’s just what happens. It came to the point that I didn’t care at all and just took things in stride to the point that I was bleeding (not heavily, but more like spotting) on and off for a period of almost six months. I never brought it up to anybody because we just don’t talk about periods, right? And although I had been on the swim team when I was younger, I always managed to deal with my period with tampons and the like. Finally my mother found out about it and sent me to an OB/GYN. I had previously never gone to a doctor for my periods because I always thought we only needed to see one if we were pregnant, trying to conceive or were sexually active. I was neither.
When I was around 21 or 22, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Because I was bleeding uncontrollably (again, not heavily, but still bleeding), I underwent a series of tests, procedures and hormonal treatments to address the condition. I had surgery, was given shots, prescribed pills…you name it, I probably did it. Because PCOS is quite correlated to weight, the procedures and treatments helped me start to lose weight and along with it, my periods started to become more regular. I was on the pill, after all.
However, over time, I started to get sick. While I had lost over 80 pounds in a span of 10 months, I also lost much of my immune system’s strength. At one point, I had really bad gastroesophageal reflux or GERD that I was unable to tolerate water. To help with the treatments, my doctor prescribed Metformin. I could barely control my bowels. But my periods were regular.
So at the end of the day, while some of my body systems started working correctly, others were out of balance. And so I gave up on the medicines and I told my doctor that I would rather risk having irregular periods and probably decrease my chances of conceiving in the future rather than not having a functional and comfortable body at the present.
Somewhere along that journey I discovered yoga. I started practicing mostly yin at first, and after a few months of a regular and consistent practice, I felt stronger and my body started adapting even without the medications. I was gained some weight back, but was able to maintain a decent weight for some time (until other things happened…but that’s a whole different story). I was less sick. And even without the pills, my periods started to become more regular.
At the peak of my practice, when I was practicing both yin and vinyasa yoga consistently, my cycle was so regular that I could actually predict when exactly my period would come, right to the point when I would need to put a pad on because I knew it was going to drop. And when I said right to the point, I am not referring to just the day but the actual time range it would come.
Additionally, the symptoms I used to have (that never associated with my period) such as migraines, depressive moods ( I always just thought I was hypersensitive), restlessness (that sometimes felt manic), and lethargy or sleepiness were at bay. When I went for my check up that year, my doctor was shocked at how clear my ultrasound was and said that while there was still that tell-tale link of cysts around my ovaries, it was so small that it did not fit the clinical picture of PCOS anymore. Although she did warn me not to be complacent because hormones are tricky that way.
In mid-2014, I went through a series of life changes that were stressful for me, and as I mentioned, things happened, and I started gaining weight again. My practice was no longer consistent, and for the most part, whenever I would practice I chose a more yang one and not yin. Not long after, my periods became irregular again. The migraines started popping back up (which I attributed to maybe one too many glasses of wine, but now I know better), and the moods…gosh. The moods. Haha. But did I recognize it? Nope. I forgot that my period was my body’s internal warning system. And I had failed to listen.
In 2015, I went to two training programs that reminded me of how important yoga is for better menstrual health. During my yoga therapy training in Australia, we discussed the value of modifying our practice during the moon cycle in order to better nourish the body. This was based on Ana Davis’ work on Moving with the Moon. I got quite excited hearing about it because I had attended several women’s health workshops here in Manila with my long-time teacher, Dona Tumacder-Esteban. When I came home, I was able to attend a Women’s Health Intensive training with my teachers Dona and Victor Chng of Yin Yoga in Asia, which emphasized the yin yoga practice and it’s leanings towards Traditional Chinese Medicine in looking at the menstrual cycle holistically. During the trainings, I became more attuned to the fact that I had forgotten to care about my periods and I saw how it affected not just my reproductive health, but all layers of my body as well.
Now that I am armed with more information, I realize how important keeping my menstrual cycle healthy is. Understanding the timing, the consistency and the quality of my periods informs me about the timing, consistency and quality of my life as well. Presently my periods are still out of whack, as is my sleep, and my digestion, all of which are interconnected in maintaining a healthy body. However, knowing what kind of practices I need to do to nourish and support my menstrual health is helping me get back on track. I know I can just go back to my doctor and ask for the pill again to regulate the period and safeguard my reproductive health, especially now that I am older and want to maintain my fertility so I can conceive, but I know that doing that just addresses the symptoms but does not address the problem at the root.
While yoga may not necessarily be a cure-all or the panacea of all things, it’s systemic and holistic approach, especially when done consistently, helps reset the system and takes it back to balance. This Women’s Month, and for the months to follow, I invite all women to take the time to get to know your periods better and arm yourself with the power to make positive life transformations, one period at a time.
Are you with me? Take the first step to better menstrual health. Check out the following links to get you started:
Yoga For Women’s Health Weekend - This is a two-day workshop led by women’s health advocate, Yin Yoga Therapist, and Energy Management Coach Dona Tumacder-Esteban in exploring and embodying different aspects of being a woman as we go through movements and poses based on Yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Mindful Movement Practices. Each workshop includes a short discussion and a practice session.
Yin Yoga Intensives with Victor Chng Transform your Body through Yin Yoga with these intensives with Asia’s leading Yin Yoga Teacher and head of Yin Yoga in Asia.
Moving with the Moon – Links to E-books by Ana Davis
Come to Yoga! Try it for yourself Come join me and my fellow Yogaplus teachers on the mat and see how yoga can positively impact your menstrual health. I personally teach on the following days, times and Yogaplus locations:
- Monday – Flow Basics 7am-815am, Makati
- Monday – Flow, 945am-1045am, Manila/DLSU
- Monday – Yin, 1130am-1230am, Manila/DLSU
- Monday – Flow Basics 445pm-545pm, Manila/DLSU
- Monday – Flow, 630pm-730pm, Manila/DLSU
- Monday – Yin, 815pm-915pm, Manila/DLSU
- Tuesday – Flow Basics 7am-815am, Makati
- Tuesday – Yin, 9am-1030am, Makati
- Wednesday – Yin, 7am-815am, Makati
- Friday – Flow Basics, 7pm-815pm, BGC
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