The Cyclical Phases and Massage
THE MENSTRUAL, HORMONAL, LUNAR & EARTH CYCLES
AND HOW MASSAGE THERAPY CAN SERVE AS A SUPPORT
Described throughout this series are the four phases of the menstrual cycle, the hormones involved in each phase, the related energetics of the Moon and Earth cycles and the corresponding elemental wisdom. Please keep in mind that each body is unique and not all cycle phases will align with the specific Moon and Earth phases that are listed ~ and that is completely okay, whenever you bleed is perfect! To better understand the nature of your individual cycle, it's most important to take into consideration your own experience of the spiritual significance and archetypal symbolism of the Lunar and Earth phases rather than the specific space and time. I welcome and encourage you to practice curiosity and compassion when exploring this content and to bring awareness to the fluidity and variability that is our internal rhythms especially in regards to the menstrual cycle.
from my heart to yours...
SOFTENING, QUIETING, RECONNECTING
"Within the language of our cycle we are given a map and compass by which to harmoniously grow into maturity, by which to have healthy relationships, by which to know ourselves. Your cycle is a language that is always communicating to you, whether you are in alignment with what your body needs or whether there are opportunities for shifts. Cravings, emotional turbulence, discomfort and pain are messages & symptoms that are drawing your awareness to ‘toxins’ in your life or what needs to change." ~ Isabella Wilde
Waning Moon | Earth/Metal Element | Fall/Autumn Equinox
As our bodies prepare to embrace what has been ripened into fruition during the ovulatory phase, we begin to feel the pulse to slow down and move inwards again. This is a time to grant ourselves permission to let go of what no longer serves in order to soften into a more balanced and connected state as we begin to wind down in preparation for menstruation.
After ovulation, the cells of the follicle that enveloped the egg breaks down and transforms into a new structure called the Corpus Luteum. It is responsible for the hormonal composition of the following phase of the cycle. Luteinizing hormone (LH) stimulates the corpus luteum to secrete the hormones progesterone, estrogen, relaxin and inhibin which dries up cervical fluid, raises basal body temperature and promotes growth of the endometrial tissue to support an implanted zygote in the uterus if fertilization occurs. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum's lifespan is two weeks and then it degenerates and due to the lack of feedback to the pituitary gland, there is also a decrease in hormone secretion. With the cease of hormone production that help maintain and build the blood vessels that supply the uterine lining, it begins to shed off ~ similar to the falling of autumn leaves.
"And like the moon, we must go through phases of emptiness to feel full again."
The fall or autumn season represented in this phase is a time of harvest. Gathering the bounty in which we cultivated during the cycle and clearing away the impurities that arose as well. The corresponding waning moon in this phase represents the process of purification and energetic cleansing. Depending on the energies that are being purified during this phase and if we have been working with or against our cycle thus far, this may be where PMS is experienced. This second transitional phase is all about slowing down and bringing our energy home to the body.
During ovulation there is a swirling culmination of hormones and energy as our body prepares to carry and house a living entity, and if fertilization occurs, Nature knows exactly where to exert such energy, but if fertilization does not occur then this congestive build up of energy must be processed in another way. This process looks and feels different for every bleeding folk, the symptoms experienced are referred to as Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). PMS has many different facets and forms, it not only interacts with the physical body but also the mental, emotional and spiritual layers of our being. There is a large percentage of people who bleed who experience PMS who psychologically undergo anger and irritability, confusion, depression, memory loss, fatigue, and severe changes in mood. Physically the symptoms vary innumerably, ranging from breast tenderness, cramping, headaches, acne, restless sleep, bloating and weight gain. On a cellular level there is a certain intensity experienced in this phase, literally a life or death circumstance, either the ova is implanted and survives or it dies.. as we experience another cycle coming to a close, another opportunity passing by (depending on our life goals), we may become dissatisfied with our life, our choices, loved ones, hobbies, etc. (Nadia MacLeod) This phase is a last attempt to implant the creative seed, so we may ask ourselves; What are we preparing to gestate? What is ripening into our lives? What long awaited dreams are hoping to be manifested? With the intensity and pressure from our cycle so far, it is understandable why frustration and grief may be experienced.
“PMS insists that you move into your own rhythm rather than staying within society’s time frame. Living for a few days each month from within your natural rhythm is a powerful correction to the culture’s alienation of nature. PMS drops you deep into your own being, and your own truth explodes forth. Whatever you have been successful at burying or denying to yourself bursts forth at this time of the month. It is a truth serum from which you cannot escape, and if you carve out space for it, as in the native “moon hut” traditions, PMS makes you wiser. If you do not, it can cause you to feel that you are going mad.” ~ Donna Eden & David Feinstein
This experience of cellular and spiritual degeneration is an opportunity for reorienting ourselves towards our truth and to detoxify our systems of all energy that may be standing in our way of moving forward. This can be a time of exhaustion, grief, overwhelm and potent clarity. If we can honour our body's needs and experiences at this time and be tender with the downward and inward fluctuation of energy, then the gifts of this phase can be quite bountiful.
Massage + Bodywork During The Luteal Phase
The luteal/pre-menstrual phase of our cycle can be a time of potency, overwhelm, increased emotional sensitivity and irritability. As noted above, the symptoms experienced at this time vary exponentially amongst menstruating women therefore the indications for therapeutic treatment will be dependent on each individual but massage therapy has been scientifically proven to support with symptoms experienced in this phase of the cycle including, headaches/migraines, physical tenderness, swelling, cramping, constipation and helping to improve restless sleep.
Carrying an intention to support the nervous system is vital as many physical, emotional and hormonal fluctuations are occurring in the preparation of the descent into menstruation. With the uncertainty and intensity circulating within the mind and body, the sympathetic nervous system is likely to be activated which can lead to the down regulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (which governs the rest and regeneration process of the body, including menstruation.) Maintaining a calm and restorative atmosphere and intention for treatment can help one's mind to shift into a state of calm and to ground the physical body into the present moment in order to navigate this time with ease.
The body is also preparing to purge layers of itself that are no longer needed.. literally. By increasing circulation through Swedish and/or lymphatic drainage techniques, it can aid in the natural process of flushing toxins, hormonal byproducts, metabolites, emotions and stale energy from the system that no longer serve and to prepare the body for a healthy upcoming menstruation and new cycle.
If emotions such as anger, grief, or sadness are being experienced during this phase, massage therapy may support the individual to rebalance and to compassionately flow through the process of emotional turbulence by creating a safe space to unwind and gain awareness of the subtle body and to allow such emotions to be acknowledged and purified.
It is important to be mindful when receiving bodywork during this phase because due to the plunge of hormones in preparation for menstruation, one's sensitivity to pressure and heat may increase therefore the style or pressure that is typically preferred may feel different and the body may require a more gentle approach.
Journal Prompts To Support Deeper Exploration
What are you intuiting this week?
Where is most of your energy going right now? Is this productive/healthy/aligned for you? If not, how can you make subtle changes to redirect this energy?
How does it feel to slow down?
What have you accomplished this month?
How can you relieve some stress and pressure?
Have you had repeated feelings about friendships, lovers, or work situations in this phase each month?
Is there anywhere in your life that fear is getting in your way of blossoming?