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...
RELEASING, DESCENDING, RESTORING
"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
New/Dark Moon | Water Element | Winter/Winter Solstice
Bleeding is the initiation of a new cycle, making this the first phase. Menstruation is an opportunity for release, reflection, restoration and turning our perception, energy and care inwards. Represented by the water element and New Moon energetics, this is a time to make space for new intentions and to ruminate upon the past cycle as the menstrual blood cleanses the womb preparing the body to begin its fertile cycle again. During the New or Dark Moon, the yin energy reaches its peak and the yang is at its lowest.
Menstruation expresses that fertilization has not occurred and now the body is shedding the endometrial lining or insulation layers of the womb that was built to create a cozy home for a potential fetus. Since pregnancy has not taken place, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, meaning there is minimal hormonal influence at this time other than mild amounts of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which influences the growth of the egg follicles. Every body will respond uniquely to this reduction of hormones depending on overall hormonal balance and cycle experience. This can bring clarity and a sense of feeling more deeply connected within as it is a pause from all of the hormonal activity that occurs during the rest of the cycle — it is within this quietude that we can comfortably tune inwards to the deepest parts of ourselves to access our internal wisdom.
"It is normal to feel more tender, raw and sensitive during the first few days of menstruation. Menstruation is an altered state of consciousness and we are literally more in TOUCH with deeper aspects of ourself, that are almost impossible to ignore in this state." ~ Marissa Correia
During this phase, menstrual blood, mucus, and uterine tissue passes from the uterus through the cervix and out of the vagina. The act of shedding and releasing a significant amount of tissue and blood can result in a sense of deep fatigue due to the loss of life-force energy/prana, especially if one struggles with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) or various other reproductive conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, etc. as the pain can be debilitating. Therefore it is especially important to practice tender care towards ourselves during the menstrual phase. As this phase is represented by Winter, our bodies are requesting adequate rest and ultimately to go into 'hibernation' mode as we do in the Winter season, conserving our energy and germinating new seeds for the upcoming spring. It is an opportunity to slow down, which can often be quite difficult in the modern world we currently live in where we are all expected to keep moving forward at high speeds no matter our internal states and energy levels. It takes courage ~ and discipline ~ to honour our bodily rhythms and slow down from our normal routines and patterns. Resistance to our body's innate wisdom and messages may cause disharmony moving forward in the rest of the cycle. Practicing mindfulness and patience in the beginning phase of each cycle can result in a more peaceful and pleasant experience throughout the whole menstrual cycle. Use this time to connect deeper, to heal and to renew yourself.
Massage + Bodywork During The Menstrual Phase
Approximately 80% of women report experiencing some form of menstruation-related pain or discomfort. The specific symptoms can vary widely depending on overall and underlying states of health, hormonal balance, medications/contraceptives, lifestyle, and your personal relationship with the phases of your cycle. Each menstruation experience is completely unique and may involve a variable combination of symptoms ~ many women also have very pleasant and pain free menstruation.
Dysmenorrhoea refers to painful uterine cramping associated with menses. In addition to lower pelvic discomfort, women may also experience low back, hip and knee pain, radiation of pain to the anterior thighs, nausea, vomiting, digestive disruptions, headaches and various other symptoms (Greta J. Kuphal, 2018.) Many studies have identified uterine prostaglandins as substantially contributing to the onset of pain during menstruation. Prostaglandins are an inflammatory molecule released by the breakdown of uterine cells and are responsible for increasing myometrial (muscle layer of uterus) contractions and constricting small endometrial blood vessels, which consequentially causes tissue disintegration and ischemia (restricted blood flow), increased intrauterine pressure, bleeding and pain. The pain and discomfort that can arise during this phase can promote a lot of emotional distress which can be debilitating and dysfunctional in flowing through daily life.
"There is deep magic in menstruation. In each cycle, we are given an opportunity for healing, for release, for rebirth. All we have to do is listen and be with what is." ~ Isabella Wilde
So how can receiving massage during this phase support you? Massage of the structures around the pelvis can aid in desensitizing painful areas, focusing on the pelvis and surrounding tissues including the hips, gluteal region, low back and thighs, can help to relieve muscle tension and assist in circulating any stagnant energy in the area. Massage is also very effective in helping to regulate the nervous system responses which often becomes overwhelmed during this phase, especially if pain is present. Promoting relaxation through calming and safe touch can help to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression at this time which in turn helps to regulate the sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous systems and decrease the stress responses which can help decrease the perception of pain intensity. Receiving massage during this phase can also bring relief to secondary symptoms such as headaches, musculoskeletal pain and constipation. It can also increase circulation to the womb space that can aid in nourishing the pelvic organs by bringing warmth and new nutrient-rich blood flow to the tissues resulting in less intense contractions from prostaglandin activity and promoting and supporting movement of the life-force energy/prana/chi energy.
"For those who inhabit a female body, our cyclical nature is an integral part of who we are and how we exist in the world. We are always in intimate relationship with our menstrual cycles, regardless of whether or not we are paying attention to them. In the current overstimulated, disconnected and productivity-driven world, listening to and honouring the truth of our own bodies becomes an essential form of activism. Cultivating a practice of presence with our bodies during menstruation is an act of rebellion against a patriarchal mentality that has embedded the belief that this process is shameful, impure and comes as a disadvantage. " ~ Samantha Neal
Journal Prompts to Support Deeper Exploration
Where do I require more stillness?
What am I letting go of/What is no longer serving my truest intentions?
What relationships, activities and practices feel nourishing right now?
What do I need to feel held right now?
Are there any elements of my day that can wait until next week?
Is there any aspects of my bleed that I am resisting? How can I soften/balance/honour this resistance?
What insights, frequencies and themes came through over this last cycle? And how can I embody them in this emerging cycle?
EXPlORE THE ENTIRE GRANDMOTHER MOON & MASSAGE SERIES...
Cycle Harmony ~ Five Elements and Your Menstrual Health
G. J. Kuphal ~ Dysmenorrhea Integrative Medicine - Fourth Edition (2018)
Z. Rosenwaks and G. Seegar-Jones ~ Menstrual Pain: its origin and pathogenesis (1980)