Your power is in your cyclicality. Your true Beauty beats in your differences day to day. And if you are a menstruating human, you are greatly different from week to week. Both science and Spirit are on your side, bringing you through a purposeful and mystical journey of hormonal and emotional fluctuations each month. This is the divine design of Mother Nature. New life does not just arrive from the sky, but manifests through this process of sacred Creation within a menstruating human each month. Much of it is beyond our control. But much of it is within our control, as we can listen sharply to the symptoms arising and respond sweetly by making lifestyle adjustments.
In this cycle series, we are going to be going over each phase of the menstrual cycle (there are 4 in total) ~ diving into the energetics of each phase, the science of each phase, and nutritional + self-care tips for each phase. Up today is ::
The Luteal Phase
Corresponding with the Autumn Season + Third Quarter Moon
Archetype :: The Wild Woman
Science of the Luteal Phase ↣
The Luteal Phase is the 11 to 17 days following Ovulation (when we're fertile), before the onset of Menstruation (when we're bleeding) ~ a Luteal Phase that is shorter than 10 days is a sign that the body is not making enough progesterone, the pivotal hormone of this phase.
After Ovulation, if no egg has been fertilized (beginning pregnancy), the corpus luteum ~ the structure inside the ovaries which holds a developing egg ~ collapses in the fallopian tube and begins to produce progesterone, sending it all throughout the body and brain. At this time, estrogen (which peaked during Ovulation) and testosterone (which peaks in the first few days of the Luteal Phase), quickly drop. The quick drop here is what may lead to sudden experiences of self-doubt, sadness, and anxiety. This is a radical transition in our chemistry. The peak in progesterone has a divine design ~ it serves to thicken the uterine lining to create an optimal environment for a growing baby. But if no egg implants, the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone, triggering the shedding of the newly thickened uterine lining...which is our period.
Progesterone is a wonder of a hormone, as it heals brain cells and tissue, regenerates and strengthens bones, boosts metabolism, helps with deep sleep, and stimulates hunger at this crucial time when the body needs frequent, ample nourishment in preparation for bleeding. Because of progesterone's work on the brain, it is the hormone which creates this great shift in our awareness during the Luteal Phase. It helps us to think clearer and more critically, cutting through the bullshit and seeing things for what they really are. Scientifically, progesterone is what is helping us to see what is and is not working in our lives. The particular elixir of estrogen to testosterone to progesterone in this phase is what is making us pay sharper attention to what we may not have noticed just a week before. This elixir has the brain beginning to prioritize more administrative, detail-driven responsibilities and a strong urge to "nest"...such as the sudden urge to clean life out from top to bottom, as well as to cook big batches of meals for ourselves and our families because during bleeding time, we definitely won't have the energy to want to do so. Progesterone is also what makes us clumsy and juicy, as it softens joints and muscles.
Changes in the cervix at this time stimulate a vasovagal response which can create nausea, or even the sensation of passing out. The remedy for this is rest. Listen in, and rest.
As the corpus luteum is reabsorbed, our physical energy declines day by day. We are called to honor this as a real biological necessity. Awareness, attention, and comfort are our friends during these days.
Energetics of the Luteal Phase ↣
We are entering a deep dive into our darkness. That darkness which need not be scary, but which we remember as being a necessary and purposeful fraction of our wholeness. Our Luteal Phase brings the days in which we dance through the "dark matter" of our inner universe ~ those mysterious, gravitational spaces between the lightness of the stars which has its teachings and meanings, both within and beyond our control.
After ovulation, we day by day begin diving even deeper into a reflective and evaluative space, taking inventory of what is and what is not working in our lives. This is our premenstrual phase, meaning, the phase before menstruation (bleeding). Each day approaching bleeding becomes softer, more intuitive, more meditative. These are our days to naturally retreat from outward activity, and into a more selfish space (in the necessary, self-care kind of way because if we cannot care for ourselves, we cannot care for those we love). These are our days to reflect upon and take a celebratory break from what we have already created, rather than muster up a push to create anything new. The forces of these days may bring forth some strong mirrors, asking us to peer into the more difficult aspects of our lives ~ so that we may have a clear communication with areas that need adjustment, change, or maybe a complete clearing out.
Ancient, pre-colonial cultures very much honored the phases and power within a menstruating person's being. I would love to share with you an excerpt from the beautiful book Her Blood is Gold by Lara Owen. Lara shares ::
One of the most inspiring accounts of menstrual beliefs and practices that I have read comes from a woman of the Yurok people of Northern California, paraphrased by Thomas Buckley: "A menstruating woman should isolate herself because this is the time when she is at the height of her powers. Thus the time should not be wasted in mundane tasks and social distractions, nor should one's concentration be broken by contact with the opposite sex. Rather, all of one's energies should be applied in concentrated meditation 'to find out the purpose of your life' and towards the 'accumulation' of spiritual energy. The menstrual shelter, or room, is 'like the men's sweat house', a place where you 'go into yourself and make yourself stronger'. The blood that flows serves to 'purify' the woman, preparing her for spiritual accomplishment. A woman must use a scratching implement, instead of scratching absent-mindedly with her fingers, as an aid in focusing her full attention on her body by making even the most natural and spontaneous actions fully conscious and intentional: 'You should feel all of your body exactly as it is, and pay attention.'"
Here, she is of course speaking more to the Menstrual Phase, however, the ancient honoring of each phase, each bodily fluctuation and purpose therein, still applies. Heart-breakingly, modern society and patriarchal structures are not particularly keen on the Luteal Phase, which is what really makes it the most difficult. We must now monthly navigate the great challenge of worshiping the natural needs of the body whilst tending to the never-ending demands a contemporary culture. Today, most of us carry deep programming steeped in expectations around what it means to be successful, and the productivity and consistent output involved in getting there. Monthly periods of rest and reflection are not encouraged in that. Today, we live by a calendar of logically formulated weeks and years, rather than by the organic rhythms of the Moon and seasons as our ancestors did.
Modern structures lead us to believe that we need to be and perform the same every day, and they advertise our sensitivities as being weak...problematic nuisances in need of fixing through synthetic products and pills and surgeries. These kinds of structures judge premenstrual energy, emotions and moods, and label them as unproductive, overly sensitive, or lazy.
But in fact, when we as menstruating humans take our natural, inherent wisdom (in sync with the organic phases of the Moon and seasons) back into our own bodies by honoring each phase and fluctuation as it comes up on us, we come fully into our Power in recognition of the Magic within, living in honor of our differences week to week and month to month. This is really what I want to see every woman of any age and from any walk of life doing. Together we must remember how to again own the Power in our cyclicality.
The Luteal Phase ushers our ultimate days to sink in ~ to do the good work of remaining a witness to what is showing up in our lives, asking for our attention, asking for our reflection. This is when we get access to parts of our often unconscious selves that are less available or obvious to us during other times of the month. In fact, it has been proven scientifically that the right hemisphere of the brain ~ the part associated with intuitive knowing ~ becomes more active during the luteal phase while the left hemisphere ~ the part associated with logical thinking ~ becomes less active.
During this phase we must resist the unconscious urge to block out or ignore what is arising. Sitting with and working with what comes up is really where the heart opening and healing happens. We just need to allow it. Stay soft. Stay a witness. Be honest. Be unapologetic. This is when we get the chance to be most in tune with our inner knowings on what is or isn't working in our lives. Our dreams may be very vivid ~ both at night and during the day. Spirit callings or intuitive pings may feel sharper and the veil between the seen and the unseen, the conscious and the subconscious, is thinning with each day that passes before bleeding.
What needs our attention during this time is going to come to us through our emotions and PMS symptoms :: Where are we irritated? Where are we angry? Where are we sad? Where are we in pain? It is also going to come to us in our dreams and in our hunger. What symbols and stories are showing up in our dream world? And how are we feeling about them? What kinds of foods or nutrients are we craving? Are we honoring this or do we feel shame around this? These symptoms can tell us a great deal about our current state of health, and be a sweet call to replenish in whatever ways are necessary. Listen.
We may find ourselves entering a different state of awareness a few days before bleeding begins ~ it feels dreamy, tender, sensitive, maybe even quite sad (and maybe for no apparent, practical reason other than just feeling...tender). We may also feel a strong need (really, a biological need, not just a want) to slow down, and or halt social time and social media engagement. We may be more apt to cry, but we must remember that our tears are always related to something that holds a calling for healing and cleansing. The Luteal and Menstrual Phases are our natural, monthly, deep detox. We must allow this cleansing process to pass through us in every mystical way that it needs to. We get the benefit each month of emerging from this process cleansed, carrying fresh insight and inspiration. Every natural process has its purpose.
Nutrition for the Luteal Phase ↣
Our focus this week should be on B vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. B vitamins will keep our energy and blood sugar stable, minerals such as magnesium, calcium and zinc will steep the body with the information that it needs to feel nourished before bleeding many minerals out. Whole food sugars in the form of carbohydrates from fruit and root veggies stabilize serotonin and dopamine in the brain (aka our happiness!) in order to prevent mood wings. Cacao also helps with this tremendously...she is similarly overflowing in all the good minerals we need on these days! That cacao craving before bleeding is biological...let yourself indulge, just sans the processed sugar. Get an 80-100% Cacao bar, or truly the best way to get that fix is by alchemizing up a ceremonial cacao elixir with just a small bit of raw local honey, or completely unsweetened. When it comes to the carbs, roasted or baked root veggies and sweet potatoes are an ideal option, as this kind of cooking method keeps much of the natural sugars intact to be utilized by glucose the brain.Other helpful foods to enjoy during this phase are ::
- Steamed dark leafy greens and nutritional yeast for those B vitamins
- Ground flax seeds to help flush any excess estrogen and keep digestion moving
- Healthy fats such as coconut, avocado, grass-fed butter and ghee, sprouted nuts and nut butters
- Organic miso for the salty minerals alongside probiotic bacteria
- Grass-fed liver as your post powerful and bioavailable vitamin + mineral supplement
- Grass-fed beef and lamb to up your iron stores before bleeding
The immune system reaches it's lowest point during this phase, so to take care of our immunity, it is wonderful to add in immune-boosting fungi such as Reishi, Lion's Mane, Astragalus, and Chaga. Either in powdered or tincture form.
To help with nausea and premenstrual cramping, infusions (meaning, a long steep of herb in hot water for 4-6 hours) of Ginger and Cramp Bark are delicious and restorative.
An Herbal Infusion for the Luteal Phase ↣
- 2 parts Oatstraw ~ 1 part Red Clover or Red Raspberry Leaf ~ 1 part Hibiscus Flowers
- Boil water ~ Pour water over the herbs in a Mason jar ~ Let sit out on the counter for 4-6 hours or overnight ~ Strain + enjoy instead of or alongside water all throughout the day!
Rest sweetly, wombyn.
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