Do you track your inner seasons? I used to see people talk about this and be like, WHAT?? (insert scathing eyebrow raise here). Fear not if you have no idea what I mean, it will make more sense by the end.
But almost 12 months ago now in early June 2019 after reading an amazing book called Period Power by Maisie Hill which I highly recommend. I’d been on the contraceptive pill since I was 14 as I suffered with my skin and had exhausted all antibiotic options, at this point I was totally unaware of natural remedies and the thought of the years I did on antibiotics is terrifying! But I digress.
Obviously as I grew older I remained on it for other reasons, when my friends talked about not being on it and using natural methods of tracking for contraception I honestly questioned their sanity! Why would you want to do something so risky and time consuming when you can just a tablet every morning?
But the more they talked about their hormones, their periods, connecting to their bodies and the more I delved into my yoga practice along with self-awareness and development a connection to myself internally, I finally started to hear what they said. And it was like I had this big wall block stopping me from going any further, I’d done so much work, dedicated to many hours to my practice trying to develop love for myself and a calm mind! Then Deliciously Ella invited Maisie Hill onto her podcast, they talked about her book (Period Power) and so many things that she talked about resonated with me. Quite personal things that I won’t go too deep into but it really got the cogs turning so I bought her book and devoured it!
Decisions To Be Made
Being in a long term relationship but not in a place in our lives where we’re ready to have children I had to have a conversation with DJP, yes it’s my body but we’re a team and I couldn’t make a choice like this without having him on board. He was skeptical at first, but when I explained that some of the issues I’d suffered with for the majority of our relationship might be fixed by this he gave me his full support.
One of the things Maisie talks about in the book is how the contraceptive pill can make some of your vitamin levels low which can affect your mood. So I booked an appointment with my GP, explained that I believed from some research I’d done that I may be deficient and requested a test. Sadly they refused as it wasn’t deemed as essential and the online/private versions where out of my price range.
Is That Really Your Period?
Did you know that the ‘period’ which you experience when you’re on contraception such as the pill isn’t a true period? It’s a superficial bleed, as the hormones you’re taking block your body from having a true cycle, which is how it prevents you from getting pregnant, therefore your body can never truly release the way it’s supposed to. So whilst you may bleed every few weeks and so think your cycle is natural and healthy, you’re actually not allowing your body to have a ‘cycle’ at all! A fact that after 15 years of being on the pill for I was amazed I have never been told/made aware of or seen publicized! Even at the time that I visited my GP and asked for the tests, explaining why I wanted them, their only suggested was switching to another form of hormonal contraception.
(If this is sparking your interest I highly recommend you read Period Power to gain a much better understanding from their full explanations.)
After I wasn’t able to have my levels tested to see if I could confirm this being the reason for some of my symptoms I decided to take the plunge anyway and stopped taking the pill and I can honestly say I’ve never looked back! I had a fear of a regular monthly period and what an inconvenience it would be, stopping me from practicing etc. etc.
Changing My Mindset
As the form of contraception I’d been on for over 5 years at this point (the mini pill) can cause no bleeding at all due to the continuous way in which you take it, I hadn’t actually had a ‘period’ of any sort since I was in my early 20’s – and after hearing about the superficial bleeds vs true periods, I realised that within 2 years of my body starting to have a cycle and give me monthly periods, I stopped it from naturally doing so by being on the pill, a really terrifying thing to think about considering by the end of my 30s its unlikely I would still be in a position to conceive, so I’ve prevented my body having its natural rhythm for potentially longer than I’ll now be able to let it happen? But better late than never hey!
Due to this I wasn’t used to managing them, I didn’t know how they felt, I’d never really suffered PMS, I actually didn’t even have any ‘sanitary items’ (isn’t that an awful term when you think about it?) in the house! I remember saying things to my teacher at the time, who was largely one of the reasons I knew about all this, ‘but my period will be such an inconvenience’ as she patiently explained that the natural rhythm would all make sense soon.
Summer Vs Winter?
And so we reach the seasons, one of the big things you learn when you switch to natural tracking, which I realise I haven’t yet explained fully sorry! – I take my temperature with a special thermometer every morning (or at least most days) and input the reading into an app, from this it tracks my ovulation and expected period, I can input symptoms of PMS plus my highs and lows.. Please research fully including other forms of contraception whilst your body adjusts before you make this switch.
So back to the seasons… They explain that your period is your ‘Winter’, you’re more tired, you want to hibernate, your mood can be lower and often your productivity can wane, then your spring comes as new energies (new internally cycles) start to happen and you can feel a change in your mood and productivity.. you actually PHYSICALLY change from winter to summer, your hips and face can become more attractive and symmetrical designed to boost your attention during ‘mating time’ or ovulation as we call it 🙂 … again refer to the book for a wayyy better explanation of this. And once summer hits you’re the life and soul of the party, you have energy again, you’re tip top productive, you have all these amazing ideas about things you want to do, projects you want to start!! Then the arrival of autumn slows you down again, you retreat slightly and your energey for things other than basic necessaties wanes again, you’re less inclied to want to socialise and more tempted to take naps.
What you discover from reading into this is absolutely amazing our bodies are, designed in a way to keep us at optimum levels when our natural conception is possible. Obviously in this modern age it’s not all about baby making every cycle but once we delve into this and find our rhythms we can really harness that energy.
But Periods Are So Annoying!!
I used to be terrified that my period would get in the way of my routine, my routine being something I felt I had to do week in week out for it to work for me and stick. When actually what I’ve realise is my ‘routine’ needs to work in a cycle, for the weeks of spring and summer, like I’m in now (if you can’t tell by my extra social posts and general extra positive vibes) we find we can do more physical exercise, socialise with friends and fam more, post more content, have the ideas for the content etc. etc. and then in Autumn and Winter I might have a full week where I don’t go further than lying on my mat, and that’s ok too! This is what our body needs.
Whilst a general structure to our lifestyle is important to build healthy patterns, it’s so crucial to connect to your inner cycle, planning things in for the optimum time and allowing the duvet days when needed.
This whole post was sparked by my recent transition out of a very long, very dark lockdown winter. Winter for me personally heightens my anxieties, it takes away my motivation to be physical and as a yoga teacher that lets my mind instill guilt, telling me I’m lazy or letting myself/my students down. Hitting a hard winter a month into being in this weird lockdown that we’re in was tough, and whilst you’re in winter you KNOW this is why you’re anxious, why you’re so low and why you just can’t bear the thought of joining a zoom quiz or facetiming your mates, but as much as you tell yourself your winter is the reason and it will pass soon, it never fully helps. What it does do is stop you feeling like a crazy person for bursting into tears at the drop of a hat, it will also allow you to go easy on yourself if you skip a few days exercise but it can’t take the feelings away.
The Spring Awakening
So when winter passes into spring and the misery fug lifts, it’s like being reborn! This week I can’t tell you how amazing I feel, I’m so much more productive both in my day job and with ideas for my Yoga Megs Biz. Plus I’m filled with all this energy to get on my mat and practice, share my classes, film new content, post my recipes..write epically long blogs like this that nobody may even ever read! And it soooo nice!
During the 15 years that I was on contraception, I didn’t suffer the deep dark winters, but I also didn’t experience the summer highs. Instead it was like one long conveyor belt of middle ground, a fogginess around the edges that stopped me feeling properly into myself and the barrier it created I honestly know was stopping me connecting deeper to my yoga practice.
Edit. March 2021. Reading this back almost a year later, as I still share this with friends and students regularly, I realised I missed out 2 key bits of helpful info;
If you’re planning to transition off of contraception like the pill, it can be really beneficial to supplement with evening primrose which boosts natural hormonal production. When taking hormonal contraception your body doesn’t have to create its own, this means when you suddenly stop taking it, it can really shock the body and this could mean several months of strange weak or intense period symptoms until it settles. I took this for about 6 weeks before I stopped, and I regulated within 2-3months. Click here to see the one I took.
The app that I refer to using is called Natural Cycles, you pay either a monthly or yearly subscription free which really isn’t steep and receive the thermometer that will help you track your temp, the more you track this the more accurate the app will be, if you’re interested pop me a message and I can share my referral link, it’ll get you 20% off the annual subscription with a free thermometer too!