Pleasure & PMS
Last month will go down in history as The Month I Suffered Zero PMS symptoms.
Suffering zero PMS symptoms always seemed to me, a ridiculous goal. A goal that takes an interest in health too far, that strives for perfection, that comes at the sake of having any fun or semblance of a life or personality remain.
Interesting then, that after one of the most fun, pleasurable months in recent history (10 days in Bali of massage, shirodhara, yoga, my favourite foods, a handful of Bintangs and very little work) I had no PMS symptoms whatsoever.
I want to steer clear of adding PMS symptoms to the list of things we believe need to ‘fix’ ‘improve’ or ‘detox’ - in a culture that is not only unnatural and busy, but also very masculine in nature, of course we’re going to feel tired, headachy or irritable around the time we bleed. We feel this way because should be sleeping in, taking the day off work and spending time alone or in stillness and quiet. But lol, as if we’d be allowed to do that.
I have noticed in myself, that PMS symptoms generally appear to be, almost directly related to how stressful the last month of my life was. And while ridding myself of them completely, only to run out into the woods as the full moon rises and bleed directly into the earth wearing a floaty white dress is not really my goal (but cool if its yours) to be able to experience less discomfort and more chill (though crying at unrequited love between tv show characters is allowed) is generally a good thing.
Which brings me to pleasure. Wait what?
Pleasure is an interesting topic for people interested in health, wellness, yoga, whatever the thing is. While a certain amount of discipline is required to start practicing yoga, exercising regularly, transitioning into a healthy diet, I have definitely observed in myself, and in conversations with others, there often seems to be a tendency to take discipline way too far.
Discipline is certainly a good quality, but it can be addictive and easily overdone. There is rush of accomplishment when all of a sudden you’re attending multiple yoga classes a week, you’re feeling stronger, lighter, more flexible. Maybe you’re eating better and starting to consider your impact on the world around you. This place is so exciting, so liberating, it can be easy to fall into the rabbit hole of continuously ‘better-ing’ yourself, which generally culminates in one of two ways, throwing it all away and saying it’s just too much or becoming a dried-up, self denying discipline machine.
I know using words like masculine and feminine can be problematic when talking about menstrual cycles, but in many ways, the experience of bleeding and the whole hormonal cycle is one of the most deeply feminine things I can think of, and it makes no sense to try and support something so cyclical and yin through the more masculine approach of rigidity, severity and serious discipline. It’s not uncommon to hear athletes and over-exercisers losing their period, which makes sense when we think of something like a menstrual cycle, where we want the opposite of discipline. We’re thinking of flow, movement, and dare I say it - a certain type of juicy-ness, right?
So, when thinking about minimising PMS (or with anything, really) it’s less about dealing with the symptoms as they arise, and more about looking at your month as a whole layering in more rest, supportive foods and practices, and also more pleasure, fun and stuff that lights you up. Notice what happens when you look at it this way:
What small things can I add in every day?
For me, the daily things are simple, easy, enjoyable and health supporting. Its yoga practice, rest, green juice, infusion drinking & dry brushing - I layered these over years. Start with one and go from there.
What can I add in every week?
Here’s where I start to struggle and go into denial. This might look like massage, sauna, a restorative or yin yoga class, a sleep in or nap, a pedicure, a facial or a meal at a super fancy restaurant with your favourite person. On a budget? Make your own scrub from coffee ground, sugar and coconut oil and do a shower / scrub / hair wash / self massage / foot bath / savasana. Look at these weekly experiences not from a place of oh I should but a I really want, love and deserve this and it’s good for me so I’m going to schedule it in.
Where am I denying myself pleasure and joy?
Do you love clothes and fashion but put off buying what you really love, or taking the time to get dressed up? Maybe it’s going out all night dancing. Maybe its spending four hours curled up on the couch reading a really good book. Maybe it’s more massage. Maybe its going out for a drink with girlfriends. When we get really clear, we know when it’s something we really want and love and have been denying ourselves in a never ending quest to be THE HEALTHIEST AND GOODEST PERSON EVER, not something we’re doing to numb or out of habit.
PMS related links:
Of course, if you have severe and debilitating PMS, work with a professional. Everything that has worked for taking my PMS from severe (when I came off the pill four years ago), to mild has taken time, consistency, trust and most recently, a whole lot of softness.
If you’re based in Sydney and you’re interested in experiencing and learning a Restorative Yoga sequence for the days leading up to and of your period, as well as other supportive practices, tonics, infusions and recipes, please join us for Womens Rest / Womens Ways, June 2nd at The Collaborative Maroubra.