In Chinese medicine, we often draw on a known concept to explain a new idea that is yet to be understood. In such a way, we can use the four seasonal phases to explain the movement of yin and yang throughout the menstrual cycle. Essentially, the term yin refers to the slow, the inward, the nurturing and the feminine. The term yang refers to the energetic, the upwards and outwards and the masculine.
Winter is the season of maximal yin. It is here that we rest and nest; we slow down and eat warming and nourishing foods. The time of maximal yin in our cycle is during menstruation. Drawing parallels, we can honour this internal season by turning inwards, moving gently - perhaps with a stroll or some yoga, and nourish with bone broths and warm, well cooked foods. Just as we’d be unlikely to enjoy cold foods or go swimming in Winter, it’s good to avoid them in your own Winter too as the contracting nature of cold can exacerbate cramping pain.
With the period behind us, we enter our Spring. While yin is still dominant, the rise of yang here welcomes a new focus and a boost of energy. This can be a great time to increase the social calendar, start a new project and add some intensity to exercise. But be mindful, abusing this new energy by pushing too hard, or perhaps if we left our Winter feeling particularly drained – we can disrupt the natural incline of yang that pulls us out of the Winter solstice. This can bring on dull headaches, lethargy and sluggish digestion.
The yang energy continues to rise as our body prepares for ovulation; bring on Summer! Studies have shown that we are more attractive to potential mates at this time leading up to ovulation – after all, it is when we are most fertile (aren’t our bodies incredible). Pure joy, a zest for life, glowing skin and our greatest sense of humour prevail here. It’s a great time for job interviews, exams, socialising and upping your weights at the gym!
Nostalgic of the Summer just passed, the reality of Autumn hits. If your body isn’t quite happy, this is when it’ll let you know. Yin begins to build up again; if yang isn’t restrained and held down by the yin, it can, like hot air, rise up. This can cause headaches, irritability, acne, thirst, anxiety and insomnia. This is also a time when the inner critic gets on the mic, and depressive episodes are more frequent. There is power in understanding your Autumn. If you find it a particularly challenging, put a little note in the diary and prioritise self care. It can be helpful to use some of that pent up energy on a run or screaming the words to your favourite song.
I encourage you to take some notes in your calendar or diary this month to see if your symptoms match up with the season you’re in. Note that hormonal forms of birth control suppress ovulation and the hormonal flux that results in these season-like presentations.
If you have a troublesome autumn, an exhausting spring, or would like to understand your cycle a little better than you already do, book in to see me at the clinic!
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Dr. Lisa Schaeffer