Saturday, July 3, 2010

Discontent and Irritability - The Yogi's Challenges During PMS

Irritability. Discontent. About once a month, I, and so many other women experience anywhere from a day to a week to more of this emotionally and physically challenging state known as PMS.

While some women have little to no symptoms, I am one of those who experience an array of symptoms in varying degrees from month to month.  The most difficult, I find, are irritability and discontent.

Just before my menstrual cycle, emotions like anger, irritability, and frustration seem to feel safe enough to make their way to the surface and to express themselves - and almost always not in the nicest ways to myself and those around me.  Interestingly, these are the same emotions that I tend to "avoid" experiencing when they come up at any other time of the month, because I find them to be unpleasant, unkind, and irrational.

I sometimes wonder that if I allow myself to feel those emotions as they come up, rather than bottling them up inside or denying myself the experience of naturally moving through them, would I allow for such a free-for-all during "that time of the month"?

I wonder how our bodies/minds/spirits are responding and coping on all levels, considering the magnitude of the bio-chemical changes that occur during these times.  Our body/mind craves foods that are higher in salt, sugar, and fat content (though these foods are actually counteractive, raising out mood disproportionately and then dropping us lower than we were before - not to mention the bloating that comes along with extra sodium intake), and our spirit desperately longs for us to calm our nervous system by avoiding things like caffeine (coffee and chocolate, oh my!).

Instead, it prefers that we find a dimly lit, quiet, warm place to snuggle up - where it can feel safe, calm down, and rest.

Some of the things that I find helpful during these times are:

  • To try my best not to lash out at others - it is not okay for me to behave in a way that is hurtful to others just because I am experiencing frustration or irritability - not during PMS, and not during other times as well.
  • To be more compassionate with myself - to realize that I am a human being and a woman, and that I can take great joy in why these things are happening in my body. It really is part of a miracle and the way that our bodies are designed. I can use these experiences when, for me, it feels safer than any other time to experience and cry through those emotions that I consider to be "dark" (you can't have or know light without having or knowing darkness sometimes). I can show myself compassion and think, "Wow, I really feel irritated right now. How human of me." Or,"I really fill (Fill in The Blank) right now. How Human of Me." (Thanks to one of my Yoga Teachers, Nicole, for that one.)
  • I can do things to pamper myself a bit - interestingly enough, this is also something I feel more okay about doing during this time of the month. I need not deprive myself of all sweets and craved foods. In fact, this is when I usually treat myself to a portion of Trader Joe's Reduced Fat Cheese Crunchies (a much healthier but equally delicious alternative to Cheetos) and things like a single serving package of Ben and Jerry's, or  a Grande Carmel Light Frappuccino from Starbucks.  I do it in moderation, and then I remind myself that such treats can be enjoyed at other times, as long as I monitor the portions.
  • Practicing Yogaaaaaaaaaaah.  If I have time to take a class or more during this week, that is the ultimate. I find my practice to be stronger when I have the accountability of a set class -especially around other yogi friends. But, if there isn't enough time, there is always a home practice. Whether it's a DVD, a routine I've memorized, or just purely going into some of my restorative poses, such as Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana) or Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani), both of which have been shown to reduce stress and induce a state of relaxation (and even bliss!) Just remember that inversions, such as Legs Up The Wall should not be performed during your actual menstrual cycle.

What are some of the ways you deal with "that time of the month"?  If you have a female partner, what could she do to help communicate what she is going through?  What can you do to help her feel better during this challenging time?

I hope this was helpful. I feel better simply having written it. Now I'm off to enjoy a single serving of ice cream. :-)

Debbie aka Sulilo

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