Understand the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle and make the most of your 'Spring' with yoga, essential oils, mudras and breathwork.
The power of the inner spring is a lovely natural motivation, a fresh beginning, full of natural focus and optimism, a sort of willingness to go out and try things again
- Alexandra Pope
You enter Spring just after the last day of your period. The lethargy and desire to withdraw you may have experienced in your Winter is now beginning to lift and in its place is an renewed feeling of new beginnings, possibilities and excitement.
Oestrogen levels are beginning to increase, giving rise to the growth of the lead ovarian follicle which prepares you for ovulation. Spring represents the follicular phase of your cycle where you tend to feel more energised and enthusiastic about life and all the wonderful possibilities that go with it.
The Symptoms of Spring
Here are some symptoms that you may notice as you enter the Spring of your cycle:
an increase in energy and resilience
an abundance of ideas for new projects (work and social)
a feeling that you can take on the world and say yes to anything
feeling playful and sociable
self-esteem is on the up
The Gifts of Spring
Just as in nature, spring is a time of abundance, pregnant with new beginnings and possibilities. It's the perfect time to explore your creativity. You may experience a flux of bright ideas that spark off in all directions, wanting to bloom and blossom. Let your imagination and creative juices run wild, and give yourself time and space to let your creativity express itself and to untangle the threads of ideas that unravel.
As oestrogen levels continue to rise, you'll be able to better hone your attention, and your memory will improve too. Research also shows that new habits are easier to maintain on the run-up to ovulation so now is the ideal time to incorporate new elements into your self-care or fitness routine. The buzz of increased energy you'll experience will also help you pick up the pace.
Experimentation & Play
Spring is a time of great potential and with the buzz of creativity floating around it is a wonderful opportunity to explore and experiment with childlike curiosity. Be playful, be curious, and embrace the fun side of life without taking anything too seriously. Nothing needs to be set in stone so simply follow the path of your ideas and see where they lead.
The Challenges of Spring
If you've managed to rest and move a little slower during your Winter, you may feel the pressure to start firing on full cylinders. Or you may feel a strong pull to say ‘yes’ to everything that comes your way as you bubble over with ideas and plans.
Although it can be wonderful to experience this renewed enthusiasm and energy, it's important to go gently or you may end up depleting yourself unnecessarily. Be curious, playful, inspired but don’t over commit yourself. Keep a little back as you dance your way to your full bloom during Summer.
If you notice yourself feeling especially depleted coming out of your Winter, take some time to reflect on the cause. There could be a physiological reason for this (like anaemia) or perhaps the cause is emotional. Both deserve investigation.
Fresh energy and enthusiasm is indeed a gift but it can be overshadowed by distraction as your attention feels like it's pulled in every direction. I feel a bit like a magpie during these times! As you move towards the end of Spring, oestrogen levels will be close to peaking so keep a notebook handy so you can jot down your ideas when they arise. This means you'll be able to harness them in the peak of your productivity in Summer.
Spring is perfect time to get playful, light and creative in your yoga practice. Here are some of my top tips on how to switch-up your yoga practice when you arrive in your Spring.
1. Try something new
Be brave! See if you can venture away form that fixed set of asanas that you always fall back on and experiment with a postures that are new or challenging.
2. Abandon the ideal
Let go of what you think your practice should look like or what you have to achieve. Embrace your sense of curiosity. If you’ve always wanted to work towards a headstand or handstand, now is the perfect opportunity to practice some of the drills that can move you towards those asanas.
3. Stay tuned in to your body
Your motivation and strength will be at its peak so as long as you stay grounded and realistic in your capabilities. Remember to tune into how postures feel in your body (only you, not your teacher, can be the judge of that) then play, explore, fly!
4. Try standing or arm balances for focus
If you're seeking focus or are feeling particularly scattered, litter your practice with standing and/or arm balances. These are great as they call for your full attention and concentration.
5. Use twists to cultivate stillness
Revolved (twisting) asanas are particularly beneficial when you're looking to cultivate focus and stillness, especially if you concentrate on keeping your breathing slow, soft and equal in length on each inhale and exhale.
Breathwork during your spring can be a wonderful way to bring focus to a scattered mind. Here are my top three breath practices for Spring.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril breathing)
The breath brings balance to the left and right sides of the brain, harmonising the yin and yang energies in the body. This is most useful during Spring when we are moving out of the yin energy of our Winter and towards the yang energy of Summer but need to find an easy balance through the transition. Perform in the morning as a fresh start to the day, or at night to release built up tension and prepare the body and mind for a restful nights sleep.
Ujyaii (Victorious breath)
If you're finding it difficult to focus in your yoga practice, explore how a soft, subtle ujyaii breath may support you. Making the breath only just audible gives you something to focus your attention on. The slight arrowing of the glottis, slows the rate of your breathing down, encouraging a more settled state of being to our excitable, child-like minds!
Brahmari (Bee breath)
If you have a seated meditation practice, you may find that your attention is even more scattered than usual in your Spring. I find brahmari breath to be a beautiful tonic. Said to elicit feelings of happiness and wellbeing, it is the humming sound produced by your softly closed lips as you hum on the exhale that provides the most wonderful sensory feedback.
Mudras are hand gestures that create an energetic seal which direct the flow of prana (energy) through the body. They can be use to energise, balance, soothe or unify. The following mudras are particularly useful during the Spring of your cycle when you may want to cultivate focus and harbour your inspirations and creativity.
Chin Mudra (Gyana Mudra)
This mudra helps to increase creativity, focus and knowledge. The intention here is to improve concentration and sharpen memory. Simply bring the tip of the index finger to the thumb on each hand. For more receptivity and energy, turn the palms upwards while resting the backs of the hands on the knees or thighs. For a sense of grounding, face the hands downwards towards the legs.
This mudra is used for mental clarity, and is performed when you need to understand intuitive messages from your subconscious. It is also said to be a powerful mudra for communication, bringing harmony to inner and outer dialogues. Simply touch the tip of your thumb to your little fingers, keeping the other three fingers straight.
This beautiful, quietly powerful mudra brings stillness to body and mind, making it useful if your attention feels scattered in Spring. It will help focus your concentration and guide you towards a deeper sense of tranquility and inner peace. Simply sit with your hands facing upward, right hand resting on top of your left palm.
Here are a selection of essential oils that might resonate with your Spring.
Purifying and clarifying, this divine smelling oil promotes focus and clarity. Try diffusing it in a vapouriser and notice how it instantly energises the mind and sharpens the memory. I always use this oil alongside lemon when I need to be productive. It gets me back on track every time!
Just like our Spring, sweet orange, encourages a childlike joy and exuberance. It asks us to seek out the joy in the everyday and not take life too seriously. Blend it with geranium for a beautiful balancing quality. You could diffuse them or dilute them in a carrier oil and apply to the skin (avoiding areas that have been exposed to the sun).
Patchouli & Vetiver
Earthy and comforting, patchouli and vetiver promote a sense of grounding, which can be useful when your attention feels untethered. It feels as though you're letting Mother Earth hold you steady. Perfect when you need to anchor your mind back into the physicality of your body.
About This Series
The Cycles is a series of practices, guidelines and observances to help you navigate the stages of your menstrual cycle with harmony using blend of yoga, pranayama and essential oils.
I draw on the wisdom contained in Maisie Hill’s Period Power and Emine & Paul Rushton’s Sattva, as well as other respected sources and my own personal experience.
Keep an eye out for my guides on the other seasons in the cycle including:
Image credits: Jennie Agg (left); This Conscious Life (right)
The Seasons of Your Cycle
Maisie Hill beautifully compares the four phases of our menstrual cycle to the seasons of nature. This helps us better understand and tune in to the differences, learning what to harness and what to avoid.
This covers the full length of your menstruation, from the first day of your period.
This represents the follicular phase from the last day of your period up to the days before you ovulate.
This encompasses ovulation when your ovaries release an egg.
This is the luteal phase and starts around a week or so before your bleed which leads you back into winter.
Why tune in to your cycle?
Understanding your cycle is a bit like the weather forecast. It might not be accurate all the time but it does give you a way to prepare for whatever the weather might throw at you.
Tracking your cycle
One of the best ways to tune into your unique seasons is to track your menstrual cycle. This gives you the power to predict how you might feel physically and emotionally at certain times of the month so you can prepare for them.
If you’re lucky you may be able to organise your diary with this in mind, but even if that’s not possible, simply knowing why you suddenly seem tearful, overly self-critical, bloated or anti-social (all delightful traits of Autumn!) should help you be a kinder and more compassionate with yourself.