When it comes to the menstrual cycle, the last few decades saw women trying to escape that old bloody reminder (pun intended) of our ticking fertility.
With the advent of hormonal birth control, women took the pill in efforts to escape pregnancy, acne, painful cramps, and menstruation itself despite reports of birth control leading to heightened mental distress. We were so sick of the societal shame associated with the time of the month, that many were willing to give away their mental balance for a sense of control over our body’s cyclical nature.
It’s normal to want to escape the menstrual cycle, and now so more than ever. With unprecedented stress levels that come with today’s society, increased hormonal imbalances are leading to difficulties when it comes to sleep and overall mental health—both of which are clearly correlated to the shifts in our monthly cycle.
Who can blame us for wanting to escape the cramps, the mood swings, and the pimples? Anyone who has ever menstruated before will agree that the answer is: no one.
However, in a new revolutionary wave, modern women are learning that our menstrual cycles should be a topic of our inherent power, not a source of shame. Today many are trying to find balance with their menstrual cycle, rather than without it. And as every enlightened master since the beginning of time has said, outward balance can occur with a sense of inward balance.
So with that sensei-like wisdom in mind, I’ve put together a list of the best meditation techniques for each week of the menstrual cycle based on the scientific evidence on how the menstrual cycle affects mental health. As a meditation teacher myself, I naturally find myself altering my personal meditation practice as my hormonal shifts affect my mood and energy levels throughout the month. Here’s a breakdown of the practices I find most helpful for myself and my clients throughout our shifting monthly cycles.
The best meditation for PMS
Let’s start at the source. The week before menstruation is often the week when everything breaks down. Living in PMSville without a technique for maintaining your mental balance can feel like a tornado plowed through town, and instead of taking you to Oz, it took you straight to the pit of hell.
During this week, breasts are sore, inflamed pimples are sorer, and moods are even worse. This is normal as estrogen levels are dropping, and progesterone levels are rapidly increasing. Progesterone triggers our stress-response and puts us right into fight-or-flight instinct. That’s why it can often feel like we are fighting for our lives in those arguments with our partner right before the dam breaks and our blood begins to flow.
That’s why a body scan is the best meditation for this time of the month. Body scan’s focus relaxes the entire body, including pain that may come from premenstrual cramps, while also calming the mind.
The best meditation for the week of your period
For many of us, by the time the first 24-72 hours of your period roles around, the worst is over.
However, that doesn’t make up for the impact of your fluctuating emotions on others, or your own opinion of yourself after the demon-like roller coaster of emotions took over your body. If you’ve come out of the week of your PMS, only to feel like you’ve survived having a demon exorcised from your body, then you’re not alone.
Since energy levels are naturally a bit low during this time of the month, stick to a loving kindness or compassion-based meditation practice. Both loving kindness and compassion based practices are great ways to cultivate a sense of gentleness towards ourselves and others during stressful times.
We are often our own harshest critics, but when we can truly learn to listen to our body, and take care of ourselves and our needs fully, we run less of a risk of burning ourselves out. Practicing compassion over time can make us gentler towards ourselves and others.
The best meditation for the week after your period
Good news, this week is scientifically your most focused week. That’s because as progesterone levels drop, your brain brings you out of fight-or-flight mode, so you can stop focusing on surviving, and begin to focus on thriving.
Estrogen levels steadily begin to rise as well, but they don’t peak until the following week of ovulation.
Since you are supposedly the most focused during this time of the month, it’s best to use this time to get things done. A simple mindfulness of breath meditation is a great way to decrease any residual stress, boost productivity, and even improve sleep. Continue to keep self-compassion in mind as you work with the breath in this way.
The best meditation for the week of ovulation
Let’s end on a positive note, shall we? According to the reports, while ovulating one is more likely to be happy, feel radiant, earn higher tips, and even buy sexy underwear.
This is the week of self-confidence, energy boosts, and even increased levels of creativity.
If you find that you don’t feel like sitting still, try a more energetic meditation style like an ecstatic dance class. Ecstatic dance is all about free-form, creative, liberated dancing—the true definition of dance like nobody’s watching.
If you’d like to sit and meditate, visualization meditations are great for this time of the month because they can feel enhanced when you’re feeling a boost in creativity and self-confidence.