WHAT YOU EAT IS WHAT YOU BLEED

 image by Laura Berger  www.instagram.com/_lauraberger_

image by Laura Berger
www.instagram.com/_lauraberger_

One thing that I love about Eastern Medicines, like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, are their emphases on eating vibrant, seasonal foods. Foods are believed to have their own vital energy. Think about the difference between eating foods that are fresh, local and in season (like squashes, root vegetables and mushrooms right now in the Pacific Northwest) versus eating foods that are in a can from a different climate and typically eaten in a different season (canned pineapple). Do you feel the difference, even just imagining the two?

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT… AND YOU BLEED WHAT YOU EAT
When we eat, we are not just nourishing our bodies, but also our menstrual cycles. When we are not nourishing ourselves, this can show up in so many ways in our cycles - from scanty or absent menses to super heavy periods, from PCOS to fibroids to “infertility.” Healthy digestion and elimination drives our ability to have balanced cycles as well as balanced hormones. 

AN EAST ASIAN MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE
In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is the energetic organ in charge of digestion and plays a huge part in producing the blood of our bodies, including our menstrual blood. This “transformation” process of the Spleen takes in the energy from our foods and drinks and converts it into energy that the rest of our organs can use in order to drive our body’s functions. Not too far off from a western perspective of the gut, right?

The Spleen has a particularly close relationship to our menstrual cycles, in that it is a key process in producing our menstrual blood, and it is super influenced by what we eat, how we spend our energy and even our emotions!

DIGESTION & OUR CYCLES
As I mentioned above, the Spleen is in charge of “transformation and transportation” in Chinese medicine, which is to say that it takes in the energy from what we eat and drinks and converts it into blood and energy that the body can use. Think of it less as an actual physical organ and more of the process of digestion in our bodies.

Digestion is not just what we take in through our mouths, but also our eyes, ears, nose, touch, etc. Digestion is how we assimilate our experiences of our inner and outer environments, including the outer world and the inner world of our emotions and beliefs. For this reason, it’s important to eat when we’re feeling calm and not stressed, and also to notice how our consumption of the world influences us. Do you notice that you get depleted or depressed after too much media consumption? Do you notice that your digestion is smoother when you are eating with friends versus in a car or rushing somewhere? Our environments and emotional states absolutely affect our digestive health and therefore our menstrual health.

Since our digestion contributes the building blocks of our menstrual blood, it’s so important to eat foods that are balancing and harmonizing for our bodies. This looks different for each person. But here are some general guidelines that are helpful for all of us:

EAT
↠ Foods that are non-sprayed, in season and grow near you. They will have the most potent energy and be the easiest to digest.

↠ Warming foods in colder months. Avoid cold drinks or raw foods. These are harder to digest, especially when the weather is getting cooler.

↠ A variety of foods. One easy way to do this is to notice if your foods are different colors (like broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and burdock root). Try to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables, preferably steamed or cooked.

↠ Living foods, such as krauts or kefirs (I love water kefir!). If you don’t have time or access, try a probiotic that has a diversity of strains. Side note: There are many different kinds. Sometimes, while your gut is re-populating you may notice some loose stools or bloating, which usually resolves after a few weeks. Probiotics may not be right for everyone.

COURSE ON BALANCING OUR MENSTRUAL CYCLES
There are so many things to mention about this incredible process in our bodies. I’m developing an online course right now to share all of the details with practical steps and self-care guidelines.

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FRANKINCENSE & MYRRH POSTPARTUM

 image by Jeevan Singh www.instagram.com/flowerhandwellness

image by Jeevan Singh
www.instagram.com/flowerhandwellness

In Chinese medicine, our blood is a vital substance that holds our waking spirit. Our blood is mirrored in the resin of trees. It’s no wonder, then, that resins would be used to treat women and birthers postpartum.

Native to the Arabian peninsula and northeastern Africa, Frankincense and Myrrh have been recognized across the world for their physical and spiritually medicinal properties. One study in Tanzania notes that Frankincense is a main substance used in amulets (hirizi) to protect infants against illness. Some believe that the three wise men brought Maryam (Mary) the gifts of these two resins to aid her in postpartum healing, easing depression, anxiety and bleeding. 

Pelvic fumigation and steaming practices span the world, including working with plants and resins! In Ayurvedic postpartum healing, midwives prepare a pelvic steam with the smoke of Myrrh. In Chinese medicine, Myrrh is said to “move the blood,” while Frankincense is said to “move the qi.” Together they “effectively move the qi and quicken the blood, dispel stasis, free the flow of the organs, bowels, and channels, quicken the vessels, disperse swelling and stop pain,” according to the herbal manual Dui Yao: The Art of Combining Chinese Medicinals.

What does this mean? Together, Frankincense and Myrrh may:
↠ Help clear stagnation from the pelvis postpartum, such as lochia and blood clots. 
↠ Reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. 
↠ Prevent infection, since they are both antiseptic and cleansing. 
↠ Support emotional healing postpartum. As two resins traditionally used in spiritual healing and birth and death rites, it’s no wonder that they would be used in the spiritually “open” postpartum window.

Thank you to Danielle Hanna of Living Arts Ayurveda for passing on this gorgeous high quality white Frankincense to us this week.

*** Before working with Frankincense and Myrrh, consult with your midwife or doctor. It is contraindicated to steam or fumigate while actively bleeding, including postpartum bleeding. 

HOW ARE YOU TENDER WITH YOUR ANIMAL BODY?

 image by Tina Maria Elena Bak www.instagram.com/tinamariaelena

image by Tina Maria Elena Bak
www.instagram.com/tinamariaelena

I clearly remember the year that my boobs started to grow. I was 12 years old and wanted them to disappear so badly. Having boobs meant that I couldn’t run like I used to, it meant unwanted attention, it meant being “dangerous” while really I felt IN danger. How could my body, that had carried me up until then, make me feel so unsafe? My breasts symbolized my loss of freedom to me, replaced by shame and burden

Yesterday I posted in my Instagram stories, “Have you told your boobs that you love them today,” to which a dear friend aptly responded, reminding me that not all folks love their “boobs” because of gender. What an important reminder to consider and name the experiences of some trans and non-binary folks!

What if parts of our body do not reflect our identity, including gender identity? How do we love our bodies if we have struggled with nourishing them? How do we love our bodies if they don’t fit into social or cultural ideals, especially those of us of racial or shape diversity?

My friend Lou’s response sparked a beautiful conversation on what it really means to love our bodies and ways that we are working towards that. It made me realize that I don’t know one person who doesn’t reject some part of their bodies. 

It also made me reflect on my own journey with my body and how it has been a long road to come into friendship with myself and my body. There are two things that felt huge in my own journey of healing: TOUCHING these rejected places and feeling SPIRITUAL SOVEREIGNTY over my body.

TOUCH
Touching the rejected parts of myself, in this case my breasts, has been monumental. Touch can be physical, or even with awareness brought to this area. You can use your breath to “touch,” or even words. For years now, I have started talking to my breasts more kindly. More recently, I’ve been massaging my breasts and doing chest guasha with a rose quartz guasha tool and rose oil my friend gifted me. I have started wearing less underwire and letting them go free more. I have meditated with them. It has been a long process, it is a daily practice. 

SPIRITUAL SOVEREIGNTY
Another part of the process has been taking spiritual ownership over my body. This means that the gift of this body belongs to me, and no one else. While I can have gratitude for where it came from, it is now my responsibility and also mine to decide how I walk in the world with it. It doesn’t belong to any government, person or spiritual figure. It belongs to me and for this reason I feel a fierce commitment to care and tend to it. Ways that I’ve taken ownership is by practicing self-care and continuing to learn how to say “No” when something is not in alignment with me. It has also been listening to my body - to its messages and needs.

AND YOU?
What are your experiences? How do you speak to your body? How you are tender with the places in your body that you don’t love or have even rejected? How are you working towards love?

HARNESSING THE MAGIC OF YOUR SHEDDING

 image by Meagan Boyd www.instagram.com/yinshadowz/

image by Meagan Boyd
www.instagram.com/yinshadowz/

As people who bleed, we have the ability to ride the momentum of our cycles each month, including letting the big waves of our menses carry out any stagnation or blocks that we are experiencing.

I started bleeding this morning and spent the darkness of early morning with my pelvic bowl, feeling into my root and what is being held here. I told my body, “I am ready to release this,” and asked my blood to help carry it out.

Whether you are holding specific emotions like fear or rage, numbness or grief, whether you have experienced trauma and are ready to let go of the ways it has held you back or disempowered you, whether you have felt out of touch with your body, maybe even wary of going near it. Whether you are experiencing root issues - like financial instability, home instability or feeling unstable in the home of your body. All of these can be turned to while bleeding, asking our bodies to shed what we are ready to let go of, utilizing the powerful internal waves of our sea of blood to release any blocks that are keeping us from experiencing more fullness and joy in our lives.

You can absolutely harness the magic of your shedding each month, too. Here’s how:

RITUAL FOR SHEDDING

best done when your period is ramping up to bleed, either premenstrually or on just before the heavier days of bleeding

  1. Find a quiet place to lie down. Place your hands over your low belly, just above your pubic bone and start to tune into your body. Let your breath get long, feeling it right beneath your hands.

  2. Reflect on this last month and notice if there is anything “up” for you right now or any struggles. Feel for the sensations in your body to help guide you. If you are having trouble identifying it, simply ask yourself, “What am I ready to release?” and listen for the very first thing that comes up.

  3. Identify the feeling or belief behind what you are ready to let go of.

    Ex: You are ready to let go of an old lover (sexuality is connected to our root). Feel into the emotions attached to them. Maybe anger comes up, and this anger is holding you back from experiencing new love. You can ask your body to help move that residual anger out with your blood.

    Ex: You are struggling with money this month (a root issue). Identify what’s underneath that - is there a limiting belief like, “I am not __ enough to make the money I want,” or “I will always be poor.” Ask your blood to carry out these limiting beliefs so that you can plant the seeds of new beliefs like, “I am super talented and totally capable of making the money I want,” or, “I am grateful for what I have and am attracting in all the abundance the universe wants to send me.”

  4. Once you have identified what your limiting belief or emotion is, tune into the waves of your inner sea of blood. Feel how it has its own rhythm, the way that your breath and heart have their own rhythms. Let yourself be with the waves of your inner sea, feeling its power, much like the ocean.

  5. Now pull up your limiting belief or feeling, letting the sensations be present in your body, you may even want to give it form in your mind’s eye. Visualize offering it to your sea of your blood, asking your sea to release it along with your blood this month.

  6. While you are bleeding this month, you can continue to tune into the limiting belief and imagine it being washed out with your blood. This is no efforting on your part. You are harnessing the magic of your shedding.

  7. When shedding feels complete, you can start to plant the seeds in your womb of more authentic beliefs that work towards creating greater self-love and compassion. Much like sealing intentions on the new moon, when we have shed, it’s like a good rain ready to nourish the soil for new growth. Our bleeding corresponds to the new moon. More on planting seeds in a future post.