Yoni Shakti - An indian style depiction (yantra) of the creative power of the womb-source.
ANCIENT INDIAN GUIDELINES
FOR MENSTURATING WOMEN - STRI DHARMA
These ancient Ayurvedic guidelines for menstruating women were offered to keep safe the integrity and health of the women, her womb and the members of her family and community. They are based on the subtle energies that change when a woman bleeds.
At the time of menstruating, the energy of the womb strongly activates and prepares to move the lining downwards, out of the body. This is a powerful action of the energy called Vata - the force the moves things in the body. This force is a combination of the air and ether elements and therefore is very light and fast and also susceptible to disturbance to other forces. It is easily disturbed.
These guidelines or Stri Dharma were offered tradtionally to safeguard the womb's energy from disturbance:
I offer them to you to consider.
When bleeding women should refrain from cold baths.
At the time of menstruation the womb is very susceptible to cold invasion. This is well known in Indian and Chinese medicine. Therefore it is important to reconsider immersing yourself in cold water (the ocean etc..) at this time. If the womb becomes cold the energy can stagnate leading to cramping, but if the cold gets right in there, it is very hard to remove and it can lead to long term disturbance of the reproductive region and her cycles.
It follows also to keep the general region warm during the blood phase of your cycle - perhaps making a kidney warmer if its winter and just being aware of the elements you are subjecting your lower body to (dont walk on cold floors in barefeet as the cold radiates straight up your legs into the womb area!)
When bleeding women should refrain from housework and rest.
When bleeding, your energies are deeply and powerfully focused downwards to fully release all that the womb no longer needs. This uses a lot of our energy, calling for and requiring more rest. This is a time when our body performs a monthly reboot and if we can rest and not focus our energies outwards we can be nourished for the month ahead. If we decline the call to rest and instead keep up our regular schedule, which may include looking after everyone but ourselves, our energies will instead become drained and this special reboot will not benefit us.
When we go against the downward pull of our period (as we all must do from time to time) our energies flow upwards and outwards to the objects of our attention. When this becomes a pattern over time this compromises the downward function of the womb.
At this time of our cycle we have an opportunity to delegate our regular tasks to others, for the benefit of ourselves. Before bleeding is a good time to arrange your diary so that you're as free as possible of appointments and commitments during your blood time.
Bleeding women shouldnt work in the fields or prepare meals.
Similar to the last guideline, it is better to rest and allow the downward clearing to happen when you're bleeding. But some other interesting subtleties are at play here also.
It is said that plants have a distinctly upward energy, like they are reaching up towards the sun. This as we have seen before, is the opposite direction to the strong flowing energies of the menstruating woman. Hence it is said in ancient indian health scriptures, that bleeding women should refrain from interacting with plants at this time.
I have also recently heard an interesting story of an old European farming woman who related the poor success of her harvests if she sowed the seedlings when she was bleeding!
Regarding the preparation of meals we come now to the idea of ritual "pollution" of the menstruating woman. Before flying into a feminist rage, I want you to consider that pollution is a very poor translation here. The bleeding woman has a different energetic nature at the time of bleeding which can imprint into the food she prepares and onto the company she keeps. This type of energy in yogic terms is called Rajas and it means passionate, even a little animalistic. In ancient yogic cultures (and in modern ones too) people were striving to live in a more "pure" or sattvic energy where they are guided more by their inner divinity and less by their passionate lusts and drives.
It was understood in these cultures that the nature of a woman's energies when bleeding were strong enough to pull others out of their sattvic states, thus compromising their sadhana or spiritual practice. In our modern culture, we feel that interacting with a menstruating women is fine, definitely not something to be scared of, but in the older (and perhaps more energetically refined or sensitive) cultures, this was something that was alive in their awareness.
I have had a sensitive friend relate to me regarding this (and the next point) that when his partner is menstruating he sometimes finds himself much more lusty and animalistic towards her. Now of course feeling passionate towards your beloved is a wonderful thing, but have a read of the next guideline and consider its possible worth...
Bleeding women should refrain from making love.
Again, this may sound controversial at first, but let me explain the basis of this ancient guideline. So we have established what our energies are doing when we bleed, and that the energies of the womb are impressionable at that time. When we make love we are welcoming the male into our body - and he has a blazing upward energy, especially as he's bringing his manhood into your womanly temple. In the ancient Indian medicine of Ayurveda this is likely to compromise the work of your womb.
Now Im not suggesting that you strictly adhere to these guidelines but they have been gifted to women to keep their womb's healthy. It may be fine to make love during your period now and then but if you constantly bring different energies into the womb or pull your energies in different ways when you're bleeding, over time the energies of the womb will be likely to become disturbed. This may show up as problems in menstruation or pre bleed, or it may build into more serious imbalances.
In some cultures, bleeding women sleep apart from the husbands which allows them time to perform their sacred cleanse and renewal before returning to the bed together.
These guidelines are often followed still, but without the understanding of the subtle science behind them. I am certainly not advocating for women to be treated as polluted sinners for bleeding indeed some cultures treat their women very bady on the basis of these guidlines.
Bleeding women shouldn't go to the temple.
Temples are special places of spiritual worship. Places when men and women pray and chant and connect with the divine. Temples have a strong upward energy from the repetition of these rituals and this is why women who are bleeding should think twice about attending the temple, kirtan or spiritual groups when they are bleeding.
The strong inward pull we feel when we are bleeding is wonderful to follow. I would definitely recommend meditation during your blood time, journey into yourself and connect with the depth of your being.
A note here about chanting. Chanting, the beautiful practice of connecting to your divinity trough sacred sound activates the throat chakra, the center of the space element and the center for upward moving energies in the body. By chanting when you are bleeding you will be pulling your energies upwards when they need to flow freely downwards.
It is sometimes mentioned that women weren't traditionally yogis. Perhaps it would be better said that women weren't yogis in the same way men were. Traditionally men took on rigorous spiritual practices to direct their energies upwards, day after day after day. Never stopping or varying the pace of their sadhana until their end was achieved. This type of sadhana is not suited to women.
I have a personal story I can relate here. When I lived in India many years ago I was performing a daily mantra sadhana. I was up every morning at four. Chanting away many rounds of mantras, I saw it as an exercise in cleaning away everything that was stopping me from shining. I did this practice for over 6 months and it definitely changed my life and opened up a special connection with sacred sound and sacred life. It also made my periods stop. I was very concerned about this but at the time I had no knowledge of the different flows of energy in the body or what to do or not do when I was bleeding. I called a friend in Australia who is a gynecologist and she told me that the stress of living overseas (especially India) is enough to interrupt the period cycle. I now know that that extreme mantra practice I was doing was most probably the cause of the disturbance in my cycle at that time. (My cycle returned sometime after returning to Australia)
I believe that women can move in the world or be yoginis in a way that connects them to their inner divine and nourishes them without disturbing their natural sacred flows of energy.