By Kara Rubens, M.S., RYT
My uterus and I have not always been friends. In fact, my first real awareness of it came with embarrassment and the shock of intensely uncomfortable period symptoms at age 13. At the first sight of my own menstrual blood, the highly anxious teen-me suggested that my older sister might need to call an ambulance because I surely wasn’t going to make it out alive or at least the embarrassment.
As a therapist, I hear a lot about, and reflect personally, on the many ways our feelings can be minimized and dismissed in the context of “hormones” and cycles. Similarly, how physical sensations, like cramps and aches, are an enemy to be promptly confronted and eliminated. I’m not convinced that either of these common approaches are particularly helpful. Pushing feelings or physical pain away tends to make them grow. Both are information; feelings and physical pain should not be eliminated or disputed as wholly “true” or “false,” but acknowledged and cared for instead
Navigating the sensations and the changes of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum has taught me a lot on this theme. Firstly, holy shit this body of mine is incredibly strong and adaptable! In my 30’s, my embarrassment has been replaced with a sort of awe and respect for what my body has done and can do—particularly my lady parts! Secondly, pushing through, ignoring, or minimizing what I’m feeling feeds discomfort and self-doubt. So what to do instead?
I’m continuing to learn a lot from slowing down and moving “with.” Literally. When my body hurts, I move. When I feel anxious or sad or can’t pin down my mood I move! For me, dance and yoga are the best modes of exploration. Restorative yoga has been a particular boon over the past pandemic year. One of my favorite poses for menstruation is a reclined bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) with plenty of supportive props.
In learning to respond to my body with care and curiosity, I feel more capable. With zero eye rolls, I can say I value tuning in to my body like an old friend. She’s got some good advice!