later ovulation and therefore a longer follicular phase, producing a longer cycle. They are, metaphysically speaking, “behind the times” in regards to their lunar cycle. If you have this body type and experience long cycles, don't just give up and think that's the way it has got to be. Yoga has helped many women get their long cycles closer to average. Getting the stagnant energy in the lower body moving is important, not just by jogging or aerobics, but by using a specific set of asanas for sluggish pelvic and abdominal areas called the Shakti Bandhas. Practices for normalising the thyroid function help, as does deep relaxation to resolve fears and repressions which are often held in the lower chakras. Over time your bowels will work better, your cycle will shorten and your sex drive will improve too! See Prescriptive Yoga Program – “Irregular Cycles” on page 2016.
• For a woman who experiences shorter cycles there are no conventionally accepted drawbacks. They usually have less pre-menstrual symptoms and quicker, easier periods, but if short cycles are accompanied by excessive bleeding and / or pain, then medical investigation is recommended. In yoga theory, the loss of blood through menstruation is equated with a small and temporary loss of life force, and this is definitely experienced by those who feel they are “always having a period”. Over time, the toll on their body will be higher than for someone closer to the norm. They also suffer far greater iron loss and therefore a balanced diet is paramount. A shorter cycle is more likely to have a shorter luteal phase (around 13 - 14 days) and if it is less than 13, successful implantation of the embryo can be inhibited causing infertility. Women with shorter cycles are typically speedy types who run more on nervous, adrenal energy than a strong and consistent life force. They are more likely to be frequent stimulant users (sugar, chocolate, cigarettes, coffee), light eaters and mentally tense, with a higher sex drive than slow cyclers. All of this is both a result and a cause of faster than usual metabolic rate (hyperthyroid), which produces too little oestrogen and over-stimulates the pituitary gland into shorter follicular phase, earlier ovulation and therefore shorter cycles. All these factors indicate a personality imbalance and need for more lifestyle balance. The most appropriate sorts of yoga practices for this type of woman are the slowing down, deeply relaxing asanas and breathing, along with regular relaxation and meditation for the mental states underlying the speediness.
Many women also experience a change in cycle length after childbirth
Some have no periods at all whilst breastfeeding; some have anovular bleeds after several months; and others resume cycling as early as 6 weeks after the birth, despite still breastfeeding. If you don't breastfeed at all, you will begin to ovulate and menstruate far earlier, usually around 6 weeks from the birth. Ovulation during breastfeeding is suppressed by a hormone that controls milk supply, prolactin. As the baby weans and milk production drops, prolactin levels diminish and ovulation resumes gradually. Once the baby is fully weaned your cycles should become regular again, perhaps the same length as before, perhaps different but certainly regular. Irregularities after that time are usually attributed to stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition due to months of breastfeeding. Getting back to regular cycles whilst you wean and after you've weaned can best be assisted by eating well; early nights, particularly if your sleep is still broken; and adopting a regular yoga program of relaxation and stress management. Women who have had several children often experience irregular cycles for a year or two after subsequent births, particularly if the timing coincides with a natural drop in fertility, beyond about 35. The common understanding is that – “this is just the way it is for older women”, and written off as pre-menopausal symptoms but, with the help of yoga, it doesn’t have to be that way. Simply by managing the factors which affect the fertility hormones (See “The Physiology of Fertility”, previously) balance and regularity can be restored.
For both long and short cyclers getting back in touch with one’s natural cycle of fertility is foremost. Adopting the systems of self observation and lunar cycle awareness –, along with an appropriate program of yoga asanas, pranayamas, cleansing practises, relaxation and meditation – is a certain way to achieve this. For details of a full practise program see Prescriptive Yoga Programs “Stress Management – Initial Program” on page 2018, and “Irregular Cycles” on page 2016.
Dysmenorrhea is medically defined as dysfunc-tion of the uterus, most often manifesting as period pain. A common cause of menstrual congestion, particularly for young women, is simply poor blood circulation. Those who are always cold, feel the cold too easily, get cold extremities or pins and needles when sitting still, have tiny appetites, low energy, no stamina, are all prime targets.