Late Summer- That Season in Between and how to Take Care of Yourself

Late summer. That time between late August and the autumn equinox is an extra season in Chinese medicine. The great yoga instructor leading the class I took while in London was explaining a few things related to this specific time of the year and it reawakened that desire to dig deeper and get curious on the topic of yoga/ seasons and Chinese medicine. The element is earth. It’s a time when fruits and veggies are ripe and it is harvest season. Also a time to slow down and relax after the summer fire energy and before Autumn.

A few days later, back at home, I went to my monthly acupuncture session and he told me my spleen and stomach were a bit struggling- not surprising as it’s the two organs related to this season as well. He did some massages, cupping and put some needles for those two specifically. He asked me if I was overthinking much ... umm yes.

The last few weeks I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, exhausted and my mind on overdrive. Thinking about projects, life and all of the things- like that new year feeling we often have in September with the back to school vibes- which I love! But trying to do all the things after the summer break and juggling a packed schedule, I’ve been too much in my yang energy and I've been left feeling a little ungrounded and heavy. My digestion hasn’t been the best. I've been bloated and swollen. And add the menstrual cycle in the middle of it (hello inner autumn!). I’ve felt a little all over the place. And all those symptoms confirmed what my acupuncturist was saying - that my spleen is indeed imbalanced.

I love that our bodies sync with the seasons and for women, also with the moon. The more I bring awareness and curiosity to how I feel emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, the more I understand how my body works, and the more I expand my love and acceptance for all the multifaceted ways I hold within me at different phases. And the more devoted I become to heal and to balance my body and spirit in the best way I can - by being connected to my body, my emotions and my heart so I can recognize the signs and messages my body sends. I see self-care practices as bringing care, attention and love to my body and mental health. To nourish my whole being and to honour all parts of me. Our bodies are full of wisdom. Our bodies are not separate from our thoughts or emotions. It's all part of our whole being.

I am fascinated and passionate about ancient holistic medicines like Chinese medicine and Ayurveda that see the body, mind and spirit as one. When we look at an emotion, organ, life situation or physical imbalance, it is always interconnected with the other ones.

Yoga is a great way to move that energy around to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, to boost the circulation and life force energy (prana / chi) and to reduce stress and bring a sense of relaxation. So I'll make sure that I hop on my mat every day to move and circulate the late summer energy.

Moving our Bodies for Alignment

As I sat beginning of August, reflecting on my intentions for the month and how I wanted to be and feel, I wrote the words: Vibrant - Energized - Aligned. I have a ritual to set intentions at the New Moon and also monthly because it's my favourite thing. They have a bit of a different vibe and focus. The monthly ones have more of a general/ structured/ goal oriented energy as the new moon ones are more intuitive and heart felt and more of a focus of how I want my life to feel like and the energy I want to bring in. This summer, I wanted to focus on my health and wellbeing. I wanted to bring my body to a higher level of energy and strength to align with where I wanted to go with my life and business.

I’ve just completed a month of working out (almost) daily. I took a break 2 days while on my period as moving my body intuitively is important for me. One of my intention this month was to move my body daily so I would feel alive, strong, energised and toned. But the big intention was to connect body, mind and soul as everything is always intertwined. One of my desire was to bring more consistency, structure and take inspired actions with my life and business. It’s something I’ve been wanting to strengthen. My capacity to be more into action mode, not only when my creative fire showed up, but on a daily basis. I’m a dreamer and creative but for so long I relied on that creative energy to jump into projects and work. I also tend to get very excited and motivated at first and then lose my motivation half way. I just had enough and decided to show myself I could stick with something that would challenge me and that I had a deep desire to create.

So I have been working out every day, usually right in the morning. Not a crazy amount of time. I just wanted to have a goal that was doable and that I wouldn’t stop half way because it wasn’t realistic with my days. So I’ve been working out usually for 30 minutes every day. Sometimes less, sometimes more. The first few times I hopped on my mat, I told myself I would move my body for 10 minutes. That 10 minutes daily is better than a bootcamp class once a week and it would meet my body where I was. I ended up always working out for much longer as the sweat and endorphins would keep me going.

I’ve been loving reconnecting with my body. I'm  getting stronger and fitter, and the healing power of sweat is just the best -that feeling of red and alive cheeks. I’ve had more energy throughout the day, I’ve been meditating every day as well. Been dancing and going for walks more. My skin looks better. My mood is lighter. And the best part, my focus, concentration and drive have improved.

What I remind myself is that I am one - body, mind, soul. If I want to focus on one specific thing, I’ll need to take care of each part. Starting the morning by moving my body is getting me into action mode and giving me a boost for the rest of the day to focus and work on my business, get things done and take inspired actions because I feel that I’ve got this. I feel stronger in my body which has a ripple effect on my mind and spirit. I've been implementing other daily rituals or health practices on the side as well. 

The lethargy, stagnant feeling I’ve had the past few months has lifted. Some part is also linked to the fact I’ve been taking iron and zinc supplements as I was quite low on both, so these mineral deficiencies impacted my energy and mood. It feels like a veil has lifted. So if you feel lethargic, sad and depressed, maybe have a blood test done as I know lots of women in my circle have been quite low on those two as well. And then decide on what it is you want to create and bring your body with it.

The Bittersweetness of Life

There’s often a bittersweet part to life. I’ve been feeling it more this year and even more so the past few days. Nights with shooting stars, giggles, picnics, movies at the park and summer vibes. And at the same time, the memory of what was in the background. In my heart. Holding on to the past. Afraid that if I let go, I will forget and will lose the magical feelings I still feel within me when I reminisce about them.

Finding myself in the magic of a summer night filled with good friends, fairy lights and dancing to the sound of folk guitar and still, walking back home with big tears rolling down my face. 

The coexistence of moments of exhilaration and pure joy while at the same time feeling deep sadness in my bones. Soaring all the while going through hard times. Life is full of nuances.

I often see life through the lens of a story. I can live a moment and almost simultaneously have this vision in my head, of lines for a book or a scene in a movie. It’s maybe my creative side or the romantic in me. I also feel too much and love too hard, consumed by a "saudade" that is often present. I long for moments anchored in my heart, I ache for a future that slipped away right in front of me... or hasn’t come to life yet. I crave the laughs, the magic, the connection and I have a hard time not getting attached- to beautiful souls, places, moments. The art of letting go and non attachment is probably the one thing in yoga philosophy that I struggle the most with. We often talk about non- attachment and that letting go is the hardest asana of all. That there is nothing else than this moment right here, right now. But for a Scorpio like me - who feels so deeply and feels familiar in the depths of the ocean, it requires a lot of practice to come up for air, to the surface, to this moment. Feeling the intensity of life is my natural state almost. The highs and lows. I cannot suppress emotions, I cannot move on in a blink of an eye.

It’s contradictory in a way. I struggle with impermanence but at the same time rejoice with fresh new moments that bring a unique sense of magic and new levels of high.

I see life as a beautiful and intense storyline, which can be unsettling for others around me. But I don’t know how not to love with all my heart, how not see and feel the magic of a moment and want to hold on to that feeling in my heart forever. I want that cosmic connection to keep swirling in every cell of my body forever.

In the bittersweet moments, I go back to my healing. I dance, I cry, I make art, I write, I nourish my body, I listen to songs on repeat, I take myself on solo dates, I swim - I am a water baby and this is therapy for me. I prioritise slow living. I journal. I put my hands in the soil and take care of my plants, I read, I breathe, I meditate. I practice womb yoga to connect to my body, my intuition and shakti.

I am not afraid of those big feels. I don’t avoid them but instead welcome them. I don’t judge them as negative. They just come and go like waves. Sometimes the waves are smashing out of the blue, sometimes I can just surf them softly. And I know those moments are often followed by a creative spark, a strong faith or a wild fire within. As a highly sensitive person, I’ve learned to see my intense way of living life as a superpower. I sense people’s energy strongly, I notice the subtle beauty and the little things that make ordinary life extraordinary. My intuition guides me most of the time. I retreat in my own space daily to rejuvenate and have learned to create strong boundaries for my well-being. I process life events maybe more slowly and intensely than others. And most of all, when I love, I love with all my being on a deep soul level.

If like me, you are a deep feeler and sensitive one, create a little healing toolkit for the moments that may feel too much and for the regular self-care that you need probably more than others. Discover what it is that makes you feel grounded, calm and connected to your true nature. Know that you are not broken. Let go of what others may think of you and tend to your heart and emotional body. Embrace the bittersweetness of life. There is a unique beauty and aliveness that is intertwined in those moments.

My Moon Time: Stories on Womanhood and Bleeding - Part II

 

 

A few months later, I hopped on a plane to Bali which changed my life. I discovered yoga in the midst of rice fields and since then my life took a big giant turn for the wellness wonderland. I started practicing yoga every week, I became passionate about nutrition, read all the wellness blogs at night, started my own one - (and for some readers, I will always be known as The Green Sunshine ;) ) and finally enrolled to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) where I learned about food, different diets, hormones and thriving with an holistic lifestyle. You can eat all the greens in the world, but if you’re miserable at your job or relationship, it will impact your health (physical and mental). That’s why having an holistic view of your life matters.

 

Thanks to studying health coaching I realized that the symptoms I had for years could probably be related to PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) so on my annual gynecologist check up, I told the doctor about my symptoms and how I thought I had PCOS and asked for an echography, which showed up cysts on my ovaries. I felt relieved in some ways that I could connect the dots and that I wasn’t just having some random symptoms but there was a cause for them. But I also felt angry that I had to stand up for myself, do the research on my own and ask for what I wanted. It’s empowering for sure and I learned a big lesson there (to always be in charge of my own health because no one else will totally have my back) but I wish doctors would bring more care and understanding to women’s health and take our symptoms seriously and be a bit more proactive and respectful of our desires for a vibrant life without artificial hormones or drugs. The only option he suggested at that time was to go back on the pill. Sigh. I told him I would never take the pill again and headed to an acupuncturist. On a side note, I know the pill was a great invention and brought control and freedom for women, and for some, the pill works well. But I know so many stories of how the pill messed up with hormones, fertility and masked symptoms for years while doctors just turn their head the other way because they couldn’t be bothered to look what was causing all those symptoms in the first place.

 

After a few years in, I quit my job and hopped on a plane to Bali. Again. This time was to do a yoga teacher training. And for the past 6 years, yoga, nutrition, wellness and spirituality have been my life. It brought me a strong and intimate connection with my body. I even started my own business around that. All the tools, experiment, research and studies guided me to my body. To learn, listen and connect. I implemented a strong self-care practice and delve deeper into the connection between body, mind and soul. Everything is connected.

 

After I stopped the pill, I was lucky to have my period back straight away. I know it can take months or years to come back after having been on the pill, so I was grateful that my menstrual cycle was back. I started tracking it on my phone’s app. That’s when I started to pay attention to symptoms and how my mood, feelings, energy would shift throughout the month. 

 

And it’s only the past two years that I really dived deeper into the feminine power of my cycle. I have Claire Baker to thank for as she started to share her story and how the different phases would impact her life. 

 

Women are cyclical. And there is another way than to curse “this time of the month”. I hear it too many times - women who hate bleeding and all the symptoms that can come with it. By exploring our own bodies and cycles, we can learn skills to harness this feminine power we have and understand our symptoms which give us clues on what could be unbalanced in our bodies.

 

In ancient times, women would bleed at the new moon and gather in red tents. It was considered a sacred time where intuition and wisdom were high. We would leave the women alone. Nowadays, it’s seen as a taboo topic. Women curse it. Men don’t want to hear about it. It’s obviously a big exaggeration and things are changing. Women and media are starting to speak about it, embracing their blood and wisdom. I just hope that young girls can grow up with a strong sense of feminine embodiment, feeling good in their skin and being supported when they enter the world of monthly bleeds so that they can get intimate with their bodies and take charge of their health, wellbeing and sexuality.

 

I am passionate and determined to bring more guidance and open conversations around women’s health and sexuality. I want a world where young girls feel empowered and connected with their bodies and feel good in their skin so they can grow up into women who are grounded, with boundaries around their yes and no, feel strong to ask for what they want and celebrate their womanhood - no matter if you have an uterus, periods or not.

 

I am hosting a workshop on “Embracing your menstrual and lunar cycle” as part of The Women Series. We’ll explore why it matters to track our cycle, understand the inner seasons and how we can harness the different energy and mood in our interest for a balanced and varied life. We’ll connect to our womb with womb yoga and movements to connect with our bodies.

 

My Moon Time: Stories on Womanhood and Bleeding - Part I

 

I have some vague memory of my first bleed, also called menarche. I was 11 and it was summer break. I was hanging out at a friend of a friend’s home when I went to the bathroom and came face to face with red panties. I didn’t tell the girls I was with and quickly came home shortly after and told my mom. I don’t remember exactly how it made me feel at the time. I was pretty young but I don't recall any negative feelings about it. I had friends who were already on their period and I just felt part of a circle. The circle that opens the door to womanhood in some ways. But of course, it was also unexpected and like stepping into the unknown. Something new that my body was producing and with that comes awkwardness. Learning how to use tampons and then hiding them in my hand at school while heading to the bathroom. Often asking friends if there was any blood stain on my jeans. The change of hormones, the moodiness, all mixed up with teenage years, you have an intense combination. 

 

At 17, I started the pill. In a desperate desire to get rid of my acne. I was that kid in middle school with acne, braces and a scoliosis. Yeah. Big sigh of relief and compassion for my younger self on the side note. So I had pretty bad acne and nothing else had worked. I even took that nasty Roacutane that did nothing but dry my skin and mess up with my body and hormones. At the time my periods were regular and without much symptoms. During the years I was on the pill, I didn't pay much attention to my period (well it's not an actual period on the pill but an artificial bleeding withdrawal). It was short and painless. I would sometimes keep taking the pill between cycles to avoid bleeding while on vacation or travelling. I was disconnected from my womb.

 

The pill quickly cleared my skin (which was a relief) but brought other kinds of troubles. Weight gain, stretch marks and a bloated belly. It basically messed up my gut health. I remember the years spent sucking my belly in and trying the latest diets for just those few extra kilos. The time spent on wishing my body to be different. When I look back at photos, I feel sad to have lost time and energy on hating my body when I could have enjoyed every moment. I took the pill for a good 12 years, with some off moments. I tried to stop a couple of times hearing the negative effects of taking the birth control pill. But every time I’d stop, my acne would come back. My gynecologist at the time, like many other ones suggested to go back on it as it was the only way to keep my skin clear. I was well aware that the pill was just a bandaid for an underlying problem that I was just masking and ignoring instead of taking charge and looking for answers. I finally stopped the pill for good when how much nonsense all this was and changed gynecologist at the same time - wondering at the time why I’d stayed so long with a doctor who wasn’t remotely interested in my health and wellbeing.

 

At 29, I finally quit the pill and went to see a natural medicine therapist to detox my body from all the chemicals and artificial hormones my body had ingested for years. It tooks 6 months of taking all kinds of natural remedies, drops and sessions. He cleansed my body from the pill, roacutane, vaccines and heavy metals. I remember at the time my healer telling me that the pill was the hardest to get rid of in my body. This detox brought back acne - my body was getting rid of so much toxins that it was the only way to release them through the skin - which is normal as it is the biggest organ of the body and part of the elimination system as well.

 

But since then, my skin has been radiant. I still have the usual pimple around my period but nothing to freak me out.

 

When I stopped the pill, I regained control of my body. Something shifted. I reclaimed my natural power and connection to myself. I felt like myself again. My libido came back (the irony of being on the pill) and a deep sense of being me. I also discovered a creative side that I thought I'd lost or never had. Those contraceptive pills can create a whole lot of side effects like loss of libido, health complications, digestive issues, it affects the liver and you may find it surprising but it alters your attraction to finding a partner. Yes. Research and studies have shown that women on the pill are attracted to men with similar immunity genes (as the pill mimics pregnancy) as the women not on the pill are attracted to opposite genes which is apparently better for different reasons. So basically, while on the pill you could be attracted to men you wouldn't have otherwise chosen if you were not on the pill.

 

A part of me was angry - to have trusted the doctors who prescribed me those pills and drugs from a young age, angry at myself for not knowing better and staying on the pill for so long. It messed up my gut health and hormones and I wasn’t even aware of at the time. Thinking it was all isolated small symptoms and just not knowing better.

 

And then I woke up. When I stopped the pill, I started to take care of my health. I paid attention to my food and what I was eating. I was always eating quite healthy, but I became much more aware of how food, exercise and thoughts were affecting my body and life.