If you were born into a female body and are currently menstruating then the concept of 'inner seasons' may be something that is already an embodied experience for you, whether you're conscious of it or not. For the majority of my menstruating life I was not aware of these changing tides whatsoever. My view was that my period happened for a week of the month and the rest of the time I was 'not on my period' and that was that - 2 stages only.
It was only when I started reading and researching about the menstrual cycle (I've linked my favourite books below) and all things 'womanhood' that I had my 'ah-ha' moment. I learnt that my experiences were totally normal and actually had a pattern to them. My body as well as my changing moods and energy levels all started to make sense to me. Once I'd started off down that rabbit hole I couldn't stop wanting to learn more about it - and I now I just want to share this with as many women as possible because I honestly wish I'd known about all this sooner.
So what are the 4 seasons?
When you think of the yearly cycle, it's clearly split into 4 distinct phases - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
This is the same with the menstrual cycle.
So each month we have our own inner seasons that each feel completely different. In each phase we have different needs, desires, cravings, energy levels, and a different set of super powers - as well as physical changes too, it's all cyclic.
You may have noticed that PMS feeling you get that alerts you to the fact that your period is approaching? or the fact that you have higher energy levels mid way through your month? all this is linked to the hormonal changes that occur as you move your way through each cycle.
I'm not a qualified health professional so I'm not going to go into the science of what's happening in your body, but to put it (very) simply - the hormone oestrogen rules the first half of your cycle, then progesterone takes over from ovulation (your midway-ish point if you were to have a 28 day cycle)
These 2 hormones act very differently in your body and cause the shifts that occur as you move through your month, leading to the shifting tides of inner seasons. I'll go into a little more depth about the energy of each phase below..
Inner winter begins on day 1 of your cycle, the first day of your bleed. At this point you may just feel like curling up in a ball and staying in bed all day - I hear ya'. Bleeding each month can feel exhausting at best and damn right painful at worst. This is your hibernation time. Time to take a bath, nourish yourself and turn off the outside world as much as possible (sometimes not possible at all I realise). It's also a time for dialling up your meditation time as your intuition is heightened during this phase. Your blood holds a deep feminine wisdom and the power of creation! So no wonder you feel like a seer as you navigate your way through your inner winter. Due to horrendous period pains I used to dread my bleed time, but now I can honestly say it feels like a blissful homecoming. So it IS possible to change your experience.
This season begins as your bleed ends. If you think about the energy of spring in your yearly cycle, that's exactly the same here. The shoots are starting to grow with new life as you awaken from the deep hibernation of winter. Things feel fresh, the light returns and you start to feel the warmth again. For your internal spring this might mean that you start to have fresh ideas, inspiration and feel motivated to move again. You're more open to opportunities and will most likely want to start seeing friends, making plans and generally begin being social again.
During Summer is when ovulation occurs, which if you have a 28 day cycle would be around day 14. In this phase you're likely to feel your most sexual - that makes sense because you're fertile in this phase too, so nature has this funny way of encouraging you to procreate! Usually in summer you'd have a lot of energy to give out. Things don't seem to bother you as much as in the other phases and you might feel like superwoman. It's a time to enjoy the peak of energy, where you can be all things to all people and not feel any repercussions. For many, this is their favourite phase.
Once the autumn arrives you may start to feel like you're being called back into that temple of hibernation. The world starts to feel smaller as you begin the contraction back inside yourself. This is the phase where some women experience pms or mood swings. Your inner critic comes out to play. You may have more thoughts that bring you down, get trapped in comparison or judgement or have more cravings. It can be a difficult time for many women. I used to sometimes find my autumn phase a struggle, however now I tend to feel most productive here so I use that to my advantage. Maybe you've noticed you feel more motivated to nest or clean the house at this point in your month - that's definitely the case for me. Things just start to irritate me if they're not done so I use this phase for 'ticking things off my to do list'.
As much as I talk about these phases from the perspective of menstruation, you can still experience the shifting energies if you do not bleed or no longer have a womb. In this case, look to the moon for navigation. Day one (as you enter inner winter) would occur on the new moon and the full moon would be your peak summer day (experienced as ovulation for a person who menstruates). These cycles occur throughout nature and our bodies are just a microcosm of a much bigger and magical process!
How to work with the 4 phases?
Now you have a general idea for the feeling of each phase, you may start to notice these shifting energies within your own cycle. How you feel in each phase does depend on your own experiences, so don't worry if your cycle varies from what I've suggested above. You may find that the outward energy of summer feels too much for you, or that your autumn time feels like home. Getting to know your own cycle is the best way to start to accommodate your changing needs. Note down each day how you're feeling, even if just a word or two. Once you've done this for a few months you may start to notice patterns.
Even by just bringing awareness to your cycle, magical things can happen! The phases may become more defined, irregular cycles can find some regularity, or symptoms of PMS or tension in the body could lessen. Most importantly though, as you start to identify the patterns in your changing needs, you can start to allow for those variations. So maybe you can honour the fact that you want to stay in bed all day in winter by not scheduling in anything on your calendar for day one. Or make plans to see friends when you're in your summer phase and feeling filled with energy. You'll find ways to add in small changes that give you the space to do what feels nourishing in each season. The more you do that, the easier it gets too.
And like I said above - once you head down that rabbit hole, who knows where it will take you, you might just want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing menstruation is like I do! (grabs the megaphone)
If you want to learn more about working with your cycle then feel free to get in touch with me or come along to one of my womb yoga workshops where we cover these topics in more depth. If you have any questions then I'll do my best to help or point you in the right direction.
If like me, you now want to go and geek out on all things menstruation then I highly recommend the books below..
Blessings to you all
Books to read
Wild Power By Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer
Period Power By Maisie Hill
The fifth vital sign By Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
Code Red By Lisa Lister
I also talked about this more on episode 4 of my podcast - check it out here