March 8th was International Women’s Day. A day for celebrating women and dedicated towards fighting for equality, our socio-economic and cultural rights and our reproductive freedom. It seems crazy that these, quite honestly, fundamental human rights, are something that we still need to fight for, but we do. Gender disparity persists, insidiously working its way into our daily lives and into our sense of selves.
Shifts are however happening all around us, and within us, as societal attitudes change and the amount of space being given to the female voice grows. Period stigma is gradually being challenged with the introduction of concepts that help to normalise menstruation, such as the workplace period policy. There is also more open conversation around the menopause, gradually shifting the feelings of shame and devaluation that have become synonymous with a society that values youth and fears ageing.
Women are inherently and inextricably linked with community and we shouldn’t have to bear our physical and emotional challenges in silence and solitude (unless we choose to do so). So how can we support the women and girls in our community, as well as ourselves? Not just for one day a year, but every day.
This blog shares some ideas for how holistic therapies can support our female bodies both physically and mentally, specifically recommending a couple of herbs and some ideas for how our yoga practice can be gently aligned with our menstrual cycle for supporting our natural monthly flux in energy levels.
Women are traditionally at the core of communities, interwoven so deeply into the running of daily life; the caring and holding of space for those around them. Constantly stepping up and into a space that may not even feel natural to them. We women are the storytellers of old, passing down ancient rhythms and wild ways with our wandering words, huddled around fires, nourishing the bodies and imagination of our community. We bring life onto this earth, should we choose. All life is sacred, and we women give it.
There is however often such a sense of expectation that can come with women feeling like we ‘should’ be able to do it all and of shame and insufficiency when we feel like we’re falling short. Feminism however, isn’t about women having to ‘do it all’, but about our right to choose. So when burn out begins to enclose itself around us, how can we fall back on the shared support of our community and the holistic practices on offer, which can help us relax and to restore our body’s natural resilience? Alongside knowing that we are, quite honestly, more than enough.
Norfolk’s Wellbeing Collective
Norfolk has a wonderful community of holistic wellbeing practitioners, many of whom are specifically trained in women’s health. Holistic therapies can provide both physical and emotional support, build resilience for both the day-to-day challenges and help to treat both acute and chronic health issues. Bodywork therapies such as reflexology and acupuncture for example, can help balance hormones, reduce stress and ultimately support the restoration of physiological balance.
Our yoga practice should align with our menstrual cycles for supporting optimal physical and mental health. For example, during menstruation, restorative yoga or yoga nidra is ideal, as the more you allow your body to rest during this phase of your cycle, the more energy you will have for the later phases. As we approach ovulation, we can gradually move towards a more energising practice, and then slowly ease back as our period approaches. – Georgina, Norfolk Yoga Therapy
Reflexology can encourage the whole body to be in balance, by promoting the reproductive system to function better, therefore improving overall menstrual health. There are also many areas of diet and lifestyle, a few tweaks here and there, that can make a huge difference. – Sarah Groves, Feel Good Therapies
You can visit the Feel Good Businesses Page to see local therapies on offer.
Herbs for Women
Herbal tradition has been passed down the female generations throughout the world, for centuries. My grandmother taught me how to sew a lavender bag and the value of placing it under my pillow at night. No doubt, her grandmother taught her. Herbal wisdom is our legacy and it is in our connection with nature’s rhythms that we connect with our own cycles and healing.
Here are two wonderful *herbs for women that are particularly helpful as hormone normalisers:
Chaste berry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Known as a gynaecological tonic, chaste berry helps to regulate the female reproductive hormones and therefore has many applications, including as a menstrual normaliser, to increase lactation, ease the symptoms of PMS and the transition through menopause.
Ladies Mantle (Achemilla vulgaris)
Achemilla can also be a wonderfully supportive herb for women, particularly as a menstrual normaliser as it can help to stimulate progesterone. It also helps to alleviate a number of symptoms attributed with the menopause, such as hot flushes.
I feel grateful, humbled and astounded by all of the wonderfully vibrant women in my life. Wildly wise, beautifully unique and fiercely courageous. I also feel pain (and deeply furious) for the challenges that we all have and continue to overcome, for little other reason than being women. The colonisation of women’s bodies and minds by a male-driven society is an undeniable truth in the world that we live in. It can be a challenge to truly take up space, speak our truths and really honour our wants and needs, without fear of retribution or that we simply won’t be heard. We need to make sure that the young girls in our lives know, that first knowing and then speaking their wants and needs is not only okay, but deeply wise.
The more I listen to the stories of the women around me, the more I realise that there is so much more to know and to hear. Every story is different and beautiful in its own deeply woven way. The women throughout my life so far have been integral to the person I am today. Helping me out of dark corners, raising my spirit with dancing, laughter and love; listening and sharing their stories and teaching me so much about simply living as a woman on this earth. And how resilient we all are.
Words by Heather.
Connecting people to nature.
* All herbal medicines should be taken with care. Please seek advice from a trained medical herbalist and if harvesting your own plants, please do so sustainably and cautiously. Agnus castus can interfere with the contraceptive pill.