Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is this Peri-Menopause?

Perimenopause is the ten to fifteen years before menopause occurs. Menopause officially occurs when you have not had a period for one year. The average age women experience menopause is fifty-one; however, this is only an average which means many women experience menopause several years earlier and later. The best way to determine when you might experience menopause is to know when your own mother went through menopause (unless she had surgically induced menopause due to hysterectomy.)

The signs and symptoms of perimenopause include a wide variety of physical and mental health symptoms. Take a look at the following list to see if you recognize any of the signs and symptoms of perimenopause:

· Period changes. Changes in your period are likely one of the first signs that will signal you that perimenopause is at hand. Your periods may be shorter, or they may be longer. You can experience either heavy or light bleeding during your periods. You'll probably even miss a few periods.

· Hot flashes and/or night sweats are common signs of perimenopause.

· Mood changes including depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings are experienced by a significant number of perimenopausal women.

· Vaginal dryness often occurs during perimenopause due to decreased production of estrogen. If vaginal dryness is a problem for you try using one of the OTC vaginal lubricants that are available, or talk to your health care provider for prescription relief.

· Many women suffer from sleep problems during perimenopause. You may find it difficult to fall asleep, or to stay asleep. Sleep difficulties during perimenopause are often caused by night sweats, as well as hormonal fluctuations.

· An increase in fat around the waist is often seen in perimenopausal women. Following a healthy, low carb diet and getting adequate exercise (at least 30 minutes, three times a week walking or doing another type of aerobic exercise) may help to prevent or reduce increased fat associated with perimenopause.

· Painful sex. Sexual intercourse may be painful during perimenopause due to vaginal dryness.

· The incidence of urinary problems increase as perimenopause occurs. These urinary conditions include both an increase in the number of urinary tract infections (UTI) and a higher incidence of loss of bladder control urinary incontinence.

· Less sex drive. Hormonal fluctuations that occur during perimenopause are often the culprit behind the loss of interest in sex that is experienced by many perimenopausal women.

Don't be alarmed if you find yourself forgetting things or unable to focus on the task you have at hand. Problems with memory and concentration frequently occur during perimenopause. Supplementing with a B vitamin often helps to prevent or improve memory or concentration problems.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Native Wisdom for Women's Moontim

The Gift From the Moon
how moontime came to women and how it might be honored

~Nicholas Noble Wolf

Most, if not all traditions of Native American spirituality hold moon-time as a sacred time of purification during which women do not go into ceremony or use sacred objects such as pipes and feathers. Often people from Western culture see this as a disrespectful and negative stereotyping of a woman’s menstrual cycle. We traditional people do not see it this way, as moon-time is a place of honor and beauty.

I am a traditionally initiated shaman and medicine man living in Durango, Colorado in the USA. Recently I had the honor to be sponsored into Britain to be of the most service and assistance to the people there that I could. While there, I met many people doing their best to walk the path of their spirit. Everyone I met was very honorable, and I hope that maybe I was able to be of some small service to those I met.

During my visit, I found that some women wanted to participate in sweat lodge during their time of the moon. Therefore, while I am but a man, I thought to offer some words that the elder women on the Southern Ute Indian reservation have given me coupled with knowledge from my shamanic lineage and personal experiences.

Before I go into those words, let me clarify that I am a white man. I was chosen to become shaman by the Old One and received my instruction from Jade Wah'oo, successor and caretaker of the lineage passed on by Grandpa Juan Peña (Tewa) of the San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico. As a white person, I was specifically instructed to bring certain of our ways to the white people of the world to assist them in finding and walking the path their spirit intends.

We have a telling of the coming of moon-time to the women. I will share it here as it was given to me:

A long time ago, women did as they do now—they held the family, they held the power (life-force) for the family, they held the happiness and joy, they held the sorrow and disappointments. After time, the negative emotions and heartache that the women took upon themselves on behalf of their families would begin to weigh them down. The women would become sick and finally, could no longer take on the burdens of the family. Yet the nature to do so had been imbued into them by Creator.

One day, a woman was out in the forest, crying because the burden had become so great, when Raven heard her and asked, "Mother, why do you cry?"

The woman responded, "I love my family so very much. I hold my family in my heart and soul, but the pains of life have filled me up. I can no longer help my family. I can no longer take their burdens from them. I just don't know what to do."

Raven responded, "I understand the pain you feel, as I feel it also. I will go and ask Grandmother Ocean if she knows what to do." So Raven flew to the ocean and shared with Grandmother the plight of the women.

Grandmother Ocean responded, "If the women will come to me, I will wash their pain from them, but this won't help the ones who are far away. Let me ask my sister, Grandmother Moon, if she can help."

So Grandmother Ocean spoke to her sister of the women's plight. Grandmother Moon responded, "I am the power of the feminine. I will send into the women, my sisters, your waters carrying my power. Once every moon cycle, you shall come into the women through me and purify them." And, she did this. So ever since then, every woman has a time each moon cycle when she embodies the power of the moon and flows the cleansing of the ocean. We call this the woman's time of the moon, or moon-time.

It is each woman's responsibility to take the time when she is in her time of the moon to purify. It is the responsibility of the men to give the women the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately these days, the men generally do not allow this opportunity. It used to be that women could have a "headache" and tell the men to leave them alone. Of course, in some traditions, there was a formal arrangement set up where the women could get away from the men to a moon lodge. But, people have tried to make women into men. Some women say, "We are strong, we can do anything during our periods". So, now we have PMS!

One has to understand the fundamental nature of power. With power, the lesser inherently flows to the greater. Therefore, when a woman is embodying the moon, she is embodying a huge reservoir of power—all that is contained within her sister, Grandmother Moon. This means that lesser amounts of power around her will inherently flow into her. That would include power charged with negative emotion. This can make a woman sick. Suddenly that "headache" is very real. Those cramps are but the negative emotions that surround a woman through whomever she comes in contact with.

So, what can a woman do while in her moon-time? First, she can be conscious. She can set her intention such that she does not take into herself anything from anyone (yes, this takes practice). She will refrain from getting into unsettling discussions or being around upset people any more than absolutely necessary. She will not allow negativity to flow into herself from others. For, while power will inherently flow from lesser to greater, one’s intent can always control that. Second, each day, she can go outside and sit with the moon for a time, asking for assistance and giving thanks for the purification being given. Third, she will not participate in ceremonies at that time. Ceremony is about creating, about outward energy. A woman in her moon-time is about purifying, about inward prayer. Also, a woman’s power flow will shift to a moon-wise direction when she is in her moon. However, ceremony would generally be moving power in a sun-wise direction. This would be a conflict, distracting both the woman and the other participants. And, with all that power flying around, it would be very difficult for the woman to keep from taking any of it into herself. The knowledgeable women here have told me that a ceremonial is the last place they want to be at that time of the month, anyway. They just want to be by themselves or in a very quiet space.

Our tellings of the coming of the sweat lodge say that it was given to the men because the men do not have a moon-time. It was only in the last thirty years or so that women have begun to sweat (except in doctoring sweats, of course). In fact, in many traditions, even if the women do sweat, they do so separately from the men. I welcome women into my lodge as I understand that these days they do not have the ability to fully go through moon-time purification as they might desire and need. They must be at work from 9 to 5. They can't step away for 4 or 5 days anymore. It is very sad.

In summary, women of knowledge do not sweat during their time of the moon. They are not excluded by the men nearly as much as they choose to exclude themselves. They do not choose to contend with that which is being released within the lodge in the name of purification. They choose to honor the gift they have received from their Grandmothers and, in that way, honor themselves, their families, and their people.

So far as handling medicine objects such as pipe or feathers goes, these are living, empowered beings. Certainly a woman would refrain from using them during her moon-time so as not to draw the life-force out of them during her super-empowered time.

I suggest that women learn whether this knowledge that has been passed down is true or not for themselves. Do not rely on a man to say, but rely on Grandmother to say what is best for you. To support this, I invited women who wanted to participate in discovering what is true to come to my sweat lodges. A woman not in her moon then volunteers to be of service to these women, by seeing to any needs they have. The moon-time women sit outside of the lodge on the west side (the side of feminine power) about ten or so feet away where they pray to Grandmother Moon and meditate. When it is cold, they may sit by the fire, of course. After the lodge, these honored women are served food by the woman in service before anyone else. While I will never know what it is like to sit in prayer and meditation during a moon-time, I have been informed by those women who have had this opportunity that it is extremely profound and that they received greater value than they could ever receive sitting within the lodge.

In closing, I remind all people that a woman in her moon-time is to be honored and revered and never, ever made to feel an outcast. She is sacred and precious.

(originally published in Sacred Hoop magazine, Winter 2000/2001)
© copyright 2000, Nicholas Noble Wolf

Women Who Bleed with the Moon

Women Who bleed with the moon 

The moon has always been the primary symbol for female energy; its cycle around the earth takes approximately twenty-nine days, the same amount of time as the average woman's menstrual cycle. It is often felt that as the pull of the moon affects the waters of the world, so does its motion affect the body of woman.

A women's blood and hormonal cycle follows the ebb and flow of the moon; from new moon to full moon, estrogen increases leading to ovulation, or maximum fertility, at full moon. From full moon to new moon, the waning half of the cycle, progesterone predominates. Traditionally, women used to start bleeding right before the new moon, in the dark of the moon.

In modern times, women begin their menstruation during different phases of the moon. Their bodies are out of sync with the moon and their spirits have forgotten the meaning of Grandmother Moon. One way to get back in harmony with the moon is by performing ceremonies and rituals at different times during the moon cycle and also by honoring the time of menstruation.

When a woman begins her monthly bleeding, she has a very special vibration. The blood flow is cleansing as the old uterine lining is sloughed off, one monthly reproductive cycle is ended. At menstruation, women have the chance to rid themselves of all old thoughts, habits, desires, and be receptive to new visions and inspirations for the next cycle. This is the dark moon phase.

If a woman continues her normal routine at menstruation, then she loses a uniquely female opportunity for introspection. She also finds she gets more tired, irritable, and upset because her physical rhythm has slowed down. She needs rest, more time for meditation, and less time doing housework, cooking, working in the outside world, and taking care of children.

In many Native American tribes and other tribal cultures, there is a separate moon lodge to which all women go. Since most women menstruated at the same time (have you noticed women who live together bleed together) during the dark of the moon, the grandmothers and fathers took care of the children. Food was left outside the lodge several times a day. Women during menstruation were/are considered to hold a certain power and not allowed to mingle with the rest of the tribe. Many tribes have taboos against these women, believing that their power would interfere with the hunt or take away the power of the medicine bundles.

This is also why women are not allowed in sweat lodges and must stand outside the circles in other ceremonies when they are in their moon time. We know now that women were also segregated because of fear of the immense power which enabled them to bleed each month and never die -the greatest of all the Mysteries- while a male warrior might succumb quickly after losing so much. - Women's Medicine Ways' Cross-cultural rites of passage Marcia Starck

Visit The Women's Moon Hut, a place for women on their moontime to come for rest, reflection, and sisterhood. You have the power to feel good about yourself and your body. Information, products, and an alternative viewpoint about menstruation so that you can feel great about being a woman every day of the month!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breast Massage~How To

Breast massage is therapeutically effective and pleasurable, and it is excellent preventive medicine. It keeps the breasts supple and resilient, enhances proper flow of lymph fluid, helps relieve congestion, relaxes the body, and feels great. It also encourages women to know their breasts intimately, which can aid in early detection of cancer. Breast massage takes roughly 5 to 10 minutes a day and should be done at least five days a week by women of all ages. I recommend doing the massage while looking at something beautiful--the great outdoors, a painting, yourself in the mirror. Then follow these simple steps:

Step 1. Apply a small amount of massage oil to your breasts. You can use any massage oil, but to enhance lymphatic drainage, try one of the recipes that follow. (See previous post.)

Step 2. Cupping your breasts in your hands, move them in a circular motion, rotating outward, away from each other. Use your whole hand, feeling the entire mass of your breast moving beneath it. This motion can be fairly quick or slow and rhythmic, whichever feels best to you. Basically, do what feels good to you and be gentle, as the glands are sensitive. Do this 25 times.

Love My Breasts Massage Oil

Love My Breasts Massage Oil
This herbal oil can be used for a stimulating massage. Comfrey is a marvelous herb for the skin, strengthening and healing tissue. Calendula flowers are particularly useful for the lymphatic system and are of tremendous aid in treating fibrocystic conditions. Lavender increases circulation to the breast area and activates the immune system. Pine essential oil also increases blood flow to the breast area and contains compounds that have been proved to destroy cancerous cells. Rosemary is warming and decongesting and stimulates lymph tissue.

1/2 ounce dried or fresh calendula flowers
1/2 ounce dreid or freesh comfrey leaf
2 cups almond oil
12 drops lavender essential oil
6 drops pine essential oil
6 drops rosemary essential oil

Infuse the calendula and comfrey in the almond oil. Add the essential oils to the infused oil.

Womb and Belly Rub

To bring warmth and energy to the womb and pelvic area, use this gentle, soothing aromatic oil during massage of the belly.

1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa butter
1/2 cup sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon castor oil
vanilla or lavender essential oil

1. Warm the oils until they are thoroughly mixed, the remove from heat and add essential oil to scent.
2. Rub your hands together vigorously, until there is heat dancing between them. Imagine your hands being full of radiant healing energy.
3. Take a generous fingerful of the oil and begin gently massaging the area in a circular motion from right to left, spiraling in and then out. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes.

from Rosemary Gladstar's "Herbal Healing for Women"

Choices in Menstrual Protection

Today women have more menstrual protection choices than ever from tampons to thong pads and reusable cups that fit over the cervix. How do you know which product is right for your period?
Your Period
The first step in deciding which menstrual hygiene product is the best choice for your period is knowing yourself and your period. Periods can vary from woman to woman, as well as from onset of menstruation to menopause; they can be lighter, heavier, longer, or shorter and still be considered normal.
What defines normal menstruation?
While most menstrual cycles are between 28 and 30 days long, periods that come anywhere from 21 to 35 days apart are considered normal in most situations by your clinician.
The amount of menstrual fluid lost during your period averages from 4 to 12 teaspoons for the majority of women; however there are many variations of normal among women.
Most periods last from 3 to 5 days, however it's not abnormal for a period to last for 7 days.
Always speak to your clinician if you are unsure whether your period is normal.
Picking Your Period Protection
Fortunately we have several choices in sanitary protection products today. Some woman may find that one product is right for them, while others may decide to use different products depending on their flow and lifestyle.
Menstrual Cups
Commercial menstrual cups have been around since the 1930's according to the Museum of Menstruation. An unusual and painful-looking version of a menstrual cup was patented 1867, but it is know clear whether it was ever manufactured. Today both reusable and disposable menstrual cups are available for women.
The Keeper is a reusable menstrual cup currently on the market. It is made of natural rubber and can be used for up to ten years. It's a great choice for women who are concerned about the affect the environment may have on disposable types of period protection products. The Keeper holds up to one ounce of menstrual fluid and is simply washed out each time it is full and reinserted, or saved for your next period. The Keeper currently sells for $35 US which can equal a significant savings overtime. Picture of the Keeper
The first and only disposable menstrual cup currently on the market is the The INSTEAD SoftCup. It is made from a nonabsorbent, non irritating thermoplastic material that conforms to your shape to prevent leakage. Instead can be worn for up to 12 hours. My personal experience: Instead is unbelievably comfortable, I could almost forget I was on my period. Although the company claims it is easy to insert and remove, I found removal could be difficult and messy--otherwise I thought it was a wonderful product. Instead is available on their website, as well as from stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Menstrual Pads
Sanitary protection pads have been around in one form or another for as long as women have had periods. Until 1921, when Kotex pads were introduced on the market, women often used cotton rags or knitted, washable menstrual pads like these 19th Century Norwegian menstrual pads on display at the Museum of Menstruation.

The advent of disposable menstrual pads did not entirely end the use of washable pads. In the early days of disposable pads, although they were inexpensive for some women, many other women could not afford such luxury and continued using various cotton materials. The influence of environmental awareness over the last 30 years has renewed the interest in reusable, washable menstrual pads. A search on any search engine for "reusable menstrual pads" will return a long list of vendors selling these products. Or if you prefer, you can make your own reusable menstrual pad.
Menstrual pads are available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and brands. There are maxi pads for heavy days, and mini pads for light days. Some pads are thick and some are thin. Some even conform to the style of panties you wear. And some have "wings" that fit over your panties to hold them in place. Anyone who's every given birth probably can't forget the largest pads--the maternity pads. A visit to your local grocery, drug, or discount store will provide you with a wide variety of brands and prices of disposable menstrual pads to choose from.
Tampons entered the American market in the late 1920's or 30's, according to the Museum of Menstruation. However tampon-like materials have been used by women probably for thousands of years. Many of the first commercial tampons did not have an applicator, and one did not have a string. Tampax was the first tampon to have an applicator in 1936.
Today women have a wide choice of brands of tampons available. Some have cardboard applicators, some plastic, and others no applicator. Some tampons contain deodorants to help reduce menstrual odors. There is much controversy about the safety of tampons and their possible connection to women's health conditions such as endometriosis and toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Women who enjoy the convenience of tampons but who are concerned about possible health risks can find all natural, organic, cotton tampons on several websites, as well as at your local organic market.
Tampon Absorbency Ratings
What all currently available tampons have in common is an absorbency rating system to help you determine which tampon is right for your flow. Some companies sell boxes of tampons with various sizes in one box so that you can use the smaller ones on your lighter days and the more absorbent tampons on your heaviest days.
Junior:The junior tampon will hold up to 6 grams of menstrual fluid.
Regular: Regular absorbency tampons hold between 6 and 9 grams of menstrual fluid.
Super:These super tampons have an absorbency rating of 9 to 12 grams of menstrual fluid.
Super plus:Super plus tampons are for your heaviest days and absorb from 12 to 15 grams of menstrual fluid.
1 gram of menstrual fluid equals about 1/4 teaspoon.
Tampons should be changed every 4 to 6 hours. If your tampon doesn't need changing in 4 to 6 hours, you are using a tampon with too high an absorbency rating and should switch to a lower absorbency tampon. Other signs you are using a tampon that is too absorbent include:
Difficult removal.
Dry vagina.
Tampon shredding upon removal.
Properly inserted tampons are comfortable to wear and do not cause pain or other irritation. You should not be able to feel your tampon when it is inserted correctly. If you can feel your tampon in your vagina then you will need to reinsert it deeper. Tampons are a great choice for women who are physically active. They do not interfere with exercise or swimming. You should not have an odor when you are wearing a tampon-- this could be a sign of infection. An odor can also be a sign that you have forgotten to remove a tampon. Tampons can be safely used by women and girls of all ages. If your daughter feels comfortable using tampons, she can use them beginning with her first periods.
Anytime you experience an unusual vaginal odor consult your clinician.
Not A Pad, Not A Tampon
Another option for women during very light days, or for women experiencing vaginal discharge or urine leakage is the nSync miniform. The miniform is not a pad or a tampon. It is designed to fit comfortably between the vaginal lips (the labia). It is currently available in stores in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain states, or can be ordered by calling 1-888-8INSYNC. Reusable, washable menstrual sponges have been used for thousands of years. Today a silk sponge is available called Sea Pearls. The Museum of Menstruation recommends that sponges be boiled for 5 to 10 minutes to kill any bacteria that may survive regular washing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yoga for Great Sex

This is definitely worth reposting I think. If you are not a yoga practioner, then you might be missing out on a few things. Just a thought....
OK, I just found this on a no longer updated blog, here. This is fabulous news, although I have actually already found out some of this the 'fun' way. Anyway, I wanted to share this article and hope you find it as interesting as I did. Just one more reason to keep up the yoga. Yoga blessings.

Yoga Good Sex Life
"I'm going to reveal a secret to you ... Yoga makes sex better. Yoga strengthens your sexual core like no body'sbusiness. It all comes down to a group of muscles called your Kegels named after the doctor who discovered them. Boring. The medical term is Pelvic Floor (also kinda boring) and in Yoga, this muscle group is referred to as your Mulabhanda.
Pretty cool term but I like to call this wonderful little bundle of sexual core muscles your Venus Lock ... now don't you want to know why these muscles help you have better sex.
OK, let's go.When women have an orgasm the Venus Lock (Kegels, Pelvic Floor, Mulabhanda) contracts and these contractions help you have a stronger, longer, deeper orgasm. If your Venus Lock musculature is not strong and out-of-shape than your orgasms will be weak.
That's a fact. Take for example women who have had children, what Doc probably didn't tell you (and unfortunately it is considered a bit of a dark secret among the medical profession) is that strengthening your Venus Lock is not only great for re-tightening that area but is essential for orgasm. Men love the feel of a stronger Venus Lock as well, and not that you shouldn't care about this but it's all about you and your pleasure. Priorities girls.
How Yoga targets your Venus Lock is via Yoga poses that zero in on this muscle group. Some examples of fabulous Venus Lock engaging poses are:
1. Bridge pose
2. Lightning Bolt or Side Angle pose
3. Dead Bug dynamic pose (OK not so sexy sounding but it works)
4. Dolphin dynamic pose
5. Zipper dynamic pose
Let's learn where your Venus Lock is actually located to help turn it on while practicing the above Yoga poses and also during any Yoga class you shimmy your little tush to in Vancouver such as Bikrams, Hot Yoga, Flow Yoga and HIPFIT Yoga.
First take note of the muscle you use to stop urinary flow, and practice contracting this muscle each time you go pee. This will give you an excellent sense of just how strong this muscle group is and can be. Work up to Venus Lock tightening exercises during the day while you're doing everyday activities. Then practice tightening and gradually .. slowly releasing. Work up to 20 contractions three times a day. I'm doing mine right now!"

Ancient Breasts

Ancient Breasts
Deep within you, whether you are aware of it or not, is your primal need for breast. It is part of you; it was born with you. It has been with you for millions of years.
When you emerged into the world of air, hunger came with you. And linked to hunger was the remedy for hunger, already known to you. You had, at birth, the skill to guide yourself to it by touch, by smell, by warmth, by sweetness. You had, and still have, internal, ancient coding to find the breast and suck.
‘Find the breast and suck.’ This message sings in you, in every one of us, from birth to death. It says: ‘Find the breast, source of nourishment, source of contentment.’ It urges: ‘Find the breast, where hunger ceases, where you are one with the mother, one with the pulsing heart of the Mother, at one with Breast/Heart/ Mother/All.’
The breast is bliss. The breast is enlightenment. The breast is the emblem of our most sacred aspirations. The Madonna holds the infant to her breast. Kaaba (Hajar-e-aswad) , the holy rock of Mecca, is known as the Mother’s Bountiful Breast.
Breast is nourishment is life is sun is round and warm and full. A simple drawing of a breast is the symbol for Sun, nourisher of all life. And life is sacred, so breasts are sacred, so women are sacred, holy, whole. Always and everywhere women’s breasts have been honored.
Has anyone ever told you that your breasts are holy and sacred and moving with the energy of life? Has anyone ever told you that your breasts are a source of power? Has anyone ever given you permission to love your breasts, touch your breasts, adore your breasts? Has anyone encouraged you to honor your breasts and all women’s breasts as life, as the support of life?
Were you allowed to suckle at your mother’s breast? Have you ever received, ever given, nourishment from your breasts? Have you drunk from the breast of Mother Earth? Have you drunk from the wild springs of the Earth? Taken bites of plants still rooted? Spilled warm, raw milk into your mouth? Have you put your mouth upon the source and received fulfillment, ecstasy?
Do your breasts have a story? If you ask, they will tell you. Do you remember when your breasts emerged? What were you feeling about them then? Excited? Eager? Awkward? Embarrassed? Angry? Tender?
Do you remember the first time you felt your breasts move as you ran? The first time you felt your breasts float as you swam? The first time you stood in the shower and watched the water arch out over your breasts and waterfall off your nipples?
We are the Ancient GrandMothers and our breasts are ancient. Perhaps you find them ugly. See how they drift yearningly toward the Earth, lower with every passing year. We smile knowingly; we know our breasts contain a power that is resilient, flexible, supple, easy, and impossible to restrain. Whether the whim of fashion says our breasts are to be large or small, pointed or flattened, with cleavage or without, padded or bound, accented or obscured, it matters not to us. Our breasts fall free, untouched by current notions. The power of our breasts is the power of life.
The power of our breasts is the power of every woman’s breasts. As our breasts are life, so every woman’s breasts are life. And this is true of you, too, GrandDaughter: The power of your breasts is the power of life. Your breasts are sacred.
For more information, see Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way by SusunWeed.

Yoga: Not Just for Exercise

Yoga can help you beat depression. How hatha yoga saved the life of one manic depressive.

By Amy Weintraub, published on November 01, 2000 - last reviewed on July 13, 2007.Psychology Today

When Jenny Smith was 41 years old, her mental illness became so severe that she could barely walk or speak. After days of feeling wonderful one moment and hallucinating that spiders and bugs were crawling on her skin the next, she landed in the hospital.
Smith is a victim of bipolar disorder, an illness characterized by oscillating feelings of elation and utter depression. And though she had tried 11 different medications for relief, some in combination, nothing seemed to work. Upon leaving the hospital, Smith was told that she could expect to be in and out of psychiatric hospitals for the rest of her life. Soon after her release, Smith decided to learn hatha yoga, which incorporates specific postures, meditation and pranayamas, deep abdominal breathing techniques that relax the body. As she practiced daily, Smith noticed that her panic attacks—a symptom of panic disorder, a disease that some bipolar disorder sufferers also contend with—were subsiding. She has since become a certified hatha yoga instructor, and with the help of only Paxil, an antidepressant that she'd taken before without effect, Smith's pattern of severe mood swings seems to have ended. She even taught her 11-year-old daughter—who had experienced panic attacks since age 7—the simple breathing technique of inhaling to the count of four and exhaling to the count of eight; as a result, her daughter's panic attacks subsided.
Key to reaping hatha yoga's mental benefits is reducing stress and anxiety. To that end, Jon Cabot-Zinn, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts, developed the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program (SRRP), a system that emphasizes mindfulness, a meditation technique where practitioners observe their own mental process. SRRP has been the focus of several scientific studies in the last 20 years, and has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and depression, and thus alleviate mental illness.
To date, the most persuasive evidence of the benefits of hatha yoga, and in particular pranayama, stems from research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in India. New studies have shown a high success rate—up to 73 percent—for treating depression with sudharshan kriya, a pranayama technique taught in the U.S. as "The Healing Breath Technique." It involves breathing naturally through the nose, mouth closed, in three distinct rhythms.
According to Stephen Cope, a psychotherapist and author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, hatha yoga's postures improve mood by moving energy through places in the body where feelings of grief or anger are stored. "Hatha yoga is an accessible form of learning self-soothing," he says. "These blocked feelings can be released very quickly, [creating a] regular, systemic experience of well-being." Yoga students may also benefit from their relationship with the yoga instructor, Cope said, which can provide a "container" or a safe place for investigating, expressing and resolving emotional issues. The instructor's encouraging and accepting words may also help students defeat self-limiting notions.
Not all mental health practitioners are convinced of yoga's healing powers, but many agree it can be helpful when combined with more traditional treatments. Zindel Segal, Ph.D., a University of Toronto psychiatry professor, recently studied SRRP when used in conjunction with cognitive therapy. He asked 145 people who were at risk for depression to undergo cognitive therapy either alone or with the SRRP. Segal found that after eight weeks of treatment, those participants who received both types of therapy were much less likely to relapse into depression. "This means that people can learn about their emotions not just by writing down their thoughts, which is what cognitive therapy is all about, but also by paying attention to the way their emotions are expressed in their bodies," he says. "Both approaches allow people to observe their experience without judgment, an important first step in stepping out of depression."
While yoga's therapeutic capabilities are still under scientific scrutiny, Smith isn't waiting for more proof. Having lost her grandmother to depression—she was one of many bipolar sufferers who take their own life due to the disease—Smith is determined not to let the disorder get the best of her. Since 1994, she has practiced and taught hatha yoga to depression sufferers—passing on what she believes has literally saved her life.

Untapped source of peace,

Women in circles,

Women connecting,

Women together

Bringing the sacred feminine,

Maternal instinct,

sister archetype

Mother power into the world.

From Urgent Message from the Mother: Gather the Women Save the World, copywrite2005 Jean Shinoda Bolen.


Welcome to the Red Tent Temple TN blog. We have had a few changes in the last year and a half and the previous blog went down. I am now working on a new and improved one for the community. The Red Tent Temple TN is based in the Oak Ridge/Knoxville area, with most of the temples held in Knoxville. RTT is intended to provide nurturing and support to the women in the community. Inspired by the book, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and founded in Mass. by Alisa Starkweather, the RTT movement has certainly spread out. I am happy to have the Red Tent Temple TN back in the blog world. Visit often as I will be updating and reviewing and revising. There will be much to share in the future.

Peace and blessings.