How Keeping Track of Your Menstrual Cycle Can Ruin Your Life.

Via Rachel Brathen
on Jun 21, 2011
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photo: via Lauren Rudick

The rag.

My period is late.

Or, scratch that. Late is when you’re on your way to yoga class but realize you left your wallet at the coffee shop so you have to run back and get it. And then you have to hurry to get your mats out before the early students show up and have no mats (and students need mats). And no, my period did not leave its wallet at a coffee shop. It’s not late.

I prefer the term “delayed”. After pondering this for a while I’ve decided that it does me much better to not think of my period as late but as a flight that’s about to depart. And it’s off to a grand place – the land of  “No Bun In The Oven”, also known to locals as “Thank God I Am Not Preggers”. It’s a magical place, right off the coast of “I’m Way Too Young And Immature To Be Responsible For Anything More Important Than My Wallet (And Let’s Face It, I Lose My Wallet All The Time)”. This is my itinerary; this is where I am headed. But my flight is delayed.

It’s still departing, don’t get me wrong. The bags are checked, I mean, I bought my ticket! So what’s the hold-up at the gate?

Delayed flights is a very new concept for me. I know how it works, what it may or may not signify (Late Departure: grab a soy latte at Starbucks. Flight Cancelled: F*CK THIS F*CKING AIRLINE!!!). It’s the whole idea of keeping track of your “lady holiday” thus knowing if your friendly flow is late, early or departing right on time, that I’ve never gotten familiar with. Never in my life have I counted the days of my menstrual cycle (that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You count?). Never have I marked my calendar with a red little “X” like those girls in romantic comedies do. A calendar? Me? Queen of never making plans? Nah. Never have I put a reminder in my phone (I know someone who does that) and  never have I actually known when mother nature is expected to drop a visit. It comes when it comes and that’s fine, and it leaves when it leaves and that’s fine too. I am just not familiar with the concept of Aunt Flo being “late”. So why now?  I am 22 years old, I’ve had many moons come and go (not as many as some of you dear women reading this, but many nonetheless) and I’ve never minded the scheduled departure before. Why this sudden change?

There is a very simple reason. It was very innocent; a yoga teacher friend of mine gave me a book she wrote. It’s called “Yoga & Fitness Guide for Women”. A wonderful book actually, about how to find optimal health as a woman through yoga (and, you guessed it, fitness). In the back of the book there is a chart that lets you fill in and answer questions about you health every single day for a whole year. Yes. That is a very long time, and I do admire people who can commit and follow through on this sort of thing.

I am not one of those people. But the questions are easy, you can fill them in yourself. Things such as; “Did I do my yoga practice today?” “Did I eat enough greens?” “Did I meditate?” “Did I get enough sleep?” You get the point. And underneath each question there is a box that you check with a yes or a no. Yes, I ate my spinach. No, I should have had more water. After a while you might start seeing some patterns that you wish to change, and it’s easy to know what to do to increase your well-being. Good stuff!

So I started doing this. Not committing to a whole year, (I’m way to flaky for that) but for a few months to start, checking the boxes each evening before I went to bed. This worked out great. At first. I liked seeing the connection between not getting enough sleep and my lower back bothering me. Figuring out that, even though I consider myself a person with a balanced meditation practice, I in fact am not. Turns out I meditate mostly when I’m stressed, when I’m sad, or when I feel life is treating me unfair.

Am I the only one that does this by the way?

When I find myself in a low, I turn to meditation and breath work as a refuge. This is very stupid. I really don’t think meditation should be a Band-Aid. So now I try to balance my practice through meditating on fun things like happiness and joy. Strangely, this is easier (who knew?). All thanks to the book and how it nicely helped me bring my awareness to my everyday routines. For this, I am grateful.

But. There is a but here. There was also a box that read “Day of Cycle”. Damn this box, I tell you. For the first time in my life I learned how it worked. The cycle thing. Apparently, you want to keep track of your cycle so you can tell why you’re moody some days, or why the spinach in your grocery basket suddenly has been substituted for Mars Bars . Basically in effort to prepare for a week of bleeding from your vagina! Understandable! So I learned how to do it. Not an easy feat. It can be very confusing, at least for people like me who apparently never cared much about these things.

There is math involved. I do not like math. Do not talk to me about math (unless you have a lisp and what you really mean is mat, as in yoga mat. In that case I can help you, but please try to not confuse the two). Anyway. The cycle counting thing goes something like this:

First day of your period is Day 1. Write “1” in box. Second day of period is Day 2. Write “2” in box. Third day of period is Day 3. “Write “3” in box. Getting it? I understand this is not rocket science. I can count the days of my period, I’m not stupid. But here is the twist: when your period is over, you do not stop counting the days. This was news to me. When your period ends – the counting continues! If your period lasts 5 days, the day after is still Day 6. You just keep counting! Every single day of your life!! It’s a vicious circle. You count and you count and you count until you eventually, after much counting, end up at “Day 28”. Day 28 marks, or should mark, the end of your cycle. You get your period (flight departure!!!), and start counting all over again. First day of period, write “1” in box…

So, you do the math (why not on your yoga mat?) and as long as you actually get your period like you are supposed to, which is around Day 28, you’re all right. Just count, count, count.

But listen to this: what if you don’t get to start over again? What then? This is what happened to me. I was checking the boxes, happy as ever, filling in the days and writing about spinach and my surf lessons (I put “Did I surf today?” in my book, how awesome is that?!), unaware of the danger ahead. Until, yesterday, when I suddenly found myself checking the cycle box with “Day 35”. Pardon my French, but what the hell? 35?? Day fricking 35? The book didn’t tell me about Day 35! That means, today is Day 36! Tomorrow is 37! What does this mean?? What happened to my flight departure?

I tried looking online to see if some people have a 35 day cycle. They don’t. All they talk about are the stupid 28 days. Why can’t it be 35? Who decided that it has to be 28? What good does it do? I’ll tell you: nothing! And what good does counting your cycle do? NOTHING! Screw this. I am a nervous wreck. My boyfriend is calm but that’s only because I haven’t bothered explaining to him the schematics of period math and he thinks doing silly things like skate boarding is more important than obsess about a period “that is probably not a big deal”.

Listen. I am 22. I’ve spent the last four years going from country to country like a gypsy with ADD. I teach yoga for a living. I don’t do calendars. I lose my wallet every other day. I really, really need this flight to depart.

So I guess I’ll go meditate on this. Meanwhile maybe one of you can write me some consoling words here. I’ll keep you posted on what goes down. Hopefully I’m going to Starbucks for my soy latte. If not,


UPDATE: Flight departed as I submitted this article. Go figure.


About Rachel Brathen

Rachel is a yogi on a world tour. Born and raised in Sweden, she currently resides in the beautiful island of Aruba where she is busy teaching yoga at a resort in the mornings, coordinating retreats at noon, taking her three somewhat crazy dogs to the beach to keep up with the surf in the afternoon and trying to survive as a vegan (where no vegetables grow!) in the evenings. She firmly believes that life is not black or white – it’s black and white and blue and yellow with rays of pink and sparkle in between. You can teach yoga and still be a party animal. Meditate and ignore your spending problems. Be vegan and eat too much chocolate. Have a Swedish passport and live in the Caribbean. You can do anything, as long as it’s you! You can find Rachel on the beach, probably practicing her Astavakrasana, or on


21 Responses to “How Keeping Track of Your Menstrual Cycle Can Ruin Your Life.”

  1. Margaret says:

    Haha, how our natural variations can cause such freak-outs!
    Mine's a 32 day cycle. It happens. Just be safe & you'll be ok.

  2. lisa says:

    that was great!

  3. Lionesse says:

    Ha! This was such a great article for me. I was nodding in agreement all through reading it. I recently started cycle counting and I find it quite annoying and tedious. And I recently had a 35 day cycle too! LOL
    Margaret's right, just be safe and you'll be ok 🙂

  4. Beth says:

    Great article! I also reccommend reading TCOYF. It is a really good read!! Very informative and interesting. My cycle is 32 days, my sisters is 21. I don’t know why we aren’t taught more about how the female body works. The knowledge in this book made me feel very empowered and confident. Whether one is trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy, every woman should read it.

  5. Jacquie says:

    Just to make you feel not so freaked out – I'm a 35 day cycle 🙂

  6. […] moon time will soon be arriving. Yes, your moon time – your period, ladies. Also known as, Urma, the rag, your menses. Whatever you want to call it. And the way you know is simple. You are suddenly […]

  7. I like the helpful info you provide on your articles. I?ll bookmark your blog and check once more right here frequently. I am reasonably sure I will be informed a lot of new stuff proper right here! Good luck for the next!

  8. Kathleen says:

    "I don't know why we aren't taught more about how the female body works. . ."

    I hate to sound like a cynic, but it's because certain powerful organizations have too much interest in controlling how we think about our bodies and how much we understand about them.

  9. […] of you elephant readers can get). I am aware of the fact that this is my second blog on the matter (see the first one here), so if you want to label me as “the girl that only writes about stupid things like her periods […]

  10. Kkaye says:

    Love this so much. My cycle has a complete mind of it's own. Sometimes its two weeks long, sometimes 35+ days. I went 58 days one time all the while convinced I was prego and it wasn't until I had a complete melt down and decided that would be ok that my flight departed. I'd love a copy of the book you describe but it seems that its out of print 🙁

  11. kisherna says:

    Mine runs 20-27 days.. lol I don't like the 20 day cycles.

  12. helen says:

    now that im 48 my cycle is finally a 28 day cycle. in my 20s , it ranged madly from 15 days to 38 days, sometimes even skipping a month here and there. just be safe.

  13. Jenny Mae says:

    34 day average cycle here : )

  14. Tina says:

    Well I am 50 and my periods gotten regular for past 15 years since my fourth child was born . Prior to that my period stopped altogether after coming off the pill having being on it for a year . First two pregnancies were aided ovulation tracking and drug induced. That was 1992.

    First a singleton who is now 22 yo then followed by twins 19 yo surprise !! Or hardly given the ovulatory drug induced pregnancy. But my fourth pregnancy was SURPRISE !! Then my periods have come regular ever since! WTF!

    My menarche was July 1998. Now apparently that’s significant to note as it can determine menopause or time for it.

    But heck the monthly bleed bothers me not really once I become mindful of the low that can hit just before it.

    Period sex ? That’s fine though it gets messy .

    I yoga right through periods though some yogis prefers us not to somehow .

    Just get plugged up and carry on as per normal .

    We don’t lose too much blood even though it seems bloody when it does flow .

    Carry on .

  15. Samantha says:

    Completely agree with you! Great book! My cycle is also wacky, and has a mind of its own, although it never used to be. I can’t figure out if its age (I’m 27), 10 years of being on various brands of birth control pills (I’ve been off for 11 months now) or due to having a large mass and overy removed 9 years ago. Makes me frantic all the time. Kkaye, you should be able to get the book, I bought mine last year, maybe a new edition is coming?

  16. Erica says:

    My cycle was crazy, 10-14 days on and 32-38 days cycle time. All give or take depending on what was going on in my life. You are not weird, just you.

  17. Isabel PT says:

    Ok..for the first time I understood how to the counting system!!.. finally! thank you for that!
    I had an idea of course, but it seems that this whole period, ovulation, fertile days, cycles and what not are never put in way that´s simple, clear the more I researched the more I got confused we get all this mixed infos everywhere, some sites say one thing other says different, even my doctor wasn't able to clarify me so well I had given up this counting crap bull* and unfortunately surrendered to another not so healthy "no babies for now please" method.. after this maybe I´ll give it try to find out more about my cycle and stress just like you if it´s not 28 days…nice reading 🙂

  18. Suggie says:

    There's a simple solution to your anxiety. It's called an EPT test. Go get one, and pee on the little stick. If it's negative, don't despair. Just keep counting. You might want to re-evaluate your birth control methods. Life is not predictable; and this is small potatoes compared to lots of stuff coming down the pike eventually. Think of it as practice.

  19. YogaWithMeg says:

    I'm convinced our flights "take off" when we either freak out and and a explode a little bit (to release) or completely forget about it. Personally, just marking down my Day 1 and kind of setting and forgetting the counter helps me prep for the grouchy,mushy,justgivemeallthefuckingchocolateandnoonegetshurt week prior to my period. once i started to keep semi-awareness (and completely ditched birth control pills), my body became super regular. and every 6 months i'm on a full moon cycle…..which is wonderfully surreal (anyone else experience this??). Anyway. Daily counting blows. Kinda sorta knowing when it's coming back around and staying connected to your body's signals always seemed like an easier less coronary inducing method. <3

  20. LML says:

    An irregular period, just as a lengthy period, is a sign of a problem, just as acid reflux, fatigue, or any other physical symptom. One may choose to ignore it and do nothing, or pay attention and find out what's wrong.

  21. Dahlia says:

    I won't let my period control me. Yes, it can be very frustrating at times – especially when it's heaving but I try my best to cope.