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January 15, 2021

Yoga, eating disorders and missing periods- A Personal Story

When I first discovered yoga almost 8 years ago, I became infatuated with it.
At first, it seemed like the answer to all my ‘problems’, the one thing that would finally make me feel complete.
Having been an athlete for many years, my practice started out being physically exerting and strong. A reflection of most other areas in my life at the time; it required a lot of dedication, determination and pushing.
I was all about strength, power and pushing my own limitations.
Always looking to improve, to evolve, to become better.
However, looking back, what I really needed was rest and relaxation.
I was practicing yoga Asana, but was I really practicing yoga?
My body was tired, and my mind even more so.
In society’s eyes I was the picture of health; I was exercising, deeply committed to my yoga practice and daily mediation. I only ate what fit into what I believed to be a healthy diet.
And despite all this, my body was completely out of balance.
My period was absent most of the years. When it did arrive, it was either very light or very heavy,  irregular and excruciatingly painful.
However, after a few years, this became my normal, and it didn’t occur to me that this was the sign of an imbalanced body.
The few times I mentioned it to other people, the common reply I received was  this is normal for people who worked out a lot. So I left it at that.
Now, years later I have found a greater sense of balance and wellbeing than ever before..

To heal my body as well as my hormonal cycle, many factors had to be taken into account.
I’ve learnt that I had to eat much more food, and to gain some weight necessary for my body to be healthy.
These days, my diet includes much more fat, such as nuts and seeds, avocados, high quality oils, cacao and (after being vegan for many years) I also eat some goats cheese, real butter on my bread and use ghee in cooking. Some people will find that their body needs more or less animal products- for me, a small amount does a whole lot.
I’ve learnt to rest (much!) more. My yoga practice has become a gentle and nourishing sequence, rather than a strong and dynamic one.
More nourishment, and less strenuous movement. Two small steps, yet with big results.
Other important factors include working less, and doing “work” I wholeheartedly enjoy. Tracking my cycle and knowing where I am at each day and phase of the cycle has helped me deepen my understanding of my cycle, and understand the ebbs and flows of it.
I have learnt to eat according to the different phases of my cycle, both when it comes to specific nutrients, and quantity.
The same goes for exercise, movement and my social life; I plan my days and weeks according to where I am at in my cycle, whenever I am able to.
It’s about honouring my cycle, honouring my body, and honouring the intelligence of Mother Nature

Secondary amenorrhea (that is not due to another disease, contraception, pregnancy or menopause) affects around 5% of women. However, in athletes that number jumps to a whole 60%!
This is why one of the main “prescriptions” for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is less physical movement in the form of exercise, and more rest.
Less doing, and more being.
Because not having you period is not normal! A healthy period is the fifth vital health sign in women.
So maybe it’s time we redefine what it means to be healthy.
Your blood matters

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