Yoga, as we know it, is a 5000 year old tradition that was created by men for men. Yet the majority of yoga practitioners and teachers are women! This is why a feminine approach to yoga is starting to gain traction as women realise that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to yoga does not always suit their uniquely cyclical female bodies and minds.
In my Moving with the Moon approach to yoga, I suggest that the menstrual cycle consists of four phases, mirroring the lunar phases. If a woman tunes in, she will notice each phase has distinct physical and psycho-emotional characteristics and she can benefit greatly by adjusting her yoga practice accordingly. If we learn to work with rather than against the natural fluctuations in energy throughout our cycle we can boost our health, vitality and wellbeing.
Not only can you modify your Asana (posture) practice throughout the month, but you may also find that some Pranayama (breathing) and Meditation practices become more supportive at different times in your cycle. In this article, I share some feminine meditation practices that are especially appropriate and beneficial for particular phases.
The Dark Moon or Menstrual Phase
In this phase, the uterus is working hard to shed the menstrual blood, and women generally feel more tired and lower in energy than at any other time in their cycle. Attuning to the metaphor of the moon, the menstrual phase can be likened to the quiet, reflective energy of the dark or new moon. If you follow your body’s cues when you bleed, you will respond by carving out some much-needed rest time, which in turn provides an environment conducive to meditation, and, as your energy draws inwards, you become more sensitive to subtle energies within and without.
Primordial Ooze Meditation for the Dark Moon Phase
This grounding meditation involves cultivating the art of doing absolutely nothing! This can be so healing during your menstrual phase, which I call ‘the big exhale; it’s a powerful time for letting go, connecting with earth energy, and just ‘be-ing’.
How to do it
Sit with a cushion or folded blanket beneath your buttocks, and your legs folded into Siddhasana or simple cross-legged. Tilt your spine forwards from the hips and place your cupped hands onto the floor in front of you—fingers spread and connecting to the earth. In this gesture, the palms are concave, as you create a lift through the centre of the palms.
Close your eyes and as you stay here for a minute or two, see if you can become aware of the energy of the earth channelling up through the centre of your palms, up your arms, and into your heart, and down into your belly and ‘womb-space’ (deep lower belly).
Then, release your hands away from the floor and rest your hands on your knees, or you can place your palms on your lower belly (womb-space).
Now, just sit and let your awareness begin to draw further inwards. Notice the natural flow and rhythm of your breath, in and out of your nostrils. Soften the shoulders down away from the ears—feel them like ice melting into water. Soften the muscles around and behind the eyes. Soften the skin of the forehead and the skin of the temples. Relax the mouth and jaw, let the tip of your tongue rest lightly on the roof of your mouth. Swallow if necessary to consciously relax the throat. Move your awareness down your body to mindfully let go of any tension in the solar plexus and the belly.
After a little while, begin to deepen your breath and breathe down into your belly, your womb-space, and feel how this continues to release any tension or holding there. Just allow your soft belly to expand with the in-breath and soften gently back towards the spine with the out-breath. With this Soft Belly Breath, feel your awareness drop right down low into your body, into your womb-space, and out of your head.
Feel your connection to the earth again, this time through your base. Feel the pull of gravity down through your perineum, your sitting bones, heavy into the earth. Become aware of your Base Chakra. Imagine a beautiful deep, red lotus flower sitting at the base of your spine, at your perineum; admire the beauty and complexity of its dark, crimson petals. Underneath the lotus flower is the earth or rocks, whatever feels more solid and grounding for you. Visualise this flower as having deep roots or grounding cords that burrow deep down into the earth beneath you, right down into the bedrock. Feel how these roots, these grounding cords, support you in feeling grounded and solid, as you send some exhalations down into the earth beneath you.
Now, let go of directing your breath or awareness in any particular way at all. Let the breath be completely free. Just feel. Feel into your whole body. Feel any sensations, pulsations of energy, anywhere, everywhere in your body. Feel your body shimmering with sensations, pulsating with energy.
Feel a sense of your body becoming liquid, smooth, oozing like honey, like chocolate melting in the sun. Feel the bliss of just allowing your body to be, yet at the same time, feeling so deeply into this state of being that you may begin to get a delicious sense of your body losing its boundaries; the boundaries of your body are merging with your surroundings.
There is no ‘you’, just this overriding sense of deliciousness, like you can taste the silence around you; it’s like a sweet nectar. The air around you is thick and porous, like your own body.
Continue to feel into a sense of the honey-like, viscous fluidity of the body, as it flows beyond its boundaries. Be present to a complete feeling of bliss in every cell of your being. Stay here for as long as you wish, allowing any feelings or sensations to arise as you keep feeling into your body, your energy space, the spaciousness of your mind. And when you’re ready to finish, gently blink your eyes open and gradually ease yourself out of the practice.
The Waxing Moon or Post-Menstruation Phase
This phase encompasses the week or two after we finish bleeding and before we ovulate, and it’s when we are most aligned with the predominant, ‘masculine’ energy of society. During this phase our hormones start building again as the lining of the womb thickens and the follicles (‘shells’) surrounding potential eggs develop.
If your cycle is in balance, you’ll be filled with energy and vitality, and it is therefore a great time to practise the more active and demanding yoga postures. It’s an outward-focused time, so meditation is not paramount at this juncture.
Instead of meditation, I recommend you balance your more active yoga practice with some Restorative Yoga, and to relax and refresh your energy try Yoga Nidra. Additionally, breast self-massage can be a balancing, self-care ritual that provides a quiet, meditative element during this more ‘yang’ phase of your cycle. There’s also a beautiful Waxing Moon Feminine Meditation from Ana here.
The Full Moon or Ovulation Phase
The few days around ovulation (when a potentially fertile egg is released from your ovary) is considered to be the traditionally ‘feminine’ phase of your cycle. This is when a woman’s libido tends to peak and when we are more likely to enjoy socialising and connecting with friends and loved ones.
Smile to your Heart—Chocolate Meditation
This delicious, heart-opening meditation is inspired by my dear friend and meditation teacher, Supiani Ucui. It evokes feelings of deep contentment and happiness and helps you connect with others from a more loving, heart-felt space, harnessing the natural energy of the Full Moon (ovulation) phase.
The magic of this meditation lies in the simple, physical practice of smiling and then feeling the energy of your smile within your heart-centre. To receive the full benefits of this practice you need to keep smiling and smiling—if someone were to walk into the room and see you meditating, they would see you smiling goofily to yourself! It’s a discipline! Your natural instinct is most likely to feel silly, smiling to yourself, but I encourage you to persevere.
How to do it
Come into your favourite sitting position for meditation. Take some time to feel comfortable and relaxed in your body and mind.
Then, turn up the corners of your mouth, and begin to gently smile to yourself.
Place your left palm onto the centre of your chest as you bring your attention to your ‘heart-centre’. If you like, you can place your right palm on top of the left palm in Hands-to-Heart Mudra.
Take a few deep breaths into your heart-centre.
Then, begin smiling into your heart. While your mouth continues to smile, imagine your heart-centre smiling too! Think about your favourite chocolate—for example, dark chocolate. Think about 70% dark chocolate, as you smile into your heart-centre. Now, think about 85% dark chocolate, smile more into your heart-centre. Finally, think about 90% dark chocolate, smile even more into your heart-centre.
Continue to think about the best quality dark chocolate (or milk chocolate, if you prefer!) feeling how it naturally helps you smile into your heart-centre. When thoughts enter your head, simply let them go and come back to focusing on smiling into your heart-centre.
The Waning Moon or Premenstrual Phase
The 7-10 days leading up to your period can be the most challenging phase in your month if you suffer from PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms. In addition to physical symptoms like bloating and headaches, women can often feel irritable and moody during this phase; it’s like we’re viewing the world through ‘negative goggles’.
Mindfulness Meditation for PMS
Mindfulness meditation can help you gain some mental and emotional perspective. By becoming aware of the patterns of your premenstrual mind, which have a tendency to carry you far beyond what is real and observable, you may be able to short-circuit a negative spiral, possibly avoiding destructive words or actions that spring from your hormone-clouded bias. One simple way to do this is to label the thoughts as they come into your mind, before they are able to take hold as an emotion.
How to do it
This meditation can be done sitting, but when I’m premenstrual or feeling particularly emotional, I sometimes do it whilst walking in nature.
To begin, become aware of your breath. The sensations of your breath. In and out through the nostrils. Become aware of your environment. If you are doing this as an open-eyed, walking meditation, become aware of what you see around you—the trees, the birds, the sky and the ground beneath your feet. If you are sitting with your eyes closed, simply become aware of the various sounds around you. Name these sounds—for example: lawn mower, birds, cars, etc.
Feel the sensation of the air or breeze against your skin.
Then become aware of your thoughts. Watch your thoughts like clouds passing through the sky. Notice a thought and try to just observe it without getting caught up in the whole narrative that might accompany it. Then, allow yourself to become aware of the next thought as it passes through the sky of the mind.
Here’s another way to think about it: it’s like you’re watching all these crazy thoughts on TV—like they are played out in someone else’s life.
As you notice the thoughts, see if a label spontaneously arises for each thought. For example, if I find myself projecting into the future—’He said this, which means he will now do this, and I will not be happy’—I try to stop this flow of interconnected thoughts and give this string of thoughts a label such as ‘catastrophising’ or ‘worrying’.
Or, another common pattern is dwelling on the past: ‘He said this, and I said that, and he did or didn’t do what I wanted, and I am unhappy’. I label this thought pattern as ‘hanging on’ or ‘stuck in the past’.
Ultimately, replace the various and many thoughts with the reminder that in the present everything is OK, just as it is; there is absolutely nothing to worry about or change in this present moment.
Continue this mindfulness practice as long as you like. To finish, place the right palm on the lower belly (womb-space) and the left palm on the centre of your chest (heart-space), in the Heart-Womb Mudra, a gesture that connects your two sacred, feminine energy-centres, and reminds you to come home to yourself and to always be gentle with yourself.
 See my book Moving with the Moon: Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond, for some feminine Yoga Nidra practices,
 See my book Moving with the Moon, for some suggested breast self massage techniques
 One research study showed that premenstrual women exhibited a greater tendency to not hear positive words when exposed to positive, negative and neutral words. See Joan Borysenko, A Woman’s Book of Life, pp.57–58, who refers this study—‘Neurophysiological Correlates of Menstrual Mood Changes’, Psychosomatic Medicine 51, 1989.
Ana Davis, Founder and Director of Bliss Baby Yoga, has a passion for a feminine approach to yoga, and supporting women with yoga through all ages and stages of their life. Ana is the author of the popular book, “Moving with the Moon – Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond” which is available as a soft-cover book or Ebook, with 22 x accompanying audio tracks.
Ana has collaborated with Bliss Baby Yoga fertility specialist yoga teacher Rosie Matheson to create our Online Level 1 Yoga for Fertility Teacher Training. She is also the lead trainer on our popular Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training Course and Online L1 & L2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training courses, and offers private mentoring and yoga sessions online, and online yoga classes.