Nature moves in a cyclical manner: spring buds blossom in the summer, then dry up and drop for winter hibernation. As part of nature, we also go through cycles, but our fast-living, high-achieving, American culture can numb us to natural rhythms.
Seasons, moon phases, life stages and, for women, menstrual cycles, all affect energy levels. Being aware and living in harmony with these cyclical patterns help us honor our need for rest, as well as take advantage of more productive times.
Yoga instructor Mia Tarduno, based in Summit County, Colorado, teaches women to work with, instead of against, their body, but it wasn’t always that way. Tarduno hit a wall a few years ago after following her coach’s prescribed plan to excel as a trail runner. Within a few months of training, she felt more and more burnt out, rather than stronger.
“At the time, I dealt with it by pushing through,” she says.
And then, she discovered cycle awareness, a way of honoring the fact that all life unfolds according to phases, both internal and external.
Women may be most attuned to cycles; hormone levels decline starting on day one, and attention tends to focus more internally. Mental focus may decrease, and sensitivity may heighten, sometimes causing irritability. This time is akin to the new moon cycle when the night is darker. It also corresponds to the winter season, as well as the crone phase of life, age 65-plus.
“It’s important to take this time to rest,” Tarduno says. “It’s a time you can tune into what’s important, which is our intuition. Notice things that are working well in your life and what’s not, and find a way to rework that.”
Spring, the waxing moon and women’s pre-ovulatory phase (days four through seven) all correspond to the maiden (age 0 to 25). These are energetic, hopeful periods for planning and starting to create what we truly want in life. It’s a good time to brainstorm, set intentions, say yes to social events and situations that resonate, and try something new.
Blossoming, ripe summer energy reflects the full moon, as well as women’s ovulation. In contrast to the winter season, it’s the most fertile time, so it’s helpful to schedule important meetings, pitches, negotiations, collaboration and social engagements during this time. It mirrors the mothering stage of life, when we nurture people, projects or both.
“The body has a lot of energy to direct in various ways,” she explains, “so if we’re given a critique or criticism, we can decide what direction to go with that, versus darker cycle times when we don’t have the energy, the self-confidence, the bubbliness.”
Eventually, autumn comes, like the waning moon and pre-menstrual/luteal time. It’s an interval for slowing down and reflection — the most profound time for intuition; it can also be a time of confusion, as opposed to summer’s enthusiastic “yes” momentum. In this life phase, the Magna Healer, we harvest our talents, wisdom and creativity.
“During this time, we really need to care so much for ourselves. This is the time for setting boundaries,” Tarduno adds. “Our energy starts to move from outward and giving to inward; we start to become a little more discerning about where our energy goes … what do I want to keep, what do I want to finish?”
We can tap into a specific life stage when seasons or moon phases support that energy. For instance, we can most easily access the youthful maiden through the newness of spring or the wise crone during phases that support contemplation.
Women who don’t menstruate, as well as men, can most readily tune into moon phases or seasons. However, men tend to follow 24-day cycles, typically feeling more energetic in the morning and more tired as night sets in, says Emma Kelleher, a Summit County yoga instructor and massage therapist, as opposed to women’s monthly cyclical patterns.
Though it’s a radical step to live cyclically in a linear culture, you don’t have to give up your day job. Tarduno uses yoga and meditation in the morning to check in, then tweaks her day as much as possible to flow in accordance with her energy. If she’s in her winter, she approaches tasks gently and may ask for help, or, for instance, prepare dinners in advance of her menstruation phase.
“When you live in the seasons or the moon cycle, it offers you a time to rest and digest, and I think that’s something we’re really missing,” Kelleher says. “We can easily burn ourselves out. Our vitality literally can be sucked away from our bodies.”
In fact, pounding through life isn’t always the most efficient way to accomplish goals.
“Nature never rushes, yet everything gets done,” Tarduno points out.
“The biggest takeaway in cyclical living is it’s okay and it’s natural and beautiful to be forever changing,” she says. “We don’t need to show up the same way — or better and better and happier and happier — every day. Instead, we can fluctuate.”