Part of your work as a period coach is helping people embrace their inner seasons—or the inner spring, summer, fall, and winter that corresponds to each phase of the menstrual cycle. What can we learn about ourselves by leaning into those inner seasons?
PM: When we lean into the inner seasons, we get to honor our cyclical energy and work in flow with it, rather than against it. It's very easy to completely sink into the "hustle and achieve" mentality without really listening to our bodies and how we feel. However, if we ignore our inner seasons and try to push ourselves to perform on the same level each day and don't allow ourselves to have seasons of rest and introspection, that will eventually lead to more period problems, hormonal imbalances, and burn out.
There's nothing wrong with achieving and going after your goals and dreams. In fact, I believe that realizing our dreams is one of our purposes in life. But when it's done in alignment with the inner seasons and the most demanding high-energy work is left for the spring and summer seasons, we can actually move the needle much more than we would if we did that work during a season when we naturally crave more introspection and rest.
In the same way, when we allow ourselves to rest, reflect, and receive in the lower energy seasons of autumn and winter, we can gather energy for the rest of the cycle. In addition, taking time for true, deep, cyclical self-care helps us to see ourselves with more compassion.
You were a yoga teacher before you started period coaching. How can we connect the menstrual cycle to a yoga practice? Are they any specific poses or flows you’d recommend for period symptoms?
PM: Syncing my yoga practice with my menstrual cycle is one the ways I embody my menstrual cycle, live in tune with it, and honor the inner seasons. In fact, I have created a membership called The Cycle Conscious Collective which combines cycle conscious yoga and cycle awareness in a beautiful way.
I always recommend resting on the first one or two days of the cycle and deeply connecting with your intuition through meditation or very gentle movement such as yin or restorative yoga. Forward folds and poses that target the kidney meridian, especially the lower back, are amazing for the menstrual phase. Some of my favorite poses are child's pose, knees to chest, and legs up the wall.
When we move towards the spring phase, I love incorporating more flowy movement that helps us to feel more embodied and open, and in this phase, it's great to get the heart rate up and sweat it out to help our body's natural detoxification processes. Some of my favorite poses in this phase are twists that can help with digestion and detoxification. I've recently started to add more moving meditations to my flows too where I allow my body to move intuitively without any rules or goal in mind.
To me, one of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to cycle awareness, is that we can easily be more prone to higher stress levels in the autumn phase which can manifest as a variety of symptoms such as PMS. That's why the autumn phase is great for slower movement, different grounding practices and yin yoga which is an amazing tool to release stress in the body-mind. This can positively impact our experience in the winter phase too by reducing period problems.
You identify as a “recovering overachiever”, and I can definitely relate. What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions we have culturally around productivity? Do you think there’s a way to use our menstrual cycles to be more productive?
PM: Being a (recovering) overachiever is something I like to share more and more about because it seems to be something almost every woman in my life can relate. The biggest misconception is that we should be as productive each day or that we should feel the same way every day. Culturally, we are very used to working the same hours every week and resting on the weekends, which has its roots in a patriarchal society, and cyclical beings are expected to fit themselves into this same schedule which doesn't honor the ebb and flow of our hormones and menstrual cycle.
Estrogen and testosterone, the dominant hormones through our follicular and ovulation phases, actually help us to feel good, energetic, happy, and more goal oriented, so naturally, this is the time when we can be more productive. We might feel like our minds are clearer, we feel more confident and it's easier to make decisions that help us reach our goals.
On the other hand, progesterone is the dominant hormone in the luteal phase, and it's a precursor to cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This means that when we face stressful situations in this phase, our bodies will prioritize producing cortisol over progesterone and leave us more vulnerable to even more stress. When we aim to be as productive and keep ticking things off our to-do lists in this phase when estrogen and different feel-good hormone levels are decreasing as well, we can easily end up feeling more stressed out, our minds can become foggier and our goals might start to feel too challenging.
This doesn't mean that you can only be productive during the spring and summer phases and need to go on a vacation for the rest of your cycle, it simply means that it's great to have realistic expectations as to how productive you can be in the different phases. If you have flexibility and freedom in your work, consider syncing your work tasks and schedule with your cycle to maximize your productivity in the follicular phase and minimize stress especially in the luteal phase.
We envision a world where people actually look forward to their periods! While they can certainly be challenging, what are some things we can appreciate about our periods?
PM: What a beautiful world that would be! One of the reasons I do this work is because my own periods were so challenging in the past, and I think nearly every period coach can relate to that story. Our periods are often seen as a burden so it does require some inner work in order to flip the mindset around and it also requires awareness of different period problems in order to start healing them.
Periods can be seen as the "fifth vital sign", meaning that they give us clues about our overall well being. When something feels off, it's most likely because something is slightly off, and knowing the symptoms can help us pinpoint the root cause in our endocrine system.
Periods can be a beautiful way to connect deeper with our bodies. They remind us to slow down and rest so that we remember that there is more to life than achieving and working. The winter phase is an amazing time to connect deeper with our inner wisdom and intuition which can be very helpful when we are making big decisions or looking for guidance. Healthy menstrual cycles and periods are signs of health and wellbeing, which can be very rewarding, especially if you have experienced period problems in the past!
Pirita Martikainen is a Finn living in Brisbane, a puppy mum, a recovering overachiever, a yoga teacher turned menstrual cycle coach, and an ex-career-ladder-climber who turned her passion into a business.
For years and years, she struggled with period pain, migraines, and acne, going from one hormonal contraceptive to another hoping they would “fix her”, and pushed herself to be more and more productive every day just to find herself burnt out. She wishes there was a menstrual cycle coach in her life back then, and that’s why she's here for Y-O-U today.
Pirita helps ambitious women cycle sync their lives holistically, so that they can gain more energy, feel more connected to their bodies, stress less, and feel good, every day.
Follow Pirita on Instagram @piritayoga
Learn more about her coaching packages and free cycle resources at piritayoga.com
Click here to visit her Cycle Syncing Vlog