By Jenette Vizcocho
When was the last time you told somebody the whole truth, unflinching at what you might uncover or hear yourself say? Imagine sharing your story to someone who does not react, does not smile or frown, does not nod as they listen, does not speak or reach out to you when you find yourself tearing up. I was sitting in front of a woman who just a day ago, was a total stranger, telling her things about my life, what works, what needs paying attention to, what is forgotten or totally ignored, what was glossed over, how honest was I at rating my life? The woman I was talking to was not uninterested in what I had to say, in fact she was the opposite of that. She was allowing me space to confront my truth. The funny thing was everything I had said to her I had already written down, thought of, or shared with someone else, but when you are answered with nothing where a hug, a smile, or words of encouragement would normally come in, you are given that time to ponder at your own definition of joy, love, health, and well-being. That is where personal truth kicks in. And sometimes it kicks hard if only to get us to listen.
In these times where we entrust our decisions on exterior stimuli more than our own gut and heart, we often end up taking a job, choosing a partner, forging a life, or saying yes to please others. It’s usually unconscious, brought about by how we are raised, who we surround ourselves with, our culture, and in large part by the media. We see an image and peg it as what a woman, wife, mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend should be. We keep at this and sooner or later we don’t listen to our bodies, forego what we want, or even come to a point where we don’t know what to do without anyone telling us. Unfortunately, a disconnect in one aspect of our lives usually spells doom for the rest of it, and there is no better indicator than our monthly flow. Enter Dona Tumacder-Esteban, and thank God- thank Goddess- for her.
Dona is a Women’s Wellbeing Advocate, a champion of the Period Project, a Yin Yoga therapist and practitioner, and a Wellbeing and Nutrition Counsellor. Yoga+ has been the home for most of Dona’s immersions, the studio is big enough to welcome twenty other women in the room, yet intimate enough that stories can be shared in confidence. With March being Women’s Month, a Women’s Well-Being Weekend Immersion seemed apt. It is three months into a new year, enough time for women to check in with how things are, how we are doing with our personal goals, and what signs and symptoms our bodies manifest, asking for care and attention.
Somatic exercises were employed to increase awareness of movement patterns.
Mini breaks were spread throughout the day so that participants could share what they felt, thought, or realized as they moved.
Patches of silence to fully feel the body.
Women sit in a circle and share their truth.
Women’s Life Force Lunch was prepared by the Raw Food Fairy with the menstrual cycle in mind.
Dona Esteban is a Women’s Wellbeing Advocate, a champion of the Period Project, a Yin Yoga therapist and practitioner, and a Wellbeing and Nutrition Counsellor.
The products that we use in our daily routines affect our overall well-being.
When I thought of the menstrual cycle I used to only focus on how often and how long I bled. Everything else is sort of a blur of hunger pangs, mood swings, back pain, and quite recently even pelvic pain in between the blood phase. Through the course of the two-day Women’s Well-Being Weekend Immersion, Dona broke down for us that any disruption or change in our periods meant we were unable to honor the energy flow of our phases, meaning those nights spent binge-watching Netflix a few weeks ago have come a-knocking, or how that stressful deadline you hurdled through fueled on naps and coffee is taking its toll, or how eating an entire birthday cake because you were celebrating led to the dip in energy, the craving for more, the emotional rollercoaster, the aches and pains, the sluggish, clotted bleeding during menstruation, perhaps even its total disappearance, perhaps difficulties with the ovaries and fertility.
It’s just menstruation, what does it have to do with anything as woo woo as personal truth? Maybe it has everything to do with it. We can lie about our medical history, we can lie to our doctors, we can lie to ourselves, but our bodies will sooner or later betray us for our truth. And the truth that I loved hearing but my body and how I nourish it still needs to remember is that Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) as an inevitable and unavoidable part of menstruation is a load of bull. I think in some way I have come to rely on PMS, that annoying old friend that allows me to be moody and sensitive and insatiable and impatient with the world. It’s easier to swallow the myth than tell myself, oh wow, all those nights I spent staring at a screen have drained my energy, or I am feeling bloated because I have not been eating well and now my body craves salt and sugar, or I’m being very snarky today because I have not stopped to rest even when I am physically and mentally fatigued. Enter PMS to account for everything I dislike about myself and my actions, it’s not me, it’s PMS! And when the period finally comes around, it’s a mixture of relief and dread, of hiding the fact that your bleeding, of pain and shame, apologizing for or being accused of behaving a certain way because it’s “that time of the month!”
With all this fear, misinformation, and negativity surrounding an actually wonderful human process, how do we start healing? Here is where truth comes in again. Throughout the course of the two days whether having talks with a partner, giving and receiving massages, dancing around the room, or enjoying our thoughtfully prepared lunch, Dona asked us to employ somatic awareness where our goal is not to focus on how we looked like when we assumed deceptively simple poses, but to notice how aware we were of our bodies. Which foot did we step forward with? How did our bodies feel when we bent over? How is our breath? Where is our gaze as we moved? How did we like being touch? How did we allow others to receive our touch? How did we feel as we told someone our stories? What thoughts and reactions arose as we listened? How do we feel when we are asked to repeatedly perform actions that embody grounding, flexibility, openness, resolution, and centering, the very cycle of our everyday lives? Deceptively simple because in the simplicity of our tasks, we often forget we perform them. Now imagine how we go about our daily lives of wake-eat-Facebook-work-text-commute-sleep-rinse-repeat doing the same thing day in and day out with hardly any awareness of how we think, feel, or react? By taking things slow and simple, we were given a chance to befriend our personal truth, not to question it or try to change it, but to realize where we are doing well and where we need to adjust our energy or our beliefs.
It was a weekend with women who shared the same curiosity and energy, laughing, crying, hugging, covering our eyes in disbelief, giving and receiving, and finally realizing that putting ourselves first is not an act of selfishness, but one of self-love. We began and ended each day in a circle, bravely throwing our truth into the ring, knowing it is heard and it is safe. Our cycle, our energies, our lives are all in this circle. It is a gift. One I am grateful to have received. And one I want to share with you.
Yoga+ is hosting another round of Women’s Wellbeing Workshops this September 23 -24, 2017. Visit https://www.yogaplus.ph/ for information.