Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Girls Listen Up: How to Feel Normal and Maintain your Practise at That Time of Month

Now this one’s for the girls, but don’t you men wander away just yet – what I’m about to tell you could save you having to listen to your partner moan about how huge, uncomfortable, and out-of-action she is at that time of month. Just be careful how you go about passing on my suggestions!

Now, I know I’m not the only woman out there who puffs up when I get my period. Let alone a week beforehand! I know it because every new client who comes to see me tells me all about it!

I mean, really, we do have it a bit tough. Mood swings I can handle (even if everyone around me can’t handle me), but it’s just so frustrating to feel like all the hard work, sweaty clothes, early-morning or late-night practise, not to mention a general attempt at healthy living was paying off; and then BAM! It’s like flipping a switch for some women! Overnight you seem to gain not just one but several spare tyres, your emotions spiral out of control, and your energy slumps as you contemplate working your way through the entire confectionary aisle. Many women consider this an optimal time to take a break from life. To cross Bikram out of their diary, pause their gym memberships, and say good-bye to healthy home cooked meals.

Over the years, as I’ve come to understand more about how hormones affect us at that time, and after trying and testing just about anything, I've found some semblance of an answer.

So here’s what works. Seriously. Remember - you could continue to moan and whinge and consume chocolate like a one-woman army, or you could just try the following tricks, and feel (at least) semi-human during this tormenting time.

Flatten your Bloated Tum By Avoiding Processed Carbohydrate

Regular readers will know that I don’t encourage you to eat processed carbs as part of your regular diet. By processed carbs, I mean white breads, pasta, rice and even white potatos. Cakes, biscuits, chocolates, crisps and soft drinks also fall into this category. Around that time of month (a week before, and during), it’s particularly important to replace these foods with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. This is because processed carbs contribute to out-of-whack hormones, and may cause an additional output of estrogen – one of whose jobs is to make your body think it’s pregnant! Which equals: bigger. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Curb Cravings and Up Your Exercise Desire with Quality Protein and Fat

During times of stress or hormonal change, you’ll often notice sweet cravings. In many cases, this is because your body is not getting the building blocks it needs to run your system, balance your hormones, and keep your digestive system going. In the lead-up to your next period, try increasing your intake of quality fats and proteins. Include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, organic meats such as lamb, beef and chicken thighs, and even supplement with some Omega 3 capsules. The idea is not to eat extra food (in quantity), it’s more about changing the percentages of your carbs to protein/fat slightly in favour of more protein/fats. I guarantee this works – I haven’t had a single client for whom it hasn’t!

Flush out the fluid with sea salt

I plan to write soon on the benefits of adding sea salt to your water during practise. In my opinion, it's almost a must. In the meantime, think about this: many people believe salt consumption will make them retain fluid. Whilst this is true, lack of salt can also cause you to puff up! If you’re cautious about salt consumption, this could be you! I’m not talking about bleached white table salt – go for the grey chunky sea salt crystals. You’ll find them in any health food or organic store. Add a few pinches to your water and meals and watch your body deflate. On Bikram days, go for a little extra to replace what’s lost when you sweat.

De-bloat your Belly with Gentle Exercise

Please, please, please – don’t be one of those girls who shies off Yoga - or indeed any exercise - for a week when you’ve got your period! Honestly – you’re not that fragile. While it’s true that high-impact exercise, record setting lifts in the gym, or Bikram in the front row without a handy bottle of water may not be a great idea at this time, gentle exercise is a great idea. Bikram is one of the best things you can do for your body at this time. It will lift your energy, get your digestive system moving, and can also mean at least 90 minutes in the day when you won’t be sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and giving in to sweet temptation.

What are your tricks for keeping your body on track and sticking with your practise during your period? Get involved in the Bikram Fitzroy community by leaving a comment below.

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