'Women spend a lot of time hiding and carrying shame' – Ireland's first Period Coach

You might not be aware of it, but apparently we are at the start of a ‘period revolution’.

After years of using euphemisms to describe hormonal cycles (‘Time of the month’, ‘women’s problems’, ‘tummy cramps’, ’a visit from Aunt Flo’) women are beginning to talk more openly about their bodies.

There are gynae gyms, and vulva sheet masks, womb yoga classes, and menstruation therapists.

Ads for sanitary products no longer feature blue liquid gel demonstrations, and the market for hormonal and cyclical skin care products continues to rise.

Dubliner Lisa de Jong is a Period Coach and Womb Yoga Practitioner and says the revolution has been a long time coming.

“Women spend a lot of time masking their periods,” she said.

“We try and hide the symptoms and put on a happy face. Covering it up causes more tension. We carry that sense of social shame in our bodies.”

In her early twenties de Jong worked in the corporate world; in IT for Google in Dublin, and for RBS in London.

She struggled with extreme period pain and would often have to hide in the bathrooms at work ‘suffering alone’.

Her pain was so acute that she considered undergoing a hysterectomy. Whenever she sought advice from medical consultants she was advised to go on the pill, or offered painkillers.

When she was 29 she was diagnosed with endometriosis, and started to look for alternative options to handle hormonal changes and discomfort.

She came across the Red School which aims to “discover the magic of your menstrual cycle and awaken the feminine path to power”.

Shortly afterwards she set up her own business, www.yourcyclematters.com, and now works as a menstrual coach and womb yoga practitioner to help women through the trials and tribulations of their monthly cycle.

“It is all about understanding and accepting our bodies. That can be a slow process and sometimes can take six months to starts seeing significant results. There is a psychological aspect to the coaching and also a focus on self-care.”

She offers Womb Yoga classes that utilises restorative yoga positions to relieve stress in lower backs and abdomen. She also advises women to track their periods and keep menstruation journals.

“If you noticed that you tend to get intense PMS on the 24th day of your cycle than you can make changes in your life to alleviate those symptons.”

Working with your period can be massively beneficial.

The American soccer team deployed a period tracking programme to minimise the adverse performance impact of the menstrual cycle during the World Cup.

And England women’s hockey team have been tracking their periods since before the 2012 Olympics.

By understanding the rhythm of your menstrual cycle, de Jong says women can work with their bodies.

“I think of the body as having ‘inner seasons’,” de Jong explains. “Inner winter is when you are menstruating and can be an inward and reflective time.”

“Inner summer is when your oestrogen levels are at their highest and you feel like superwoman and can be highly sexualised. It’s about understanding your energy levels and managing your life around your cycle.”

This October Lisa is leading a one day Menstrual Cycle Awareness workshop in Dublin with Charlotte Amrouche – a PhD student at NUI Galway’s Global Women Studies Centre.

As part of the workshop women will practise womb meditation, and break down period stigma and taboo.

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