According to an Oriental Therapeutic perspective the word normal doesn’t tend to be used. In fact you will find a more holistic approach in that with an Oriental perspective we look for harmony. The primary outcomes for any Eastern practitioner are to seek out harmony and to maintain that balance.
There is a lot of focus to ensuring a healthy and abundant flow of Ki (Qi), Prana or Life Force Energy and as demonstrated in the Western and Eastern Perspective above each phase of the menstrual cycle must give way to another and it can only do that smoothly if all phases are flowing.
Of course our curious minds always wonder if we are normal compared to another women. The only advice I can offer is try not to compare. It’s certainly okay to get a guide of what is average but avoid comparing you cycle as good or bad compared to another. This is a basic yoga principle also – nothing is good or bad everything is constantly changing.
To help you get a better understanding of your body and how you might be able to maximise a level of harmony and balance with your body it is preferable to understand more what is happening to you physically (and perhaps emotionally) throughout your menstrual cycle.
Lets look at things from a Western Perspective first:
At menarche the pituitary gland sends off signals for the body to start to producing sex hormones. The main female hormones are:
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormones (help produce LH to release the ovum))
- Luteinising Hormone
- Testosterone (sex drive / libido)
- Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) (if pregnancy occurs)
The average cycle is 28 days with variations up between 26 - 32 days. Throughout your cycle your will experience changes to the position of your cervix, varying degrees of vaginal discharge and you can experience other symptoms including but not limited too:
- Mood changes
- Abdominal cramping
- Physical changes like breast size and tenderness
- and during the bleeding phase of your cycle you may experience different colours in your menstrual blood, heavy flow, light flow and even clotting.
The Oriental Perspective has a slightly different way of viewing the menstrual cycle:
Everything is energy and energy in balance flows in a cyclic unimpeded natural way. Menstruation should be painless with minimal symptoms of pre- and post-menstrual tension. Blood flow should have a sufficient volume and be fresh and rich in colour with no clots. The average cycle is considered 28 - 32 days and anything outside of this could indicate an imbalance.
The menstrual cycle is governed by the kidney, liver and spleen meridians and should be balanced by yin and yang energies. The reproductive system is about balancing the opposing energies of Yin and Yang to achieve homeostasis. This extract from the Nei Jing summarises it perfectly:
If there is heat, cool it;
If there is cold, warm it;
If there is dryness, moisten it;
If there is dampness, dry it;
If there is vacuity, supplement it; and
If there is repletion, drain it
Randine Lewis in her book The Infertility Cure says that a woman’s menstrual cycle is a dynamic process of hormone fluctuation (p57). Finding balance in our hormones and reproductive cycle is subject to many factors including diet, external environmental factors, lifestyle and even our ancestral patterning. Understanding our bodies requires knowledge of the patterns throughout the menstrual cycle from both a western and eastern perspective and then looking at how our own menstrual cycle fits with each of the phases.
Practices such as yoga and mediation can be highly beneficial in helping gain an understanding of your menstrual cycle and then bringing it into balance with specific practices if needed.