Yoga & Cycle Tracking for Hormone Balance [Podcast with April Tesson - The Period Yogi] - PCOS Diva
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Yoga & Cycle Tracking for Hormone Balance [Podcast with April Tesson – The Period Yogi]

“I started to honor how I was feeling in different phases of my cycle and adapt my yoga practice to support all these shifts that were happening day to day with my hormones. As a result, a lot of the period problems I was having started to improve: less pain, decreased stress, better sleep, and more energy.” – April Tesson, The Period Yogi

In today’s podcast, I speak with April Tesson, the founder of The Period Yogi – an online yoga membership that helps women pair their yoga with the natural rhythms of their menstrual cycle.

April weaves together a holistic, therapeutic approach to menstruation and the uniqueness of the female body to create customized movement practices that nourish the four distinct phases of your cycle.

Instead of working against your body’s natural ebbs and flows, her classes support your changing needs throughout the month to optimize your flow.

She teaches you how to easily track your phases (and gives us a free tracker) so you can know your body on a deeper level and tap into its innate wisdom and power.

The Period Yogi helps women who:

  • Need relief from period pain that’s dragging you down
  • Want help regulating stress levels
  • Are dealing with monthly pain from Endometriosis or PCOS and want to find holistic support
  • Are transitioning off hormonal birth control and want to reconnect with your cycle
  • Are on the perimenopause rollercoaster and want to ease symptoms naturally
  • Are post-menopause or not cycling and feel untethered without a cyclical rhythm

All PCOS Diva podcasts are available on:itunes-buttonitunes-button

Resources mentioned:

The Period Yogi
Free Cycle Tracker & Free yoga videos (for each phase of your cycle)
PCOS Diva Podcast #142 – Maximize Fitness: Pairing Movement with your Natural Cycles

April is a yoga and Pilates teacher and the founder of The Period Yogi, an online yoga membership site that teaches women how to use yoga to support hormonal balance, adjust their practice for different phases of the cycle, and experience power and ease throughout their cycles.

She’s also the owner of Centered Pilates + Yoga, a boutique fitness studio.

 

 

 

Complete Transcript:

Amy:

Understanding my cycle was really my very first step to healing PCOS. It was actually how I got diagnosed. I know I’ve talked about it on the podcast before, but I was doing Natural Family Planning using the Creighton Model and that is how I discovered charting my cycle, that I actually had PCOS. So really understanding my cycle helped me to support my cycle through things like seed cycling and pairing my movement with my cycle. As we talk about in podcast episode 142, if you’re interested in learning more about that, but today we’re going to be talking about pairing yoga with your cycle.

Amy:

Yoga is not only a wonderful, supportive way to manage stress and high cortisol, which many of us are dealing with and we’re going to talk about this on this podcast episode, but it also can be used to support your cycle. And I invited April Tesson, she is a yoga and Pilates teacher, and she’s the founder of The Period Yogi. It’s an online yoga site that teaches women how to use yoga to support hormonal balance, adjust their practice for those different phases of our cycles. And we then can experience power and ease through our cycles with her yoga method. So I’m really thrilled to have April on the PCOS Diva Podcast today. Welcome.

April Tesson:

Hi Amy, thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

Amy:

So as I was going through your website, I was reading your story in the about me section, and it’s so amazing how so many women that I’ve had on the podcast have had their own health journey, health crisis that they have overcome and then they use that knowledge to then empower other women. And you definitely have a story that I would love for you to share with our listeners because I think they’ll be able to really connect with some of the things that you were going through and then to learn how yoga has helped you.

April Tesson:

Yeah. So I guess when I think about my hormonal journey, we’ll call it. I think about it in three phases, basically like my 20s, my 30s and my 40s. So throughout 20s my cycle was pretty much a non-issue. I knew nothing about my hormones or eating healthy. So I was putting a lot of wear and tear on my body, but I was younger and more resilient. So besides having irregular cycles, my hormones weren’t really on my radar at all. But then as I entered my 30s, I had a baby in my early 30s and I kind of noticed things starting to shift a little bit. And then I went through this really stressful time when my son was young, trying to unravel some medical issues that he had going on, which turned out to be Lyme Disease. So those years really took a toll on my health because my stress level was through the roof.

April Tesson:

I wasn’t sleeping well and I also wasn’t taking good care of myself because I was so busy taking care of my son. But I was in that time still continuing to ask just as much of my body as I always had, I was still practicing the fast, challenging style of yoga that I’d always loved and just relying on coffee and sugar to push through the day. But over time, the wear and tear that I was putting my body through was starting to show up in various ways. My skin was a mess. I was really incredibly tired every day, morning to night. And I had these recurring injuries from my yoga practice. So my body was trying to communicate with me but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy to listen, but then as my son’s health improved I was able to put some focus back on myself.

April Tesson:

And what I realized was that my health had slowly declined. So I started working with a naturopath and I started focusing on adrenal recovery specifically and I got some good supplements. I really trimmed all the excess from our schedules so I could rest more. I quit coffee, I cleaned up my diet and I noticed that over time my skin got clearer, my energy levels improved and I was sleeping better and things overall were just on the upswing. But then phase three, as I started to get closer to my 40s, I noticed some new things popping up and it happened so gradually that I think sometimes when it’s this slow decline, you lose sight of just how much things have changed or how far you’ve drifted from optimal health it just kind of sneaks up on you. And that’s definitely how I felt.

April Tesson:

So I was in my early 40s, I’m 43 now, but I’d put on a few extra pounds and I couldn’t seem to shake them using all of my tried and true methods. I had bloating that came and went. I was getting a lot of headaches. I developed seasonal allergies for the first time in my life. I had these mid afternoon crashes and also mystery rashes that came and went. That was my biggest red flag was when I started getting these rashes. I was like, something’s going on here. So I knew something was off and I wanted to get to the root cause of it. So I started doing a lot of reading and researching and all signs were pointing to hormonal imbalance. And, in this research and learning, I found out really quick that I knew so little about my hormones and my menstrual cycle. So little, and I was 40 so it was kind of mind blowing.

April Tesson:

And I just kept thinking as I was learning all these new things, that one, I really wish that I had known all of this out of the gate when my period first started. And two, that I just felt really passionate that I wanted to share this information with other women so that they could start to feel better and understand their bodies more and start getting to the root of the issues instead of just pushing through their days like I was doing for so long. And so with everything that I was learning, I started making some changes to my diet and lifestyle changes. And I got really tuned into the subtleties of my cycle through cycle tracking. And I was a little bit resistant to that at first it was just, kind of felt like one more thing to do.

April Tesson:

So I definitely put it off for a few months. I was like, “Oh, I kind of know where I’m at in my cycle. I don’t really need to do this extra effort of being official about writing things down.” But when I did start officially tracking it, things definitely started to pivot. And I started to honor how I was feeling in different phases of my cycle. And I started adapting my movement practices to support all these shifts that were happening day to day with my hormones. And I really started to notice that a lot of those period problems that I was having, they were starting to improve. And I came to the realization that with the right lifestyle changes that I had really gotten my hormones back on track and resolved a lot of the discomfort that I was experiencing pretty much two weeks out of every month.

Amy:

So as I’m listening to your story with my health coach lens on, I’m hearing that you had a lot of adrenal issues.

April Tesson:

Yes.

Amy:

And I think a lot of women listening, women with PCOS tend to have adrenal issues. We also tend to be kind of type A and we just sort of power through, as you… Sounds like what you were doing as well. And that’s how I was, especially with my workouts. And I know now, at 50, I’m still getting cycles every, 28 days or so, which is awesome. But I know that I can’t power through workouts anymore, especially for me, it’s in that luteal getting ready for menstruation I’m exhausted and I really need to, as you said, honor what your body’s saying and honor those cycles and I have to dial back and that I think has helped with my adrenals. And I’m just curious if you had a similar insight.

April Tesson:

Yeah, I totally agree. And I think that a lot of it was just kind of reprogramming your approach to movement because for so long I thought I need to do something every day. It needs to be vigorous. I need to be burning a certain amount of calories. It doesn’t matter how I feel, I have to fit this in. So sort of stepping away from that mentality and cultivating this deeper understanding of how our hormones are functioning and how my body is working on a deeper level and then adapting movement to support that instead of work against it has been a big shift for me. And I think also too, as I started getting older the things that I used to do didn’t feel as good in my body. And I was noticing that the more vigorous yoga that I practiced, I was starting to feel discomfort. And so I was just searching also for a shift, just in my approach to exercise that would support longevity and sustainability in my life.

Amy:

So you talked about cycle tracking and as I mentioned for me, it was really my first step, but back gosh, how many years ago now? 19, 20 years ago, I was using a paper with baby stickers, very cumbersome. I’m curious what cycle tracker you use and what have you found that really works for you?

April Tesson:

Yeah. So I mean the first step to start moving with your cycle is to track your cycle. And I’m kind of anti-tech so I know a lot of ladies out there, they love these apps and different tech gadgets to track their cycles. But I worry a lot about privacy with those things. So I’m a little bit old school when it comes to tracking and I’ve tried a few different methods. I had like a beautiful journal that I used for a while but honestly… And I also have a free tracker and guide on my website if ladies want to go there to download that. But in all honesty, I have an old school paper calendar, big desk calendar that sits on my desk and just very low tech, I will write in the first day of my cycle and if a day pops up where I have a headache or something going on, I’ll just jot that down really quickly.

April Tesson:

And I think having something that’s the least complicated for me allows me to be consistent with it. Because if it’s something that I have to remember to do every day or I miss like certain days on calendar or whatever, then I feel like I need to catch up and go back. And so just this method works for me. It’s very, very low tech, but I think finding the right, you know, method or how your brain works is key too, to being consistent with it.

Amy:

Yeah. I think I like the idea of having the desk calendar. I’m even thinking like a calendar that’s taped to your bathroom mirror because you’re there brushing your teeth every day. It’d be really easy to just sort of jot down where you are. So making sure that you’re tracking your cycles, what if women listening, and they’re just really struggling with their cycle, they’re not ovulating, they’re not bleeding, it’s just this is part of the PCOS journey for some women as they start the healing process. So if they don’t really have a cycle to track, how do you move forward with your method?

April Tesson:

Yeah. So we also have this beautiful natural gift in our universe in the moon. So the moon is cyclical as well. So I like to encourage ladies that aren’t cycling or maybe they’re in perimenopause or menopause that they can use the moon as a guide to sort of hook into and connect with a cyclical rhythm.

Amy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then maybe noting how you’re feeling in different phases of the moon cycle maybe, if you do have headaches at a different point or you feel more energetic or-

April Tesson:

Right, for sure. I think like if you’re really trying to connect to a cycle and yours is erratic or not present, then using the moon as a guide is really helpful. And then also continuing to note how you feel throughout the month and see over time you might notice some patterns starting to pop up and then you can start to sort of arrange your life around what might be happening week to week and phase to phase.

Amy:

So in looking as I mentioned in my cycle, like right before, the couple days before I start my period, I’m exhausted. I often feel like I have to take a nap and if I do, I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. I think if I look at my cycle pattern, that is something that I really recognize. But just curious if you might go through each of the four phases and maybe describe what your clients seem to see as patterns in their cycles and how that connects with your method of yoga.

April Tesson:

Yeah. So if you want, I’ll just go through like a quick little overview of each of the phases and important things to note within each one in regards to tracking. Yeah.

Amy:

Perfect.

April Tesson:

Okay. So we think about the phases, there’s four, four phases and phase one is menstruation. So that’s the first phase of your cycle and it starts on day one of your period. And it lasts roughly three to seven days and hormonally, estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels of your entire cycle in this phase. And that can have a huge impact on how you’re feeling and your energy levels. So for tracking, you’ll just want to note that this is day one of your period and the amount of days that you bleed or spot. And you’ll also want to just kind of jot down the intensity of your flow and any other symptoms that pop up like headaches or cramping or skin issues, energy levels, sleep quality.

April Tesson:

And then after phase one, we’ve got phase two and that’s your follicular phase. And that begins when your period wraps up and it ends right before ovulation. And the big thing happening in this phase is that your body is gearing up for ovulation. So that brings a rise in hormones like estrogen and testosterone and serotonin and dopamine, which can all be great for mood and energy and libido. So with tracking, you’ll want to just note how you’re feeling and you’ll be able to predict your life, that this might be a time when you might want to be more social or have more intense workouts. And then you’ll just want to note anything positive or negative, because sometimes we just kind of focus on the negative aspects of our cycle, but if you’re feeling really good, maybe you want to jot that down and then you’ll kind of come to know that at this point in your cycle over time, you might see some patterns develop and be like, oh in day 12, I feel amazing so I’m going to schedule my podcast for that day.

April Tesson:

And then moving along, we’ve got phase three ovulation and that’s the shortest phase of your cycle. It just lasts about 24 to 48 hours but even though it’s the shortest phase, it’s kind of the main event here and it’s what your body’s been gearing up for. So your hormones are peaking and you’re probably feeling really good. And then for tracking, you’ll just want to jot down anything you notice in regards to energy levels, mood, anything physical. And some women, I’ll note here that some women might experience mild cramping during ovulation, but anything more intense or any spotting that’s happening around ovulation, you’ll definitely want to make note of and keep an eye on. And then we’ve got phase four, which is your luteal phase, which I like to refer to this phase as a mixed bag, which you kind of touched on before Amy.

April Tesson:

It’s the longest phase of your cycle, it’s about 10 to 16 days in between ovulation and the first day of your period. So you can imagine that in the first half of your luteal phase, you’ve got these high hormones just coming off of ovulation. So you’re probably feeling pretty good still, but then as you get closer to the start of your period and your estrogen is dropping off, and this might be when some of those typical PMS symptoms might start to make an appearance. So as far as tracking in this phase, you’ll just want to note anything that comes up for you like cramping or headaches, your energy level, your mood, maybe you’re impatient, maybe you are feeling more introverted and also note any days of spotting that might happen before your period begins.

Amy:

I think appetite too, of women at this state, you often crave like the comfort carb foods.

April Tesson:

Chocolate. Yes, absolutely.

Amy:

Okay. So now that we’ve sort of described the phases, how does your yoga practice kind of tie into all of this?

April Tesson:

Yeah so with all of this new knowledge that I started to understand about my cycle and that was tracking, I started to play around with my yoga and Pilates practices and I started getting really specific and targeted with my approaches to movement throughout my cycle so that I could start to offer my body support when it needed it and challenge it when it was primed for it. And I just think like for some many years I looked at each day the same and expected exactly the same performance from myself. So on days I wasn’t feeling up to practicing or moving, I’d kind of beat myself up and feel guilty for not pushing more or I’d label myself a slacker or lazy if I didn’t exercise or exercise enough that day.

April Tesson:

So I feel like before I talk about the movement, just knowing where you’re at so that you can just be a little kinder to yourself is really a good thing. And then as I started to adapt my practice, I also just kind of dipped into like the history of yoga. I looked at the practice, I took a step back and was like, 70% of people that practice yoga are women, but in the decades that… I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 plus years and in the decades that I’ve been practicing and I’ve probably been to hundreds of classes, but I could probably count on my hands the number of times that women’s hormones or cycles were ever mentioned in class. And it was always in exactly the same context. We’d be at the point in class, I don’t know if you’ve been to a class where this came up before Amy or not, but we’d be at the end of class and it would be time to do an inversion-

Amy:

Exactly.

April Tesson:

The teacher would… Yeah, exactly. It’s always the same. And the teacher would say… And this is very rare that it would ever be mentioned, but if it was mentioned, it would be, “Ladies, if you’re menstruating, you should do a different pose like badha kasana so you’re not going upside down.” But never more than that. Not even really an explanation of why you shouldn’t go upside down and there’s really no evidence to say whether it’s good or not good to go upside on your period. But that’s a side note, but I can tell you that personally I never paid attention to the suggestion because I didn’t want to be singled out in the class and everyone to know that I was on my period.

Amy:

Exactly.

April Tesson:

Right. I think back to all those hard, hot, sweaty classes that I went to and filled with mostly women coming to the same level of practice every day and just trying to power through, which is really contrary to the principle of yoga that you’re trying to get more connected to your body and more quiet so that you can tune into the subtleties. So it seemed like a contradiction to me. So I was pretty inspired to start adapting things to suit women’s bodies.

Amy:

Yeah and I’m also thinking about hot yoga which I used to do a lot of probably, I don’t know, 10 years ago, but now maybe I wouldn’t be as heat tolerant and thinking of this from a cycle approach in certain phases of my cycle. So that might be something to think about as well.

April Tesson:

Totally. And if you even go back further, I mean, yoga was created originally for men’s bodies. So the original practice is pretty much designed around men’s bodies. I mean, it’s evolved over time, but I think it can go a little further too.

Amy:

Oh, that’s interesting.

April Tesson:

Yeah, yeah.

Amy:

So I know that you have some yoga practices available if you want to try your method. So I just, I wanted you to mention that before we go further.

April Tesson:

Yeah. Yeah. So at my website, ThePeriodYogi.com, if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll receive a series of four mini classes that correspond with the four different phases of your cycle. So feel free to do that.

Amy:  (24.33)

Oh, that’s perfect. So we were talking earlier about adrenal health and stress. And it was funny because I just had a conversation with my newly teenage, 13 year old daughter on the way to school. And she was having a lot of anxiety and stress and I have a feeling her hormones are kind of kicking into gear and, I was explaining to her that she needs tools in her tool kit to help control her stress. And I mentioned a stress essential oil blend, which I’m going to work on putting together for her. She’s going to have it and a roller, so she can take it out at school. We talked about exercise and maybe doing more vigorous exercise, deep breathing was another one, maybe taking a bath at nighttime.

Amy:

So I think it’s just so important for women because as I said to her, stress is not going to go away just because you graduate seventh grade, you’re going to still have stress in your life and you just need to learn how to manage it. And I think yoga and Pilates and things like Pure Barre which is sort of a fusion of a lot of different sort of mindful practices are great ways to manage stress and support cortisol management. So chat with us about how you see that helping and how that helped you with your stress management.

 

Amy:

So I often recommend women with PCOS having lots of tools in their stress toolkit, like essential oils and breathing practice, even things like CBD oil and definitely movement. For some of us that’s picking up our movement like running, but tell us April how yoga has helped you with your stress management and your adrenal health.

April Tesson:

Yeah. I’ve been practicing yoga for so long, like couple decades now so my practice has really evolved because in the beginning it was just more about challenge and how hard could I push myself? And then as hormonal stuff started to creep into the picture, it’s sort of shifted into a more supportive role and in supporting my body and my stress levels. And my practice shifted to really help me balance my hormones. And it became instead of a physical challenge more of a nurturing and supportive practice.

Amy:

And I think that is important, we need to be nurturing and supportive of ourselves. I think sometimes we are our own worst enemies and we cause some undue stress. So you’re right, really honoring your cycle, being very mindful of and in touch with your body where it’s at and not to kind of place any more added stress onto it with too vigorous of movement. Maybe this isn’t the day to go for a 10K run and doing some restorative yoga is just what your body needs.

April Tesson:

Totally. I mean, less can be more with a lot of hormonal conditions, especially PCOS. And I think focusing on less intensity, but not less movement through things like yoga and Pilates or breathing, low impact strength, training or walking can be really beneficial.

Amy:

Yeah. That’s I think a perfect place to end our podcast today, April. And again, just let everybody know where they can find you and your work.

April Tesson:

Yeah. So you can find me at my website, which is ThePeriodYogi.com, or on Instagram, same name at ThePeriodYogi.

Amy:

Perfect. And then we will put a link to your tracker in the show notes. It’s a free tracker and also to sign up for the newsletter for the free Period Yogi practices.

April Tesson:

Perfect.

Amy:

Well, thank you so much April for joining us and thank you everyone for listening. I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye-bye.

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