Yoga teacher & menstrualist Elena Riu runs Yoga Buds Yoga Blossoms for tween and teen girls. These sessions run over a term and are designed to help girls address their developmental changes and needs through physical movement and breath. In this blog (in two parts) she speaks about welcoming mothers into the final session which helps extend the learnings of the sessions beyond the girls themselves and into their families, honoring the matrilineal connections they hold.
After a whole term together the excitement is palpable as girls prepare to welcome their mothers and carers into the room: mats and blankets are set down, food is chopped and arranged for snack time and the girls and I decide which yoga games or crafts to play.
Then, each girl welcomes her mum and leads her into the space, sharing a mat. In the center of the room there is a nature-inspired seasonal Mandala the girls have created together – a reminder of nature’s powerful cyclicity through the reassuring rhythm of the seasons.
The Menstrual Thread
The girls and their mothers hold opposite ends of the Menstrual Thread, which represents their different stages of life, that is, those on their way to or through the momentous portal of Menarche (first period) and those on their way to or through the equally momentous portal Menopause.
In the whirlwind of their lives, welcoming mothers to the circle offers a safe landing-pad to experience relaxation and reconnection.
For some participants, this might be their first experience of sitting in circle with other women. There might be apprehension and vulnerability, embarrassment and hope, anxiety and pride but also elation and curiosity!
The boundaries of the circle, clearly presented and framed by the teacher, provide a safe container for sharing and storytelling. Tension gives way to trust and swirling through all is a deep sense of connection enriching and supporting each girl and women and their story.
The matrilineal line spreads like a protecting veil around the room. In these sessions I have often witnessed a renaissance of intimacy, bubbling springs of laughter and conflict resolution through the healing medicines of Yoga & Breath.
There is also elation as they sit together, and LOVE fills the room. This special time offers an opportunity for deep and joyful togetherness for mothers and daughters, and for the group as a whole.
Buddhist master Tich Nath Hanh states that ‘there is no greater gift to a loved one than the gift of space’.
Through running many of these concluding sessions of Yoga Buds Yoga Blossoms I have witnessed a renaissance of intimacy, bubbling springs of laughter and conflict resolution delivered through the healing medicines of yoga, guided breath and gently, safely held circle work.
Here are some ideas of what you could include in a similar session or at home with your family or members of your community:
- Invest in a mindfulness bell. It has proven to be an invaluable ally and the girls love it. The bell invites us to look deep inside, to stop and go back to our ‘true home‘. This can also be used at home to call time for stillness, or, if necessary, a truce.
- Ritual. During the opening circle, mothers’ sit behind daughters and take turns to name the women that came before them: ‘I am Elena. Mother of Ananda. Daughter of Elena. Granddaughter of Giuseppina’. Some of the girls might have never heard their ancestors’ names before. The matrilineal line spreads like a protecting veil around the room. Passing a red thread around the circle, each mother ties a piece onto her wrist before tying it onto her daughter’s, a symbolic reminder of the sacred blood that brought us all into this world.
- I like to use ice breaker questions while moving around the room. At the sound of the bell, the nearest participants stop and take turns to say their names, give a high five and answer a question: ‘what would be your superpower?’. Or: ‘would you rather be a lake, a river or the sea and why?‘. Then move again to meet another person. It is exciting and surprising to discover new things about each other. What questions would you ask?
- Shaking the tree: start shaking fingertips and hands then, add the legs, hips, feet, shoulders, letting all our worries fall away like Autumn leaves. Continue for one minute, getting rid of negative energy and stress, wiping the slate clean for the next activity. Partner yoga in my case. Can you smile and shake simultaneously? Try saying, ‘I am stressed’ while you shake and smile. Tricky!Close your eyes: how do you feel now?
Elena will be back in a fortnight for Part II, see you then!
I have been practicing yoga since my teens. After arriving in London, I was introduced to the Shadow Yoga school by John Evans and completed the Shadow Yoga Foundation course. I completed a Red School Menstrual Cycle Awareness’s apprenticeship with Red School as well as gaining a certification in Mentoring Girls Circles with JOYW. I am the founder of Yoga Buds, Yoga Blossoms and Yoga Flowers Coming of Age Circles for girls. These weekly sessions were also inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s sacred ecology and Anthroposophy principles. I am also certified facilitator for Celebration Day for Girls, devised by Jane Bennett. Recently, I completed an Introductory training in breath-work with Breath-Body-Mind, led by Dr Gerbarg and Dr Brown- combining standard and alternative treatments focussing on mind-body practices for reducing the effects of stress and trauma. I facilitate sessions where the students acquire tools to self-regulate, I am also the creator of ‘My Dear Self’, visual art related to girls & women’s health. I am currently finishing writing a book about periods for tween girls & their mums and another one about hormones.