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In our previous blog, yoga teacher Elena introduced us to her Yoga Buds Yoga Blossoms for tween and teen girls. These sessions run over x weeks and are designed to help girls address their developmental changes and needs through physical movement and breath. In this blog 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, honouring the matrilineal connections they hold. In Part II, we learn more activities that you can do at home to connect and share menstruation and menopausal knowledge and hold space for these in your family and community.

  • Partner yoga The roles switch. The daughter teaches Mum now. She knows the ropes. She leads mother, correcting her, even criticizing her and maybe helping her. For most mums and daughters sharing asanas together this will be a delightful novelty.
    • Before any movement practice, take the opportunity to always talk about menstruation. More than likely, one of the women will be on her bleed. In my yoga book this means no inversions; better safe than sorry! A great chance to mention Apana’s function and our ayurvedic understanding of the cycle!* For more see this site.
  • My aims are to ground, de-stress, rest. With so much uncertainty around, remember Tich Nath Hanh’s tree in the storm: focus on the trunk, where the stability, the grounding reside. Take attention away from the top of the tree (our head) which is more liable to be swayed around by the changing winds. So Tree pose it is. In pairs or mums and daughters facing each other. Who can balance the longest? A bonus: unbeknown to the mums, this is a top-notch asana for bone density and maintaining blood health.
  • Rolling around, balancing, falling over, laughing, stretching, breathing together, daring one another, faces flushed, stress peels away layer by layer. Choose yoga poses with the most eye contact, encouraging them to gently guide each other through consent-seeking feedback, stretching the limits of trust and building sovereignty.
  • If you have the props, show them how to prop themselves into Supported Supta Badhakonasana (see picture below). A panacea for the Parasympathetic nervous system activation, it releases tension in the female reproductive system , and  an antidote to migraines amongst other miraculous properties.
  •  Inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Repeat up to 10 breaths
  • Especially during transitional times and winner of my top of the pop’s menstrual asana safety badge. Blankets add to the magic.
  • By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, this in turn reduces our neurophysiological experience of stress. It reduces our heart rate and blood pressure. It influences the limbic system in our brain, where emotions are processed.
  • Prepare a topic or use a visualization, being mindful about possible triggers. A lovely one uses the inner seasons of the menstrual cycle, drawing parallels between the day’s cycle, the wheel of seasons and the breath. Summer beaming at the top of the inhale and winter’s darkest, quietest time at the end of the exhale. Sometimes I describe a beautiful place in nature for the visualization and introduce either a friendly spirit animal guide or a wise woman bringing a special message/gift for them.
  • For a self-care topic girls and women all love ‘Magic Cauldron’, using nature’s wisdom: combining healing herbs, while discussing their properties and the importance of self-care. The room will smell like heaven.
    Here’s a recipe:

    • Epsom Salts, fragrant herbs like chamomile flowers, lavender, dried roses, rosemary, calendula, and essential oils (asthma alert!). Or to keep it simple just lavender and rose. Sit in a circle and display the herbs either in little bowls (they look gorgeous) or paper bags. Place a big mixing bowl in the middle of the mandala. Have a large mixing spoon handy. Ask pairs to make a positive wish for themselves – or a relative or friend, the earth, an animal, or plant- as they sprinkle some herbs into the communal bowl stirring three times, holding the spoon together. Everyone has a turn. Spoon into jars. Result: a love potion full of good vibes to beat any blues!
  • A great tool I discovered thanks to Jane Bennett (Celebration Day for Girls), are the Strength Cards. Encouraging positivity and confidence their brilliant illustrations describe different emotional qualities: being confident, capable, resourceful, considerate, creative etc. There are MANY cards so prepare in advance to avoid flustering! Ask the daughters and mothers in turn to pick:
  • A card that describes something they love in their daughter/mother
  • A card that describes a quality they like in themselves
  • Holding up the chosen cards, take turns to say what they chose and why. A very affirming practice and great fun. It encourages group sharing and helps everyone know each other better.
  • Otherwise, try Tich Nath Hanh’s wonderful ‘Watering the flower’. This profoundly moving practice encourages us to appreciate the other person by watering their good qualities as if they were a flower.
  • Light a candle. Mother and daughter seat facing each other. Inviting the bell, set up an even rhythm of breath working up to 5/6 breaths per minute for three rounds.
  • If you like the idea of making a mandala, use any flowers in the Mandala as presents that each person can give to the other at the end. Or ask them beforehand to make something or gather a beautiful object from nature which reminds them of the other person and bring it to the session to offer as a present.
  • A magical way to end the session is with a hugging meditation, either in pairs or with the whole group. This is an extremely validating and emotionally healing practice for both mothers and daughter’s, which will have a transformative effect in their relationship.  And for you as well!

Yoga Buds Yoga Blossoms, including Mothers & Daughters sessions, has been some of the most rewarding work that I have had the good fortune to do in my cycle-holding life. I hope some of these activities inspire you to try them in your groups or at home.

*In yoga and Sanskrit Apana is energy that moves downwards, opposite to Prana being energy that moves up. In Ayurvedic medicine, inversions are considered  an impediment to the efficient expulsion of blood and toxins during the menses as they reverse the flow and overload the uterus with more blood.

Elena Riu

Yoga for Musicians, Well Woman Yoga, Activist, Artist, Menstrualist, Pianist

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.