I’m a yoga teacher first and foremost. My yoga background is much newer than my acupuncture training or my doula work or my new fascination with charting the cycle. So I’ve got to give you all the things I’ve learned about temperature and the cycle so you can parse through them as I have to put together this post.
We all know about back pain, cramps and irritability, but how many women out there (or surveyors of women) have noticed the subtle temperature shifts throughout the cycle.
On the first day of the cycle the basal body temperature actually drops to its lowest of the cycle. Some people don’t notice this at all, others feel chilled to the bone and others are certain they are on fire. Why are we all experiencing something different while we all experience the same temperature drop? Here are four categories with very different presentations.
Normal: You may be experiencing other symptoms but with the onset of the period a temperature change isn’t one of them.
Internal Cold: At some point during bleeding last month or during ovulation you may have been exposed to very cold circumstance (surgery, prolonged exposure to cold weather, sitting on a cold ground, wearing short skirts in winter) and now you are experiencing deep cold in the abdomen with severe stabbing cramps and a very cold belly.
Yang Deficiency: There isn’t enough yang in the system to bring on the period and keep the body warm, so with the onset of the period you go stone cold to the bone. A cold so terrible you are fully clothed under covers, with heating pads and hot waterbottles and you are still freezing. The cold usually lasts for one to two days of bleeding and can’t be improved by warm clothes, warm food or exercise.
Blood/Yin Deficiency: The fluids of the body help keep the body cool. When you lose a lot of blood with the period the subtle balance of yin/yang (warm and cool, wet and dry) is altered. When the fluids are scarce and you lose a lot of blood there isn’t enough to cool the body and the heat rises up leaving you with the sense of part of the body being overheated and then quickly cooling down. This is usually associated with excessive sweating as well if there isn’t enough qi to properly maintain the opening and closing of sweat glands.
One symptom that a lot of women experience is heat at night with bleeding or right before. This could be anywhere from heat that causes you to throw off the covers, being drenched when you wake up or having scary dreams. According to Chinese Medicine they are all heat signs. It is diagnostic about when the heat at night begins. Heat before the bleeding begins is suggestive of qi stagnation and heat after is suggestive of deficient fluids.
All those chart happy women out there already know that ovulation is a significant temperature rise. For those of you who don’t chart, women’s temperatures shift from about 97.0 degrees Fahrenheit to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the cycle. Women are only over 98.0 degrees for the most part when they are in the post-ovulatory part of the cycle. One of the signs of an impending period is a drop in temperature and one of the cardinal signs that ovulation has occurred (or is hours away from occurring) is a temperature rise of more then .5 degree Fahrenheit.
Again, this is all objective temperature and Chinese Medicine is much more interested in subjective temperature.
For years I’ve instructed women not to practice bhastrika and kaphalabhati pranayama (vigorous breathing techniques) during their period because the body is so much warmer during bleeding. That is what almost all of my teachers instructed me to do because that is what their teachers instructed them to do. So let me correct this falsity. One should not practice vigorous breathing techniques during bleeding because it is too forceful and demanding on the uterus and reproductive organs. All other warming techniques from yoga that are gentle on the uterus would be appropriate as the body is not actually warmer.
Other posts in this series
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