Sleep on the floor.
Don’t enter the temple.
Don’t touch the food.
These are not statements from medieval times, they are statements that women hear in their everyday life, where talking about the menstrual cycles still is a taboo.
When I (or my female cousins) had their first period, it was celebrated with fanfare. It is a cultural thing. I didn’t mind because who doesn’t like gifts for no real reason? But what I did mind was the treatment my cousins got every month because of this very reason. I was saved the discrimination because I was living in Delhi and my parents were labeled “liberal” by their Chennai counterparts.
Menstruation in different cultures
Menstrual taboos are not just the story of one region in India, it exists almost everywhere. In most faiths, it is perceived as a sign of impurity. Be it Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Baha’i, Indian taboos permeates every religion and forbids women to visit a place of worship during periods. These myths about periods not just result in unfair treatment of women in India but also around the world. For instance, in the Tlingit community (indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America) when a woman is menstruating she is kept in isolation in a hut and not permitted to lie down. Her face is smeared with charcoal and she is not even allowed to chew her own food, her relatives do that for her!
Even my local grocery shop delivers sanitary pads wrapped in newspapers or an opaque black plastic bag, as though it is radioactive. While there have been articles and social media rants about not treating menstrual cycles as a taboo, the question is, are we there yet? The answer and the brighter picture is some of us are (the fact that I can write about it openly while working for the biggest services marketplace is an example).
Facts about periods
Let’s break it down what menstruation really is in simple words. It a natural monthly cycle that women go through to make pregnancy possible. It prepares the uterus for impregnation. If you ask me, I would wonder why a process that is literally responsible for evolution, is considered a monthly curse.
What to eat – diet during periods
So can a process that is natural & a part of growing up, really be a taboo? Can we really ruin pickle by simply touching it during our periods?
Our expert dietician Ekta Sood, at Urban Company ridicules the myth “There is no such thing! All there is to periods is the food that you can actually eat to feel better and ease the pain. Eat lean protein, fiber and get enough iron. Caffeine also helps and alleviates the extra lethargy.”
Support a woman during her menstruation cycles
Moving on, the fact that menstrual cycle is a taboo is not the only premise which should draw flack. It hurts and it would hurt even more if I can’t talk about it. Whether I am at home or at work.
Sakshi Bhasin, a relationship counselor on Urban Company says, “If your daughter is going through puberty and if as a parent you avoid the subject or keep stressing on the fact that it is a discussion for the “women folk”, a girl would feel her father is not accepting her transition to adulthood. And this transitionary time is extremely important for any child. In a marriage, the knowledge of your partner’s periods is not just important for family planning, it is also important to communicate better. Men usually learn about the menstrual cycle through their wives or girlfriends, often in the form of a complaint, which sours the understanding of the process and the uneasiness women are subjected to during the cycle”.
Her period is not just about not having sex today, there is more to it and should be understood.
At work, if a woman can take a break because of the excruciating pain, it helps. And it helps even more when her boss (male or female) doesn’t squirm and simply says take rest. Japan has even had menstrual leaves since after World War 2! Such acceptance allows a woman to speak more freely about her body, and gain a social recognition for who she is.
Yoga during periods – how it can help
Many articles and studies have acknowledged the fact that menstrual pain can be quite agonizing. Different women have different intensity and it is a monthly affair, but that does not take away the truth that it is a discomfort and should get empathy. While people believe that exercising during periods can actually hurt a woman more, the facts speak otherwise.
Bhanu Kumari, a yoga expert with Urban Company says, “Uterus contractions cause the pain during a period and can cause a lot of discomforts. There are some yoga poses that help relax the nervous system and ease the discomfort.
- Janusirsasana – Head to knee forward bend
- Pasasana – Noose pose
- Ustrasana – the camel pose
- Supta Padangusthasana: Reclining Pose
Some of you might have found this article disturbing, but here is the thing. If you whisper and raise eyebrows when one talks about having a period or menstrual cycles, you are ignoring the one vital part of biology that is stopping our entire race from extinction. So next time you squirm, how about you question your existence?