The Sacred Cycle

The Moon Cycle in women is a special time for contemplation and purification. Ancient yoga philosophy tells us what the benefits are and how best to take advantage of this monthly cycle.


When the fiery Sun grows weary of generating heat and light throughout the long day, he slowly sinks down to the western horizon and retires for the night. It is at this time that Mother Moon appears and draws to her the children of her realm. She causes the plants and herbs to grow. She inspires the poets. She reassures the mothers. She suckles the infants. She unites the lovers. She draws the vast oceans away from the embrace of their shores.And, once monthly, the Queen of the Night calls her princesses to the temple of purification and meditation through the sacred cycle, or menstrual cycle. According to the tenets of tantra, she causes the young women to return their flower to the bosom of the earth.

The menstrual cycle is meant to provide physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual purification for women who are in the fertile phase of their lives. Menstruation is truly an alchemical process. Alchemy, by definition, is the ability to transform one thing into another through a process of refinement, of rendering something that is impure, pure. The classical alchemical example is the transformation of base metal into gold. Through the process of menstruation, physiologically speaking, a liquid is used as a solvent to dissolve a solid, the ovum. Psychologically, the thoughts of a woman, which have been tainted or rendered impure due to contact with the material sphere, become purified by her menstrual secretion. Emotionally, the strain, the tension, the sorrows and woes stream out of the body at the time of her monthly flow. And spiritually, the actions known as sins in religious traditions but which may be more accurately described as mistaken notions or misperceptions which separate her from joy, as well as the karmic debts she must pay, can be neutralized during her sacred cycle.

Menstruation not only purifies the physical body of the unused ovum but also purifies the subtle body of its by-products, which are thoughts and feelings, such as anger, resentment, blame, guilt or hatred. That is why women sometimes tend to behave in an irrational manner before and during the time of the menstrual cycle, because such thoughts and feelings are coming to the surface. It is a purging or purification on so many levels.

Further, the release of the ovum is, in actuality, the release of unused or unspent creative potency. Does it not have the ability to produce life?This creative potency is so powerful that it can cause a hormonal and emotional imbalance in the mind and body of its host. Some of the symptoms associated with PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome are nausea, anorexia, appetite cravings, headache, backache, muscular aches, swelling, insomnia, clumsiness, malaise, irritability, indecisiveness, mental confusion and depression. I remember a friend of mine years ago speaking on the telephone with his girlfriend whose PMS symptoms were so extreme that she was screaming at him as he held the phone away from his ear the entire length of his arm, "I’m going to come over and kill you! You’re a dead man!" He lovingly laughed at the absurdity of it all.

Though a man has no such outlet as a monthly discharge to gain release for his unspent creative potency, he too can be faced with a similar quandary when his creative urges are frustrated. For a man whose libido finds no outlet, his imbalance is expressed outwardly through aggressively pursuing women for sex, visiting prostitutes far too often, or in worst-case scenarios, raping unsuspecting, innocent women. This raging libido is also released by many men through more progressive activities, such as macho, daring, competitive, extreme or dangerous sports.

Turning to the ancient Indian Vedas, we find a story, which may offer us some insight into the genesis of the menstrual experience, both pro and con.

Story of Indra

Once, a demon named Vritra was conjured into existence by his father using a powerful mantra or incantation and as a result, he appeared from the fire itself during a sacred fire ceremony with the sole purpose of killing Indra, the king of the gods. Attacked by Vritra, Indra killed this demon with his thunderbolt weapon in self-defense. Because the demon had been born as a brahman or among the priestly class, Indra harbored a deep sense of guilt for having killed this brahman, even though his actions were justified. Indra considered this to be a most serious offense and he tried his best to neutralize the negative karmic reaction for this sin, but to no avail. So he petitioned others to help him shoulder a part of this karmic burden.Among them were water, trees, the earth, and women.In exchange for taking on one quarter of this karmic burden, Indra gave women the benediction that they would be able to enjoy sexual desire and dalliance continuously, even during pregnancy as long as it would not put the embryo in jeopardy. As a result of that negative karmic reaction, women would manifest the symptoms of menstruation each month. Even if you don’t take this story literally, it illustrates how women are more easily prone to accept the burden of guilt or perceived guilt, or the guilt that others may place upon them. It is also true that when women are in their menses and are going through their emotional ups and downs, they are more likely to evoke guilt in others in terms of actions perceived or neglected than perhaps at any other time. Further, it is stated in the Vedas that women in general are eight times more sexually passionate than men. In other words, once their desire is kindled and their fiery sexuality begins to burn, it is very difficult to put out such a consuming flame. Indra’s boon would also clearly indicate the female’s ability to enjoy multiple orgasms, which few men, usually to their great frustration, are able to experience.

The Duties of a Lunar Maiden

The menstrual cycle has a connection to the moon and lunar behavior so we refer here to a woman in her cycle as a Lunar Maiden. Ideally, the Lunar Maiden should retire from active life and the duties she normally assumes or is required to perform. She should go into a state of meditation and contemplation. Her libido or creative energy should be turned inward. Otherwise, when her focus is kept on external matters and concerns, it can cause a sort of short-circuiting of her perception and functioning.

The energy of the menstruating woman is said to be of a different quality. The rhythm that occurs in her body is related directly to the processes of nature. Her ritu or menstrual cycle reflects a regular and direct connection to the twenty-eight day cycle of the moon and is analogous to the raining down of the clouds upon the earth, which is a form of cleansing. When the body passes its blood-flow during menstruation, a woman senses an ingathering of her energy and her feelings to a deeper center beneath the threshold of consciousness. If she does not heed this inward flow of her energy but instead attempts to continue living life as usual, she will often end up confused and frustrated, or even enmaddened. She may flirt with lunacy or moon madness.

The Lunar Maiden absolutely needs time alone, that is, time to herself without interruption during the flow of her period. This is the time when she is most psychically attuned and sensitive. Therefore, her meditations, her dreams, her visions, her fantasies, her imaginative adventures reach the peak of their most dynamic and intense expression.She needs to take advantage of this. With this in mind, yoga philosophy very clearly points out what is to be done and what is not to be done at this vulnerable and creative time of purification.

Ideally, the Lunar Maiden should have no duties or responsibilities, such as household chores, cooking, cleaning, or taking care of children. A professional woman should not have to deal with business responsibilities. You will read this and shake your head and say it is impossible. And regrettably, that may well be true for you. However, in Vedic India, families always lived together in an extended manner, that is, with grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, married brothers and sisters and all the children. So, in such a circumstance, retreat during the menstrual cycle was actually possible because other family members were there to take care of things. In India today, many people still live in this same manner. For a woman who is running a household complete with husband and children, the chores and the duties are never-ending. If she is also working full-time or part-time, there are never enough hours in the day. It is no wonder that she may overreact or break down emotionally during her lunar cycle. A Lunar Maiden must do whatever she possibly can to arrange for her rest and relaxation and time spent alone in retreat.

If possible, she should undertake a fast of some kind during her flow. She should engage in the practice of yoga postures and breath control or pranayama.She should go on quiet walks and if sufficiently motivated, she should pursue some sort of vision quest.

A woman should control her speech, mind and senses during her menstrual period, particularly since this is the time when her sex desire becomes very strong. To engage in sex at this time reduces the life span of the husband or partner because he is likely to take on the impurities, both gross and subtle, that are flowing out from her. To focus the mind on higher, spiritual thoughts and meditations at such a time increases the power of the mind to overcome the downward pull of the lower nature.

A woman in her season or ritu is said to remain impure for three nights. During that time, she should avoid wearing makeup, as this will enhance a more simple and natural state of being. She should not sleep during the daytime or on the ground. She should avoid touching fire or cooking as well as eating meat. The eating of meat inflames the passions since it is the direct consumption of the flesh of another lower being and further, can only be accomplished by the death of that animal. Such activity does not contribute to the fostering of a higher consciousness and a more peaceful state of mind. Since she is cultivating a meditative attitude during her season, she should avoid joking around and unnecessary laughter or meaningless chatter. In other words, misspending her energy. She should endeavor to be more subdued and serious. Until the period has completely run its course, she should bathe minimally due to her state of impurity. Upon the completion of her flow, she should take a thorough bath.

Obviously, in our modern world, many of these recommendations may be too difficult to undertake. In which case, the Lunar Maiden should do whatever she is able to do to assist her in passing productively through this time of purification.

The yoni or vagina is often related to the lotus, padma-yoni, throughout the Vedic literatures.It is the great symbol of generation, creation and the impetus for creativity. Brahma, the creator, springs from the lotus arising from the naval-womb of Vishnu or God through the umbilicus of the lotus stalk.Another name for Brahma is Padmaja or ‘born from the lotus.’ The lotus is a perfect symbol for creation because it is born from the water, representing the amniotic fluid of the womb.

I have included the following poem as an epilogue since the menstrual cycle is indeed a cycle of the moon. In Vedic lore, the moon is considered to symbolize the mother and the nurturing principle. This poem was inspired one night as I looked at the moonlight upon the Irish Sea. It is a tribute to the Moon and the need to acknowledge and honor her nurturing and loving energies.

The Moon

The Moon shone blue upon the sea

A searchlight above the surface of Self

Reluctant to look within the depths of me

I bob upon the water, praying for her help

The Moon knows my dependency

She cradled me each night, the mother I could trust

I walked away from my unlived infancy

The future must be brighter than a past, which turned to dust

The Moon smiles at my bravery

At all my attempts to achieve and succeed

The Moon understands my slavery

My need to lean on something other than me

The Moon knows what I could be

She’s been there for me most every night

She rocked away my insecurity

When all alone, she eased my fright

The Moon expects the best from me

Encouraging my potential, loving my renown

Like a mother, why shouldn’t she?

I pray that I won’t let her down