There is a lot of varied information on the topic of “getting pregnant.” I spoke to my friend and reproductive health mentor, Dawn Leonard, about her important role in helping women understand their reproductive health.
Here’s my interview with Dawn Leonard:
Q.What are the benefits of working with a reproductive health mentor?
A. Really, the majority of women could benefit from some form of reproductive health education and guidance in understanding their reproductive health.
How many women suffer from menstrual cramps, premenstrual symptoms or a reproductive health diagnosis? How many women actually understand the physical (hormonal and anatomical) AND energetic aspects of the menstrual cycle? And when I say menstrual cycle, I’m not just referring to the time that we bleed, but the entire cycle of menstruation, follicular development, ovulation, luteal phase and premenstrual phase.
In order to truly conceive with consciousness, we would do well to honor the gift that is our ability to cycle outward and inward with creativity, focus, intuition, letting go and the fluidity to accept all that we experience.
I work a lot with the archetypal Feminine qualities, and I think the ultimate lesson that I hope people grasp in working with me as a Reproductive Health Mentor is the power within that. But if all you get is a healthy, regular cycle without pain, I’m happy with those results as well.
Q. Based on your experience, why have many women become disconnected from their own natural menstrual cycle?
A. We are disconnected from our cycles and our wisdom very intentionally, though the process of stripping women of their power began thousands of years ago. I see the ultimate power-grab from women was the medicalization of birth by men; they removed the midwives as the final protector of the ancient Feminine wisdom. Especially in the United States, with our Puritanical history, even “sex education” (which in most regards can be simply anatomy and physiology) has been deemed unworthy of teaching.
Knowledge is power, and without knowledge of the functions of our bodies, we are left confused and powerless. The witch hunts of the middle ages were about systematically removing all women with any kind of “healing” power which was often simply the knowledge of the body and how to care for it!
However, in the last hundred years or so, women have begun to reclaim all of that. Personally, I think two of our biggest victories will be learning to honor and respect our bodies and the nature of the Feminine, and reclaiming the birth process as the ultimate Feminine domain. Again, my use of the word Feminine is in the archetypal sense which is powerful, multi-dimensional and not very much related to our modern (confusing and incomplete) concept of femininity.
As for the powers we will receive from understanding our cycles, the most important and universal is our health! Within that process comes understanding who we are as individuals; our needs and desires personally, interpersonally, tribally and globally. I know it sounds grand, but the rhythm of the moon dancing with the sun and Earth creates the flowing balance of life!
Q. What suggestions do you have for women to “reclaim” their own reproductive health and connect with their monthly cycle?
A. It begins and ends with our intuition: the inner voice, the gut feelings, the signs and synchronicities that occur in our lives. We reclaim our reproductive health when we listen to AND respond to our soul’s deepest desires.
Our bodies are simply vessels that help us experience, learn from and understand our place on this planet. Our bodies house our souls and express directly the vibrations being emitted from our soul, whether that is a vibration of fear, anger, jealousy, love, joy or all of the other emotions that we experience. When we experience emotions with our body, but they don’t get processed, they get stuck in the body and if that vibration is of a certain frequency, it can manifest as illness or disease.
On a daily basis, this means we have to pay attention to the ebb and flow of our emotions. We are not machines and we do not operate the same every day. We generally understand this, but we can go deeper with that knowing. We can sit every day, even for 5 minutes to feel into the flow of the day. In this way, we begin to honor the guidance of the cycle.
I’ve recently encountered a Wild Power Course on embracing the wisdom of our menstrual cycles and the inner seasons we all experience. It is powerful stuff! Most absolutely important is that we begin to completely and fully honor the power that is menstruation – bleeding. This is a time when women are quite consistently guided inward. We feel tired, moody, want to be alone, want to sleep. So we need to honor that! There is so much power in going inward, and our monthly flow asks that of us. On a practical level that means that when you hit day one, take the day off. I know our culture is not yet at the point of giving “period days” off work, but there are some places in the world that do. Find a way to minimize your work load, your external interactions and create space for self-care.
Honor your menstruation as a time for self-care!
Related: Italy Might Offer Menstruation Leave
Q. Do you have any advice/ special recommendations for women working with painful reproductive health issues (PMS, PCOS, endometriosis)?
A. It is important to understand the specific energetic elements/vibrational frequencies of our reproductive organs and what is generally known as the second chakra. This area of our bodies (reproductive organs, pelvis, low back) holds the energy of sexuality, sensuality, creativity, personal power, interpersonal relationships, financial power, and our sense of self and how we think other’s perceive us.
So when you think about your life, are any of these issues out of whack? Are there places where you feel powerless? Are you allowed to express your full creative potential in your work? So many women (people in general) feel they have to stay at a job to pay the bills, but feel the draw of some other creative power. I strongly advise you to listen to this intuition because it may be a huge factor in your reproductive health. PCOS and endometriosis are often physical manifestations of this kind of work/creativity power imbalance.
There are other manifestations of second chakra imbalances as well such as fibroids, ovarian cysts, irregular (or heavy or nonexistent) cycles and infertility.
Q. How may reiki and yoga be used to enhance fertility and conception?
A. In my 10 years of practicing (and 8 years of teaching) yoga, I’ve come to understand deeply the mind-body connection. There are so many styles of yoga which generally emphasize the different ways to practice the postures. But if you’ve spent any real time with yoga, you’ll start to understand how body posture affects mood, hormones and physical health.
More importantly, you’ll hopefully come to understand how moving the body (and this can be any form of physical movement from yoga postures to walking to gardening or some other creative expression) helps us to hear the inner voice of intuition. This is moving in the direction of the ancient form of yoga which is about connecting with the divine.
My goal in teaching yoga (for fertility, pregnancy, or any other time in a person’s life) is to bring students to an awareness of their inner knowingness. That is the first step. And since we do have these physical bodies, we can use specific postures to increase circulation to the reproductive organs. Some women need help reconnecting with their bodies because of trauma or a lifetime of negative body messages, so the postures also help us rekindle the relationship with our physical lives and move with grace in our bodies. This, of course, leads directly to connecting with our intuition and soul messages.
For me, Reiki is a more nuanced and specific way of moving energy through the body and, once again, connecting with intuition, higher self, and inner guidance. It is more specific to moving and removing energy that no longer serves us, but that often begins with consciousness of that energy/emotion/buried trauma. For all of the energy work that I facilitate, I emphasize that we each do our own work and our own healing. You can come to me for yoga classes or a Reiki session, or even a chat over coffee and I can lead you toward your answers, but there is nothing like the wisdom of self-knowledge. Your healing is your work and your own doing and it is truly impossible for anyone but you to do that work.
Q. Do you have any favorite books for body-mind-soul healing work for reproductive health?
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Christiane Northrup
Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss
Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
* Anything with BKS or Gita Iyengar with Iyengar Yoga
About the Expert:
Dawn has been studying yoga since 2005 and has been certified RYT-200 since 2008, primarily teaching alignment-based yoga at Guilford College. She practices yoga as a spiritual journey, incorporating ancient yoga scriptures, as well as teachings from modern philosophers of yoga, religion and feminist eco-spirituality.
After birthing her son at home in 2013, Dawn felt called to work with other women to prepare for empowered birth. She trained with DONA as a doula in 2014. In the summer of 2016 Dawn launched Sacred Rhythms, and in 2017 completed her RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher training). She combines the tools from her work as doula, 10 years of practicing and teaching yoga, the Inner Guide Apprenticeship Program and her Reiki Level I & II attunements to empower other women in their experiences of motherhood.
Learn more about Dawn at her website.