Ladies, stop pushing yourself all month! Join me in the Red Tent!

How many of you slow down and take it easy during your period? Show of hands? Not many. That’s what I thought–you just keep pushing though as if your period is just another week.

Let’s introduce one of my favorite books, The Red Tent. It’s one of my favorites because it sheds light on something us Westerners have forgotten: how we should take care of ourselves when we’re menstruating. And it goes like this:

Back in the days when most tribes were nomadic and traveled from place to place, there was a special tent for women when they were menstruating—the red tent. Women cycled with the moon and all got their periods at the same time, and during that time all the women shacked up in the red tent. Men weren’t allowed, adolescent and post-menopausal women who were no longer menstruating did all the cooking and cleaning, and women in the heavy part of their cycle rested and hung out together. Think of it like seven days of female bonding.

It sounds a little indulgent compared to our Western culture. Most of us take no time off when our period comes, we just keep going, exercise on our regular schedule, and take pride in how as women we can do just as much as a man.

Okay, so you can’t stay home and watch chick flicks, paint your toenails, and talk on the phone with your girlfriends for one week out of the month! But you can employ the concepts of the red tent in small ways. For instance, I plan coffee with a girlfriend when I’m menstruating, both for a little extra bonding time and to make sure I’m clearing anything on my mind (see last week’s post on PMS). I get some extra girl time by watching Sex and the City or Gray’s Anatomy reruns…and having a good cry (best way to move your Qi!). Nobody’s cooking me dinner every night but my husband takes me out for burgers to replenish my iron (in Chinese medicine we call it building Blood). I typically take a nap or two to rebuild my energy so I don’t feel tired by the end of my cycle. And this may sound crazy radical but I don’t exercise intensely during my period–I choose rest instead.

When I studied in China, it surprised me how many women adjusted their life during their period rather than just pushing through. Chinese women didn’t exercise during their period but rather rested more, ate Blood-building food, and kept toasty warm to avoid damaging their Blood. Doing so prevented post-mentrual fatigue, night sweats, and other signs of hormonal imbalance.

The red tent is a lovely reminder to embrace our feminine side. It’s okay to take some time to nurture yourself in whatever way feels great to you. Consider trying it in a little way next month. See how you feel when it’s time to come out of the red tent—you’ll feel more rejuvenated and can pick up the pace in your life again.