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#howsyourblood - normalizing period talk

Hazel Mead Illustration

Hey, Kristen here, dylan’s content writer. The other day I reposted this illustration by badass activist and artist Hazel Mead on Facebook, and it got a lot of attention.

It’s funny because it’s true. We see bloody shit all the time on screen. And yet--women are still whispering in corners at work about ‘Aunt Flo’ coming to town. Getting period blood on your pants is still cause for a freak out. And, I don’t know about you, but it took me a long time to feel chill telling a new sex partner I was on my period.

At dylan, one of our core values is to normalize pussy talk. Having a period is normal. Talking about it should be normal too.

To start this conversation, I chatted with Lauren Billie (CEO of Allbodies) and Ruby Balthazar (a detox expert and health educator) about their relationship to their blood.

I also interviewed myself because I want to talk about this. My relationship to my period is so much healthier now that I'm older, and I'm excited about it. I think there's a huge opportunity for us to show younger generations how to own menstruation from a place of empowerment, rather than embarrassment or shame. 

And we want to hear from you-- Join the conversation by answering any of the interview questions with #howsyourblood and tagging @dylanunderwear on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

This invite is open to all--that includes transwomen who don’t get periods and transmen who get periods--we want to hear how this relates to you as well. 

Lauren BilleLauren Bille - Co-Founder/CEO Allbodies 

[me] How do you feel about your period?

[Lauren] I’m in acceptance and discovery about it. It’s pretty amazing. My body - our bodies- are pretty amazing. I like it. I like educating people about it.

So it’s something you welcome?

Yes, I welcome it. I want to embrace my body in its healthiest, well functioning state. Having a regular period means things are working as they should. It’s all positive. The only thing I find annoying is dealing with blood coming out of me all day.

Fair enough. Did you always feel this comfortable with your menses?

I was embarrassed [when I was younger]. I thought it was gross. I wished I didn’t get it. I thought boys thought it was gross. I didn’t feel curious to understand my body.

What do you do to take care of your physical health during your menses?

I rest more. I drink fluids. I move a little slower. I listen closely to what my body is telling me and try to give it that. Ie. Sometimes my vagina doesn’t want a tampon in it. I can feel it not wanting it. So I take it out and let it rest.

Yeah, I do the same with my moon cup. It’s awesome to be that sensitive to what your body wants. Do you eat certain things when you're bleeding?

These days I try hard to eat what my body wants. I def always need to drink more water. I feel a bit more sensitive physically when I am bleeding - so I eat gentler foods. Ie, soup, tea, yogurt.

Do you sleep more/less?

Sleep more. Though sometimes a few days before I bleed, I get a bit of insomnia.

Interesting. Do you think there’s a benefit to recognizing these symptoms around your period?

More than anything- I think the best thing I can do is track my cycle. If I understand what phase I’m in, then I know what’s happening hormonally in my body. This gives me insight that can help me plan and deal with mental health. I currently use Daysy to track my cycle. There are a ton of awesome tools out there. I also love Alissa Vitti’s work around making your cycle work for you. You can learn about her on our site.

{Suggested Read: femtech: the new way men are profiting from women's bodies}

What hygienic products do you use and why? Moon cups/tampons/reusable pads? Any tips for using these?

Because of my business- I literally have almost every product on the market. There are incredible things out there - Pads that emanate heat to help with cramps, cups, discs, underwear, sponges, etc. We educate about and sell all these products on our site.

I’ve tried them all. But I prefer tampons. Probably because I’ve been using them for 20 years. I’m excited for someone to make a reusable one. I also prefer free bleeding into cotton luna pad underwear. (As opposed to some of the other technologies.) If I use a cup- I prefer one with a string. Flex cups just came out with one I like. Check out all of this on Allbodies.com!

Those heated underwear sound nice--like a heated seat for my pelvis.

Do you do anything spiritual related to your cycle?

Not specifically. But I’d say I love a spiritual life, and honoring my body is a big part of it. I have rituals I do regularly.

I recommend this book by At The Well called Wrestling With Menstruation. It’s all about spirituality and cycling. We have it on allbodies.com

Do you have sex on your period?
 
I sure do!  I’m pretty into embracing my body,  allllll of it, fluids included. My partners all do the same. 

Anything else you want to say about your period?

I respect and honor it. And I hope all people, those who bleed and those who don’t, take some time to re-examine their relationship to this part of the human experience and consider its magnificence.

Dope, I agree.

[About Lauren Billie]

Lauren Bille is co founder/ CEO of Allbodies (formerly CYCLES+SEX) - your destination for reproductive and sexual health. Through a digital support system of body education, a marketplace of products and a directory of trusted practitioners - they give people the tools to take power over their bodies.  She boldly says, "we are, quite literally, offering a solution for #MeToo."

She's spent her career organizing communities around wellness and social justice: from advocacy at the United Nations, to branding for Lululemon, to building The Big Quiet (a massive meditation movement), to growing a new political org called The Arena.  Lauren knows how to activate massive groups of people around a cause.

She  plans to run for office in the next 15 years.  She's looking to grow, learn and develop coalitions with people and organizations designing into a different future. She’s also single and totally down for a date. ;) 

Contact : @laurenbille / @allbodieshealth / Allbodies.com 

Ruby RawRuby Balthazar - Detox Expert and Health Educator

[me] How do you feel about your period? Has your relationship to your blood changed over the years?

[Ruby] My relationship with my period has evolved throughout the years.

When I was younger I had a weak Pituitary gland (the gland that regulates our female reproductive system), and I always experienced very strong and painful periods. I would bleed in rivers, quite literally. When I was around 18 years young, I started taking the contraceptive pill which felt like a relief. That being said, I had no idea how badly the pill was disturbing my hormonal system, especially my adrenal gland. I often took it without any breaks at all. Now, I am aware that this was just another way for me to suppress any kind of pain, be it emotional or physical. Now, I’d call it codependency or an addictive personality.

I suffered from an eating disorder, starving my body and spirit, therefore even though I eventually went off the pill and started to eat healthy, I lost my period completely.

It took me 4 years and a lot of deep cellular detoxification, unconditional self-love, and acceptance to get my period back.

That's powerful. And what do you do now to take care of your physical health during your menses? Do you eat certain things? Avoid certain things?

If my period comes naturally, it feels the best to juice fast on my period to assist my body in eliminating  what it no longer needs. I try to remove any obstruction from my body’s energy channels

If my period doesn’t come naturally, I eat fruits, veggies, and wholefoods fats. I normally drink juices throughout the day and have maximum 1-2 meals per day. If I need to eat more during my period I do. I simply don’t believe or practice restriction.

Do you sleep more or less on your menses?

My sleep is always connected to how well I eat. Whenever I juice fast I feel my best. It’s the same with bloating. If I fast though my period, the whole process of elimination is effortless.

Effortless is definitely a word we don’t often hear in conjunction with a period. Are there things you do to make your menses and emotionally and mentally easier process too?

Through the years I learnt that it’s all about consistency. I practice taking good care of myself on a daily basis so the days I’m bleeding are no exception. I am my own Queen. I cherish, honor and love myself daily. I’m always in close contact with my business partners and besties so we hold space for each other when things come up.

Daily stretches and healthy diet help me to process my emotions in a more effortless way. I love to journal and do “What I Get To Do” daily lists. This way I order my thoughts, emotion and keep the brain fog well away from my spirit.

Love that! “What I Get To Do” lists. Such a simple shift, but what a difference. Anything else you want to say about your period?

As women, we are a portal for life in this reality. Our female human body is a miracle in itself. This body can co-create a new human being, with all its intricate miraculous details. Our period is like the river that makes sure we keep that portal of life clean.

If we do not have our period and wish to get it back, we should try to help the rest of our body clean itself of obstructions (because something is obstructing the elimination of waste). The cleaner we become in matter or physical form, the less we will bleed, the shorter our periods will be and the more pain free the experience of the flow will become.

We are goddesses and our bodies are our temples

Let’s practice respecting ourselves.

YES!

[About Ruby Balthazar]

After almost a decade of traveling and working worldwide as a model, Ruby turned to studying health with world-class health specialist, Robert Morse, N.D., D.Sc., M.H. in the United States. She earned a Certificate in Holistic Cellular Detoxification and now works with clients worldwide. As a health educator and detox specialist, Ruby’s mission is to guide her clients to live at their highest potential by helping them bring their body into a state of vitality naturally and medication free.

Ruby’s great passion is to help bring the body into a state of healing through Cellular Detoxification and fasting, and she is exceptionally professional at it. With calmness and patience, she takes on her clients and guides them gently on their path. With a lot of fun and high knowledge she teaches how enjoyable and easy it is to be able to treat your body with respect and responsibility, in order to achieve incredible and long lasting results in healing and body shape. She serves clients privately, online or in person, and at Almond Blossom Sanctuary in Ibiza.

Contact: @_rubyraw_ / @almondblossomibiza / optimumhealth17@icloud.com Almondblossomibiza.com

KristenKristen Koester-Smith - Writer and Yoga Teacher

[me] How do you feel about your period? Has this changed over time? Did you feel differently when you were younger?

[also me] Yeah, I hated it when I was younger. I got my period for the first time when I was 10. I got stung by a bee so I was crying and I went to the bathroom to pee and there was fucking blood in my underwear. I thought I was dying. It was pretty traumatic.

I got it irregularly for the first couple of years, but when it came I really hated doing anything active. I LOATHED wearing a pad and going to volleyball practice. I felt dirty. I begged my mom to let me stay home sometimes. Once when I was 12, it came when I was with my dad at Home Depot. I was too embarrassed to tell him at first, but I had to when I saw blood leaking out of my shorts and onto his truck seat. It stained. Again, traumatic.

Now, my relationship with my period is totally different. I get that my period is a sign I’m healthy. I get that it’s a privilege to bleed because some women don’t get to. I get that its awesome because it’s a sign I’m fertile, which means I can literally bring a life into this world. What a super power. Hell, yeah.

Also, I started wearing menstrual cups and absorbent underwear, which I love and helps me not dread bleeding so much on a physical level.

How did menstrual cups and absorbent underwear shift your relationship with your blood?

I just find it easier to deal with and it’s safer and more environmentally friendly. When I take out my moon cup and see all my blood, I get kind of a happy sense of pride like, “Look what my body has created!” And now I don’t like just dumping it down the toilet--I usually give it to my houseplants because it has a ton of nutrients. I have a friend who showers with it and says it’s great for her skin. I’m not quite there yet, but maybe soon.

Do you have any tips for using these products?

I have a system worked out that I really love. I wear the cup during the day with absorbent thongs to make sure I don’t have any leaks. Then, I take out the cup at night and wear only absorbent underwear (I use Thinx, btw). I love this because sometimes when I’m bleeding heavily or bloated, wearing the cup all the time feels a bit uncomfortable.

Honestly, I love the feeling of bleeding straight into my underwear. I think because it used to be a feeling I dreaded when I was younger--like I knew I had started my period and it was going to leak onto my pants--now I’m like Noooo problem! It’s been a cool shift.

It seems like your headspace has really improved around how you think and deal with your menses. Do you do anything for your physical health during your menses?

As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I tend to take it easy on the first three days of my moon cycle. It’s tradition not to do inversions when you’re on your period because it’s going against the natural energetic and physical direction of your elimination process. Scientifically speaking, it’s not a problem to go upside down when you’re on your period. For me, personally, because I use a moon cup, I don’t like the way it feels. I can kinda feel the blood move around inside of me.

In the lineage of yoga I practice, it’s also tradition to take the first three days of your moon cycle off from your practice. I do that too, because I recognize that my body naturally has less energy and there’s no need for me to be doing a Yang (energetic) practice. I practice Yin (slow, passive) yoga during my period. I’ve also found this helps relieve my cramps. You can check out my website for a free Yin class if that sounds like something you want to do too.

Do you do anything spiritual related to your cycle?

Not always, but there are some rituals I do if needed in relationship to it. There’s one for riding attachments to past lovers that is best done during a time of bleeding. You can contact me through the website I mentioned earlier for details if you want.

I’d like to get into holding Red Tents, where women come together to talk about their blood and normalize the experience for girls or women who get their cycle for the first time. I'd love to hear from women who do this already.

Do you have sex on your period?

I do. I've noticed I'm more sexual feeling on the last couple days of my period than normal. 

It's important to me that my partner doesn't view my blood as a turn off--actually it's a turn off to me if they do. It's part of my healthy body. 

Anything else you want to say about your period?

Again, just that I’m super thankful for it. I’m thankful I live in countries where I have access to hygienic products that I love. I’m thankful I wasn’t born in a country or in a time where it is/was considered ‘dirty’ and a reason for ostracism. I’m thankful it comes naturally and that I’m healthy.

[About Me]

Kristen Koester-Smith is a writer, yoga teacher, and a self-identified wanderer. She’s lived abroad since 2012 and one of her biggest aspirations in life is to have conversations that shift the perspectives of all contributors. She believes playing the devil’s advocate is one of the best ways to learn and that nothing is real (in a good way). Currently, she’s teaching one yoga class a day in a town of 400 people on the coast of Ecuador and writing from her balcony that overlooks the ocean and a banana tree garden.

She writes poetry, short stories, and spoken word stuff, which you can read or watch at her author’s website. She also writes blogs (like this one) for brands she aligns with and does brand storytelling. Her yoga classes are always different--it all depends on the places, the time, and the faces in class. Most of the time they come with a savasana massage and sometimes with a super dope yoga playlist.

Contact: Kristenks.com / Copybykristen.com / Kristenpriyayoga.com / Kristen@copybykristen.com

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