Laura Wilkes is a yin yoga teacher and menstrual cycle educator who works to reconnect you with the power of your cyclical nature and the magic of your body. Her classes are soft and deeply healing, and honour the need for space and stillness amidst the busy backdrop of modern society; showing you that when you slow down and listen in, the answers are all inside of you.
We caught up wit Laura to learn more about her work and how her practices can benefit women at every stage of their life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your interest in cyclical living began…
My journey into my menstrual cycle began at age 27 when I came off the contraceptive pill. I’d been taking the little white pill for 1.5 years (contraceptive reasons only) and had noticed my moods had really been impacted. I stopped taking it and didn’t get a period for 4 months. When she came back, she came back with a vengeance – I was in so much pain. Since that bleed, I had irregular cycles for over 2 years. I sought help at my GP’s, only to be told on visit one: “we don’t get excited unless you haven’t had a period for a year” and visit two: “you’re too skinny, don’t do yoga everyday and go back on the pill.”
Over the last 7 years, I have got to know my own body and healed my cycle through holistic lifestyle changes. I now live in alignment with my menstrual cycle and her flow, and it really has changed everything.
What have been the most significant benefits in your physical and mental state since beginning your journey?
Ah, so much. Physically, I accept and love my body as she is. I no longer push, punish or exhaust her like I used to. The old Laura was early morning gym sessions, skipping meals and living on coffee and granola bars. The Laura of today exercises, eats and lives cyclically – mixing things up across my cycle to support my hormones. Mentally, it’s the compassion – compassion for how I am feeling and knowing why it’s happening.
How has yoga been a part of the journey to living in alignment with your cycle?
Yoga was the starting block for me. It was the practice I started that wasn’t about looking a certain way from the outside, instead it was all about how I felt on the inside. I’m grateful to yoga for so many things, and to do this day, it’s on my mat where I feel the most connected to myself.
You teach Yin Yoga to support hormone health, tell us more about this and what benefits you have seen?
Yin Yoga is such an underacknowledged yoga practice, I still find so many people have no idea what it is but it’s really one of the most beneficial practices for us. This is because society is very yang – busy, stressful, masculine – and so, our energy gets used up quickly, cortisol (stress hormones) is high and we tend to live in our fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system. In this setting, the body perceives danger and thinks she needs to save your life, and all attention is diverted away from the reproductive and digestive systems, as the body knows it’s not the best time to fall pregnant or need the toilet. This causes havoc for our hormones.
Yin Yoga helps to take the body from stress and into relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system – and it’s here we can achieve hormonal balance, nourish the menstrual cycle and support our fertility. In every Yin class the aim is deep healing and relaxation.
What is your number 1 non-negotiable when it comes to your daily practice of well-being?
At the moment, it’s my morning walk. Getting outside and into nature to start the day with something for myself, either with a podcast, a voice note to a friend or silence – or sometimes all three on the same walk!
What is the first step that you would recommend for someone who is interested in living in tune with their cycle but is unsure of where to start?
I would say, start with tracking your menstrual cycle. Start on whatever day you are on, and begin paying attention to how you feel – note this down in a journal, app or tracker (free one on my website with an intro video to tracking). This is a great place to start so you notice your own patterns and can spot how your change over the course of your cycle; once you do, you’ll want to understand more!
What practices would you suggest we can implement to live in tune with our cycle in a busy modern world?
It all starts with education and awareness of your own cycle and how her hormonal flow impacts you. And, I really think the healing is mostly in the second half of the cycle – the luteal and menstrual phases. It’s here we tend to push through, ignoring the signs of the body and the need to rest. Once you learn to honour this half, you will really notice positive impacts in your cycle health, your energy and your life. It’s ok to slow down when your body needs you too.
Honouring this looks like saying no, putting yourself first, coming to Yin classes, doing gentle exercise (not intense stuff), having a night in, getting to bed early, allowing yourself to eat more (your body needs more calories here).
What are some resources that you would recommend for anyone who is interested in finding out more about this?
It depends if you are a bookworm, love a podcast or want to learn from someone… Head over to my Instagram as a starter, I have lots of educational posts and resources. For books, Flo Living, Period Power and Wild Power are amazing.
What is your favourite quote or life motto?
Make work, work for you.
I’m not sure if this is by anyone but, I use it all the time with friends and clients to remind them that they have a life to be lived. Most of us don’t make work work for us, we allow work to dictate our lives and it’s taking away our joy, our health and our fertility.