Meet Moon Tribe Yogini – A Menstrual Cycle Mentor and Yogi
By: Allison Waldbeser
Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking to our good friend and menstrual cycle advocate, Samantha Neal. She specializes in yoga for healthy menstruation and spends her time in two breathtaking places; Bali and Australia – where she teaches yoga and educates people on how to take care of yourself during your menstrual cycle. We reached out to her because we wanted to get her insight and knowledge on Tantric Hatha yoga and why she thinks it’s important to adjust our practice depending on the phases of our menstrual cycle, and also because we love what she's all about!
Follow along with us! (P.S. video at the end!)
Hi Sam! We’re so excited to be able to connect and learn from you. Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! My name is Sam and I was raised between Venice Beach and the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve been traveling through Bali and Australia for the last year though. I have two brothers. My favorite artists are Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill and I’m currently in the process of mastering the art of baking sourdough. Oh and all things women and menstrual cycles are my jam.
When did you decide to become a yoga teacher?
Yoga has been a constant thread throughout my life. My mom is a teacher, so I’ve always been around it. A year ago, I was a law student in downtown LA and feeling pretty lost in life. Yoga was my escape.
It was a dedication to my practice which moved me to quit law school and buy a one-way ticket to Australia to study yoga further. Since then, my journey with it has been my greatest adventure. Becoming a teacher was really just a way to develop a deeper understanding and to be able to share what I love.
That’s wonderful! What made you incorporate the menstrual cycle with your yoga practice?
With everything that was happening in the world and with the election, I needed a way to channel my frustration for the twisted portrayals of women I was seeing everywhere. Every opportunity a woman has to experience her innate power, social and cultural influences and limitations have stripped it away. I view menstruation as an opportunity every month for women to encounter their power. But similar to all other transitions and changes women experience, it has been layered with some pretty distorted conditioning. This has affected the way we relate to our cycle – if we don’t dread our periods, they’re an inconvenience at best.
I did a training with Ana Davis who is a legend and introduced me to the idea of practicing yoga according to where you’re at in your cycle. Adjusting our yoga practice to the phases of the menstrual cycle is a way to be fully authentic in our expressions as women. It’s a way to acknowledge and honor that because we operate differently than men, we should practice in a way that reflects that.
We’re feeling empowered already! Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in Bali?
I’ve spent the past few months in Bali and it’s been pretty magical. The Balinese people are the kindest and happiest people I’ve ever met. I learn from them everyday.
What’s the best part about practicing yoga during menstruation, and why is it so beneficial?
Of the four phases of the cycle, energy is lowest during menstruation. So doing that heated vinyasa class or going out with friends usually takes an added effort and can feel counter-intuitive. That’s because during this phase we are hormonally supported to feel inward and reflective. Going against this can often leave us feeling depleted. But if we can slow down and incorporate movements that support our body’s bleeding process, we leave feeling restored and nourished. In yoga, we do this with gentle poses that keep the belly soft and open and that help to facilitate this natural downward movement of energy that occurs when menstruating. We call this force Apana in yoga.
We live in this society that’s obsessed with productivity and pushing through no matter what. So it makes sense that many women resist the idea of slowing down during this time. But this linear mode just isn’t ideal for women and the four distinct phases of their menstrual cycles. There is a time to push yourself and test boundaries, but during your period is not one of them. Invest in yourself and recharge the batteries during this phase and you will be rewarded by being more productive, creative and efficient throughout the rest of your cycle. When I’m on my period, my favorite place to practice yoga is in bed. It just feels right.
Wow – such beautiful words. What are your future plans in the menstrual and yoga world?
I just returned to Byron Bay from Bali and will start teaching Hatha yoga and meditation. I also currently offer one-on-one menstrual cycle mentoring, helping women to reconnect and better understand their cyclical power. In the beginning of next year, I’m running a cycle awareness and appreciation program for teenage girls here in Byron with an incredible woman who shares my vision.
Congratulations! Lastly, any advice you want to give to anyone that is starting to practice yoga or getting to know their body?
Take care of you first. There’s this myth that any yoga class you go to will be good for you at all times. That’s just not true. Be honest with yourself and your needs on that day. If you are menstruating, tell your teacher before class! With women making up over 70% of any given yoga class, this is a common shared experience and for safety reasons, it’s a conversation we need to be having. Hold your teachers accountable for knowing the appropriate modifications.
Our cycle can be our greatest asset. Start to notice where you’re at everyday in your cycle. Put it in your calendar – day 1 is the first day of your period. Begin paying attention to the fluctuations in your energy levels and moods and look for patterns.
From personal experience, developing a more loving relationship to my cycle has led to a more loving relationship with myself. I invite all women and girls to reclaim their power and say f*%$ it to the story we’ve been sold about our periods and cycles. It is far from serving us.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Sam! You’re an inspiration to many, and we can’t wait to see where life takes you!
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Want to learn more about Moon Tribe Yogini? Check out her video below and website here – where she talks more in depth about yoga for the menstrual cycle.
*If you made it this far, we’re sending you a virtual hug ;). We also want to know how you adjust your practice or life habits depending on your menstrual cycle – let us know in the comments!*