As we sat quietly in the Horeb Chapel waiting to begin the workshop, strains of a brass band came through the windows. After this sudden injection of male energy, we turned to contemplate female energy and the impact of natural cycles on our emotions and our own energy state, drawing on yoga theory and practice as well as sharing our own experiences.

Swami Bhaktipoornananda sought to raise our awareness of the many different kinds of cycle that influence us constantly. Through developing acceptance of change we can learn to tune into these cycles and to work with them, letting go of our need to be ‘in control’. Starting from a basic familiarity with the menstrual cycle, the daily round and the progress of the seasons, we can explore these experiences in more detail, and also become more sensitive to how many other cycles are affecting us - the waxing and waning of the moon, the, the flow of our breath, the digestive process, our biorhythms, 10 or 20 year cycles as we move through life.

It is particularly important for us to learn to value the time we spend at the low point of a cycle, when the emphasis moves away from doing (the part society puts more value on) into being, reflecting, even hibernating. This period of turning inwards can be the time for positive self nurturing instead of forcing the pace or beating ourself up with self criticism. We are all bi-polar – so let’s make the most of it!

Another stimulating challenge is to find the riches in later life, yet another aspect that Western society tends to view negatively. A key message from this workshop is to honour our natural inclination, our highs and lows, but without exaggeration or going to extremes. For instance, we can use our extroverted times to tackle problems, and our introverted times to be quiet, selecting appropriate yoga practices such as pratyahara or dhayana.

Another key message was to experiment with what works for us – to increase our awareness and see what happens to us, building on suggestions for using various combinations of movement, sound, meditation and diet.

In the practical sessions we experimented with using a sequence like Salute to the Sun in a dynamic way or in a meditative way; with using alternate nostril breathing to balance our energy; with finding postures or breathing exercises to act as antidotes. (As a counter to depression , put your right hand under your left arm pit to activate the breath through your right nostril) We worked with the chakras, to demonstrate how through changing the focus we could work with different glands in sequence – working on the thyroid through focusing on vishuddhi for example. We saw how we would need a balanced variety of practices in order to gain hormonal balance.

I came away with the encouraging thought that by systematically charting our menstrual and lunar cycles and identify patterns: we can become more attuned with what is natural to us and start to work with it rather than against it, trusting to the wisdom of our own body and using our energy wisely.

Examples of practices for hormonal balance are included in a booklet entitled Making the Most of Nature’s Cycles, which also suggests how to tackle pre-menstrual sensitivity (depression, tension, fluid retention and food cravings) through diet, yoga postures and breathing exercises. Other sections deal with osteoporosis and HRT. As in the workshop, the advice is both practical and inspirational.