Episode 28: Unraveling the Reproductive Cycle with Zara Seligson

I’m baaaack! After a few months away over the winter, The Unraveled Life podcast is back with a new sound and a new theme – UNRAVELING all the things. I’m so, so, so excited to be back in front of the microphone sharing real, honest, raw conversations with all of you. 

In this episode I talk with Zara Seligson, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Herbalist and Certified Yoga & Ayurveda Instructor who specializes in women’s health and education, Ayurvedic nutrition & lifestyle, Adrenal health & recovery, and therapeutic wellness programs.

In This Episode, Zara and I Discuss:

  • All the shame and stigma surrounding the menstrual cycle and the steps we can take to normalize and validate our bodies; 

  • Some reproductive cycle and tracking basics for you to explore; 

  • Our own stories about our experience with our cycles; 

  • What to do if you’re feeling disconnected from your cycle because of hormonal birth control or any other reason; and  

  • So much more…

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Episode Transcript:

Kelsey Mech  00:05

Welcome to the unraveled life Podcast. I’m Kelsey Mech, a registered clinical counselor and creative coach. On this show, we’re committed to unraveling the stories, expectations and beliefs of our capitalist and patriarchal society, and reconnecting to who we were before the world told us who we should be. I’m so excited. You’re here. Let’s unravel this together. Hello, and welcome back. This season is starting a little bit later than I had originally planned. But I think it’s the perfect time, it’s really starting to feel like we’re embodying spring. And I’m working on trying to embrace a longer winter, a more gradual reemergence into work and life and busyness. And so the timing of this actually feels like it’s perfectly lined up with the rhythm of the seasons, which I’m completely okay with and on board with. And I think I also needed the extra time to really lean into figuring out what exactly this podcast is going to be in. It’s slightly new form. You might have heard for those of you who have been listening to the podcast for a while that I have a little bit of a punchier, new intro, we’ve got some new tunes, we’ve got, you know, a little bit more of a clear, directive introduction to the podcast, because I’m kind of done with beating around the bush. And I really just want to tell it like it is. And so we’re going to be taking that to the next level here. And I am so excited. I’m really fired up about the podcast again. And so thrilled to just have very real very raw, very honest conversations about all of the BS, stories, expectations, beliefs, shoulds narratives that we need to unravel that we have inherited and internalized from our capitalist, patriarchal colonial, ablest racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, all of the things, society that make us feel and perpetuate feelings of unwellness. And really keep us from deeply connected with ourselves and what we most need and want and desire. So what I’m planning for this season of the podcast, and I’m already really excited about some of the guests and conversations I’ve been having is to invite on a new guest every episode unravel one specific area of our life, our work, our whatever. So every episode will be having an area of focus, things might include, or I should say some of the upcoming episodes are going to include talking about our relationship with our reproductive cycle as women, or any person who experiences some sort of monthly flow through their cycle, or even just a connection to cyclical being and their body, which of course, includes transpose non binary folk to spirit folks. So we have a conversation about that today, we’re going to be having conversations about pleasure and sex and ancestral work and movement and the fitness industry, and friendships and romantic relationships and grief and work and busyness and hustle culture, and basically all of the things we all experience as part of our lives every day that actually have so much raveled up in them, that comes not from us, but from our society, from our systems from capitalism from the patriarchy. And so I’m really excited for this whole season to just be focused on having people in, who specialize in these areas to talk about how we can unravel all of the stuff that is no longer serving us. And for me, that has become the crux of my work that has become the crux of mental health work that I do. It has become the crux of work in my business. It has become really the work I do every day in my life, on my own, individually, professionally, and everywhere. And so I really am just excited to have these open, honest conversations with people about this and I really hope you’ll find it helpful. Validating normalizing as well. So that is the direction the podcast is taking. I’m excited And without further ado, I think we should just jump into our first conversation. So today I have the delight of sharing an interview, which I say very lightly. It’s more of a conversation as these podcast episodes will go with Zara Seligson. Zara is a certified holistic nutritionist certified herbalist and certified Yoga and Ayurveda instructor who specializes in women’s health and education, I your Vedic nutrition and lifestyle, adrenal health and recovery and therapeutic wellness programs. Although her work is primarily shifting to supporting folks in navigating and tending to their bodies throughout their reproductive and menstrual cycle. So I’m so excited to have Zara on because we have this really beautiful conversation just about first of all, some like really tangible how tos for approaching your cycle. If you’re someone in a body that has a cycle, and I honestly really recommend this episode, even if you’re not currently cycling, because it’s just so important for understanding and dismantling and unraveling. So many of the stories we carry about what it means to be in a body that cycles. And we talk a lot about the sort of what’s what’s quote unquote normal. Even though we both think that word is a little bit problematic, because there is no standard for normal with this. We talk about our own relationships to our cycles, we talk about how much shame and stigma there is around this stuff and how we can unravel that and begin to normalize having conversations about being in our bodies and experiencing our bodies. And so, this is just such a juicy conversation that I am so excited to share with you. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Zara Seligson. Hi, Zara, welcome to the podcast.

Zara Seligson  07:18

Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Kelsey Mech  07:20

I’m so excited. You’re here. I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with you for a while now. So I really appreciate you saying yes. And can you start off by just sharing a little bit about you and the work you do in the world or anything else? You think it’s important for listeners to to know, to just kind of understand where where we’re coming at this conversation from?

Zara Seligson  07:43

Yes, I’d be happy to. So I’m Zara I feel like this question is, is an interesting one, like who am I and what I do. So mainly, I work with women and all menstruating people as well doing women’s health counseling. And I call it that specifically because I have been studying holistic health and women’s health for a long time from multiple different angles. I started my journey of educating myself in that over a decade ago. And I’ve studied herbal medicine and nutrition and IR VEDA, and emotional and spiritual healing. And I’ve really put it into kind of a unique package, to work with people to address a lot of different levels that we all experienced that contribute to our health and our well being. So I do one on one work with that. And I’m also in the process of creating group courses. I’m really passionate about what I call women’s health because I think that it’s a really important lens to look through when dealing with what people go through and what women go through in their lives and in their health. Because we are different and we have a particular view of the world and experience in the world that really needs to be considered when looking at our health care. So not only has it been really instrumental in my own personal journey, but through that I really came to this love and passion for that and so have created a business around it.

Kelsey Mech  09:48

Amazing. Thank you for sharing that background. And before we fully dive into this conversation since we’re going to be talking about bodies and reproductive cycles and and women, can we clarify who this conversation was for and who it is relevant to you because I know in your work, and sometimes in my work, too, I use, we use this language of women, but I really want to make sure the space is inclusive of trans and non binary and Two Spirit, folks. So can you speak a little bit to how you approach that in your work? And how we’ll approach it in our conversation?

Zara Seligson  10:22

Yes, I would love to. And I think it’s so important. The way that I really look at it is female reproductive system knowledge and education is relevant to anyone who has that system in their body, regardless of how they identify on the spectrum of gender. And for me, I just feel like being connected to our bodies, and knowing how they work is a right that everyone has. So I use the language of women and I do specifically talk about it in that context. One, because that’s my experience in the world. And it and it’s my expertise, I’m very honest about, like, what I have expertise in what I don’t, and I’m very aware of not assuming knowledge of a life experience that I don’t have. So I’m really passionate about working with people who identify as women like cisgendered women, because I think we deal with a lot, you know, historically, and culturally, there’s so much stigma and misconception and prejudice, just like there is for almost every group of people. So I’m really upfront about the fact that that is my, my main area of what I’m passionate about. But well, and I’m passionate about people, knowing how their bodies work and being connected to them and having a positive relationship with that. So for me, I do like a person first approach. And I think there’s a lot of similarities that we all have, in terms of getting to know ourselves and accepting ourselves and accepting how our bodies work. And so for me, that’s really across the board. It’s across the spectrum of gender. And then there’s specifics to people who identify in different ways. So I, I think this is really relevant for anyone who has a menstrual cycle, in all the different ways that that shows up, you know, because some people, they have a cycle, but they’re not menstruating, or other things, you know, aren’t happening in the cycle. So for me, I find this is really relevant to everyone.

Kelsey Mech  12:55

Yeah, I love that response. And I really appreciate your care and intentionality around that. And I think what you said about just recognizing that at its core, this is really just about people being empowered to understand their bodies, right, like, regardless of what exactly that looks like, or what exactly that relationship is like. And so I think, you know, we’ll try in this conversation to be intentional about the language we use. And, and both of us might sort of slip back into using language of women. And I just want to say, obviously, I’m going to do my best to make that as non binary as possible and inclusive as possible. And the intention here is really that like, this is for everyone who resonates with whatever pieces of this feel relevant or resonant. And that might be some of it, it might be all of it. But I think, you know, take take what feels good to you, and what resonates with you, and what applies to you, and you get to decide what that is. And leave the rest with all of this or any kind of conversations around this.

Zara Seligson  13:58

Yeah. And for me, I, I really think that everyone’s experience is valid and deserves, deserves a space where that is what the conversation is about. And I have a lot to learn. And I have a lot of curiosity about, you know, people who men straight who don’t identify as women. And I really try my best to recognize that, you know, those are not necessarily the same experience, just like people who even identify as the same gender don’t have the same experience with everything. And so it is a fine line to really honor. And I guess it’s a fine line to figure out what the best language is to honor everyone’s experience because people who identify as women have a specific experience that’s really important and necessary to look at and heal, and people who don’t identify that way and have a female reproductive system, they also have a very unique, valid experience that needs attention and care and health care and yeah, to be represented. So, yes, I try my best to do both and sometimes kinda have to pick which one you’re talking about, because they’re not the same.

Kelsey Mech  15:20

Totally. And I think that’s a really important piece of this is that almost in aiming to be inclusive, sometimes we just expect that everyone’s experiences the same or similar, or that we can all sort of will just Oh, yeah, like, invite everyone in to what we’re doing over here. And yet, really inclusivity means actually like a much more tailored individual unique approach, which I think is what you’re talking about that like everyone has met, where they are not just like, well, we’re doing our thing over here talking about women, you can come if you want, right, it’s like we need to have different conversations and have spaces for all of that. So I also really appreciate you naming that. And you kind of figuring out, like, where you where you fit into that. So I think that’s really beautiful, Zahra. Thank you.

Zara Seligson  15:59

Great, thanks. Yeah, I think about it a lot.

Kelsey Mech  16:02

Mm hmm. So kind of on that note, kind of pivoting us a little bit. I mean, everything’s connected. But this season of the podcast is all about unraveling, unraveling our old beliefs, our old expectations, the sort of problematic or harmful shoulds that so many of us carry, so that we can get beneath all of that bullshit, for lack of a better word to what really matters, or what’s really true for us. And so, I’d love for us to Jama bit on that in the context of this conversation. And to start us off, I’m wondering, what do you think are some of the common or what do you see in your experience as being some of the common misconceptions or stories or stigmas that we need to unravel when it comes to our experience of our reproductive cycles?

Zara Seligson  16:51

It makes me laugh because honestly, my first response is like, well, where should we start? Yeah, because there are so many. There are so many. And, you know, different groups of people experience a different combination of those things. But I think there’s so much to unravel. So yeah, like I said, where to start, I think one of the biggest ones is that there’s something shameful about what we experience as people who menstruate. And then, you know, as, as women as people who I, who are cisgendered women, I think there’s like this, so much historical baggage as well. And just like projections and prejudice about this is what womanhood looks like. And this is how it’s okay to express it. And I think a lot of what that turns into is it’s like we put ourselves in boxes are, but my body has to look this way, you know, my family has to look this way. Basically, just like my expression of myself in my life has to look a certain way for it to be acceptable in society. And I think that’s so damaging on so many different levels, because it it just doesn’t take into account how unique and individual we are, and how there’s so many different expressions of womanhood of femininity of masculinity. And what I see a lot is just women having a lot of shame and like this feeling that their body is gross, because it has this cycle because it has this menstrual cycle and especially around menstruation, you know, I think other parts of the cycle are a lot more acceptable or like nice to look at. But I think for most people in general ministration is is something to be hidden and not talked about and and I think that we internalize that and that becomes how we feel about ourselves. And then it gets passed down. You know, because children, they learn what they see and experience not necessarily what they’re told.

Kelsey Mech  19:32

Yeah, that shame piece is so massive and I mean, something I can absolutely relate to personally as well. I wonder, like, when it comes to our views of the reproductive cycle, the menstrual cycle in particular and menstruation and the like? That that feeling of it being gross or achy in some way, like what do you how do you see the cycle like what do you stand for when it comes to people like What do you I guess? What do you want people to believe? Or what kind of relationship do you desire for people to have with, with their bodies with their cycles in this realm?

Zara Seligson  20:11

My wish is that people can have a positive relationship with their body in their cycles, but also one that’s really based in that’s like grounded in reality. So I am not an advocate or a teacher that is spreading the message that the menstrual cycle is bliss, your period is bliss, you should always be feeling radiant and wonderful and energized. Because I mean, I don’t believe that’s true. on any level, and so I think that even that sets sets us up to have a misconception of it. Yeah. You know, my, so for me, that means like, we can be friends with our menstrual cycle, and we can appreciate it and we can honor it, and we can make a space for it in our lives. And sometimes it is a pain in the ass. Like, sometimes it’s really challenging to get your period, and it comes at inconvenient times. And we feel like crap. And like, that’s not fun and wonderful. So I also encourage people, and I think it’s part of my personality, and how I view the world. Like, I have a sassy personality, and I am a very sassy person. So, like, for me, there’s almost a playful aspect of it, you know, like, interacting with my cycle, and especially menstruation, where I’m just like, okay, like, Okay, girl, you’re kicking my ass right now. Like, what do we need to do? So for me, that also really helps like that level of humor and realness. Because sometimes I feel like, not just with our periods, but with life, there’s times where all you can do is laugh. Yeah. And for me, I feel like I have that because of this really deep honoring, of what it is. And so it, I think that, you know, there’s a way that in order to be irreverent, you have to be deeply reverent. So for me, I wish that all people who menstruated could really tap into how normal and natural and beautiful this is, like what a deep connection is to the earth and to nature. And that it offers us that opportunity to connect with ourselves in that way. And to like, really, really tune into like, who am I and what is my expression of myself, because I find that in learning about our menstrual cycles, and making a friendship and a positive relationship to it, we learned so much about ourselves, which to me is like, the most interesting thing you know about life is like, who am I? How do I relate to the world? What’s my expression?

Kelsey Mech  23:15

Yeah, and there is that, I mean, it’s empowering to, I think, to reclaim our knowledge or understanding our sense of self. Through this, because because of all the shame because of patriarchy, because of the fact that, you know, there’s no space in our capitalist work structure for us to, like, have days off when we’re feeling like crap, because of our cycle, at least in most places. There is this, like powerful reclaiming, and taking ownership of and taking power back, I feel, at least in my own experience, when I am deeply in relationship, although I must admit, I kind of like him hit and miss with this. With my cycle, though. It’s like, it feels there’s a part of it that almost feels like a little badass to me. I’m like, yeah, it’s gritty. And it’s not fun, but like, at least I know it.

Zara Seligson  24:08

Yeah, I agree. I think, for me, that’s a big underlying principle is that reclaiming this knowledge? That’s where our empowerment comes from. And that’s where we also take responsibility for, you know, our rights, women’s rights, human rights. And we get to say, Yeah, this is who we are, this is how our bodies work. We deserve these rights. We deserve this sovereignty over ourselves. And also, it’s like taking up space in the world, you know, and saying, we are allowed to take up space and this is what it looks like, and it looks different at different times. And yeah, so I agree. I think it is badass, because I think anytime we you know, we claim our center and we say Like, no, like I deserve to be here. That’s a very badass move.

Kelsey Mech  25:05

Totally. Yeah. And I love how you talk about it with centering the reality of it, because I do think there is this, you know, as much as there is a danger and harm and stigmatizing the cycle or making us feel dirty about it, there’s also a harm in expecting that it can be this like, Oh, wonderful, magical little experience, right. And there’s not a lot of room in between those two things, it does feel like a very all or nothing dynamic in the way it’s often talked about. And so I love that your approach is really carving out the reality of it as being, you know, cool and magical, and also, like, hard and painful and gritty. And all of that is real, because I think that’s so it’s so validating, and it’s so normalizing. And it creates so much space for us to just be with what it is, which I think is, you know, I mean, at the core of this whole idea of unraveling is just being like, recognizing where we can’t live up to those external expectations, and just just being real. And so I really appreciate you, you bring in that lens to this as well.

Zara Seligson  26:12

Thank you, that means a lot, because I really try and it can. You know, I think it’s a challenge to be vulnerable in any space. And, and especially like that transparency of showing our humaneness. And I think it’s so important. Like I think it really ties into a lot of other areas, you know, like mental health and healing and the truth about relationships, and basically everything that we experience in life. There is such a humaneness to all of it. It’s not just the shiny exterior. And it’s not always this picture of perfection that I think media, and especially social media would have us believe. So for me, I like to show that human side of things, because I think that’s the whole point. We’re trying to break down these stigmas and these misconceptions, and to portray something as like perfect and shiny all the time is really just the same side of it’s like a different sides of the same coin.

Kelsey Mech  27:25

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I so hard. You mentioned social media find myself following falling pardon me into the trap of perpetuating that sometimes, like, I know, when I’ve talked about my cycle, and how wonderful the experience for me has been of kind of rolling my eyes, as I say this of reconnecting to it, because for a long time, it wasn’t which we’ll get to a little in a little bit. Um, I feel like I, I do gloss over it a little bit, you know, like, I don’t talk about the moments where I’m like, fuck, you know, like, I hate that my period came at this time, and like, Oh, this is the worst, like, why does it have to be the day that I’m on holidays with my partner, you know, whatever it is, like, there are those moments too. And that’s just as important and valid as all the times where I’m like, I feel so good and so empowered to understand what’s going on and to know what my changes in like, cervical mucus mean, and all these things, you know, and we talked about that part, or many of us do, but we also have to like, talk about the harder parts, because that’s all real and true as well. And so I’m so glad you’re doing that. And I’m wondering, on that note, I know, you’re gonna offer a course on this, and you you know, do one in depth one on one work. And then I know there might be some other cool programs coming down the pipe. So I don’t want to like, take that information and offer it here where I know you’ll be providing elsewhere. But can you just give us like, either either a very Coles notes, like, what does the cycle look like? Or some things that maybe people think are common, like experiences where people think, oh, something’s wrong with me or wrong with my cycle, but actually are totally normal? Like, I’d love just a little bit of normalizing validating, like, what what? What can we experience in the cycle that we might not be aware of? That’s actually totally within sort of the range of normal and I realized I use the word normal a lot, and I hate that word. So if you can find better language?

Zara Seligson  29:13

Well, I think first, you know, even just Yeah, okay, to answer your question and what you said about normal. I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that there is a cycle that every menstruating person should have. You know, it’s a lot of what gets put out is based on a generalization because I mean, we need something to talk about. But not everyone has a 28 day cycle, you know, that’s what you see on fertility tracking apps. Everything is really situated around that number. So first off, that’s just not even accurate. You can have a healthy cycle. That is anywhere between, there’s different numbers, you know, people are gonna say different things, I would say, you know, anywhere from like 23 to 35 days, which is your whole cycle from the time that you bleed until the next time that you bleed. Because it’s so individual, it’s based on our individual constitutions. So I think that in and of itself frees up a lot of people, they’re like, oh, there’s nothing wrong with me because I have a shorter cycle or a longer cycle. Yeah. And that also goes for menstruation. Not everyone bleeds for the same amount of days, not everyone has the same experience with that. So for me, it all comes back to what is my experience and what is healthy. For me, what’s healthy, for me is different for what’s healthy for you for what’s healthy for another person. So that in and of itself, I think is really important. You know, the other thing that I, that I witnessed a lot is, our menstrual cycle is so delicate, and it’s so in tune with us, even when we are not necessarily so in tune with it. So our menstrual cycle will change, you know, people will be like, Oh, my gosh, I started a week earlier, my cycle was a week late. And when I asked them what happens, they’re like, Oh, I, I traveled or it’ll change with the moon, or they’re like, Yeah, I spent a week at the ocean. And their cycle completely changed. Or they finished a big project, or they had a really big argument with their partner or parent or like someone really close in their life. And I think a lot of people think it’s like a crisis or something wrong, as opposed to everything, I always say, like, you can’t hide from your period. Everything shows up in it. So in one sense, that’s like, oh, man, that it can be super intense. And, you know, like, we were talking about normalizing that thing where you’re like, This is awful. And, to me, it’s very fascinating. So I think, normalizing that our cycles change. Yeah. And, and that’s healthy, because we change and we talk about, like, the menstrual cycle as a flow. And we’re, it’s different every season and different at different times in our lives. But the reality of that showing up in your life can be challenging, like, the concept is great. And then the reality of it is not always so wonderful.

Kelsey Mech  32:53

Yeah, yeah. And thanks for naming that piece. I know there’s so it’s so interesting, and talking about just the normal kind of structure of the cycle and how I found myself falling into that train of thinking actually, until very recently, thanks to you, I, I have always, you know, so many people in the kind of worlds that I exist in talk talk about trying to take time off or reduce workloads around time administration, and for most people that I have heard share this information, the heaviest days, the hardest days, for those folks, or, you know, this is just a random sampling seem to be like the first couple of days or like a couple days before actually starting to bleed. And so I, I was like, trying to work that into my schedule, and yet, it never really landed for me, I was like, why am I taking a day off? Or why am I not exercising on this day? Like, I actually have a lot of energy when I started believing. And I felt like there was something weird or wrong about that, because I and it was because I was trying to conform to like this really, you know, people that I align with in so many ways, right? This sort of expectations doesn’t always come from like, these overarching, capitalist patriarchal systems, sometimes it can just come from, you know, each of us. And so it wasn’t until I had a conversation with you about this, where you pointed out that actually often for some people, the most exhausting, or crappy days are at the end of the bleeding or even once the bleeding has stopped when your body’s trying to you can probably put much better language to this than me, but like trying to regenerate that those resources and like, do whatever it needs to do. I was like, Oh, that makes so much sense. And it felt so freeing and relieving for me to go that’s that’s my version of this. And I can work with that. Now that I know it instead of trying to fit into someone else’s version.

Zara Seligson  34:44

Yes, I mean, I think what you just said is like the quintessential essence of why someone would get to know their cycle like what is the worth of getting to know this system? and like, what’s the worth of dealing with like, this can be messy. And this can be very unpleasant. And all of those real things that I think, is what keeps a lot of people from not learning about it or connecting to it. But you, you learn about yourself, and I think it, it can create so much more self acceptance, and even self acceptance. I feel like you may have a better way to describe this, but like, like feeling good about yourself and understanding yourself. And so yeah, I think that that’s the reason to really get to know the cycle because it allows you to understand what’s going on with you, and then you get to make adjustments and changes, you know, based on that. And, yeah,

Kelsey Mech  35:57

yeah, yeah, I mean, or even just, even if you don’t have the flexibility in your life, because I know, it’s a privilege to be able to, like take time off during the cycle. Even just to be able to be compassionate, right, be like, Oh, this makes sense. I’m having a rough day because I’m, you know, roughly here in my cycle, and I can at least be kind and not push myself beyond, you know, what’s absolutely necessary or berate myself for not being able to show up in the ways I wanted to, or whatever it might be right. Like I think even that is so can be so relieving.

Zara Seligson  36:27

Oh, yeah, I mean, like the beating yourself up. And it’s so interesting, right? Because we’re such funny creatures, like, we do it. We’re like, I’m connecting to my cycle, or I’m connecting to this. But if it doesn’t look the way I think it should, I’m gonna beat myself up about it. As opposed to just take this information, you’re like, Wow, this is so interesting. This is how I feel. And I think we’re also trained or taught that how we feel is not okay, in a lot of different areas. And so for me, you know, the menstrual cycle is really a metaphor for healing and working with a lot of other things that on the surface, may not people like this doesn’t have anything to do with the menstrual cycle. And for me, it’s like, we can kind of trace almost everything back to it. Like you’re saying, you know, instead of trying to conform to feel a certain way, at certain parts of your cycle, if we let really just look at well, how do I feel at this stage of my cycle? And then it leads you on this path of being able to live your life in a way that’s really authentic to you?

Kelsey Mech  37:42

Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. And I love what you said earlier about, I think you said you can never escape your period, or this whole idea that, you know, even if we’re not tuned into our cycle, or cycles tuned into us, and how if you can approach that from a place of just being curious and open and receiving it as information. I mean, I’ve even noticed, or as you’re talking, I’m noticing, like, oh, sometimes if I recall, in recent memory, I’ll have almost no cramps, thank whoever, you know, for that. And sometimes I’ll have really intense cramps. And I and I need to be more curious about that. Like, what’s, there’s, there’s a reason, I’m sure. And I haven’t really explored why that’s different, or what’s going on in my life that might make the period for me show up differently. And that’s, I think, just such a beautiful way to approach it as is, is gathering information. Right? I love that.

Zara Seligson  38:37

Yeah, I mean, it’s fascinating to me. And so it’s definitely an area that I also and I think also from like a pretty early age was like, I was comfortable talking about my body, I was comfortable talking about bodies. And then it just kind of grew. So I was always like, I spent a lot of time in the woods on backpacking trips, and like, kind of all the, the layers between like, what’s okay to talk about and what’s not really disappear. And so for me, I was always really clearly curious, like, what is happening in your body and bodily functions, and all these things that are kind of on the list of like you don’t talk about in polite society. So I really translate that to myself and to working with people, because I think that is also one of the biggest impediments, or one of like, the biggest stigmas that we deal with is like we’re not allowed to talk about our bodies. And yeah, so for me, it’s really like let’s start talking about this. Like that’s the first step is start talking about it, even if it’s with yourself, you know, start asking those questions like why did I have more cramps or like, Why was my bleeding heavier or why was it this color? And you know, like as you can, because I also think a lot of reason that people disconnect from their menstrual cycle is because of some level of trauma. And, you know, that’s a big spectrum, in the sense of like, experiences that I think most people most women have had, that wouldn’t even necessarily be categorized as trauma, or assault or something like that, but like negative negative experiences that involved our bodies, you know, all the way to experiencing assault, or trauma or abuse. So, you know, for me with everything, it’s like, I don’t encourage people to just like jump in the deep end and like, blow open, whatever’s going on. It’s like, there’s also that that piece of being, having the self knowledge and the self responsibility to say, Okay, here’s what I can explore on my own. And knowing myself, knowing my history, here’s what I need support, here’s what I need, yes, you know, help to hold whatever may come up. But I think that it’s a way to reconnect with ourselves and to, to change that dialogue, or that relationship, wherever it came from, of Oh, it’s okay to feel my body, it’s okay to feel that region of my body and explore what’s going on and get information from it.

Kelsey Mech  41:37

Mm hmm. So, on that note, you know, if someone’s listening to this, and they’re relatively new to this idea, or in a process of wanting to reconnect with this idea, which is kind of where I’m at? Where should people start? Or where would you invite people to begin this sort of self exploration or self connection through the cycle, within the realms of, you know, that category of like, what what feels sort of comfortable and safe to do on your own? What’s a good starting point for this,

Zara Seligson  42:11

what I always tell people is to start recording when you have your period. So you know, the next the next time you get your period, you would mark the date. And like, day one, like I said, I started my period, and it can be in your journal can be in your calendar, it can be in an app, I recommend that if you use an app, you turn the predictor functions off. But that’s where I tell people to start and then you know, Mark, when you get your period, and then mark the next time you get your period, and then count the days in between. And that’s gonna tell you, Oh, my cycle was was this long, it was 25 days, or 29 days, or whatever. And do that for a couple months. And then you start getting this picture and you start seeing, like, Oh, I know, when my periods gonna come, how cool is that? It doesn’t catch me by surprise. So that in and of itself is huge. I think a lot of people, they have no idea. And that is so intense. I mean, for anyone of any age, like I think we’ve all had the experience where we started our period at school or in public, or like, hanging out on someone’s couch. We like, bled through all our clothes, and you know, it’s like, that is just not fun for anyone. So I’m like, Well, if you if you have an idea when you’re going to get your period, and you start tracking that, not only are you a lot more prepared, but you’re just taking care of yourself. So that’s really that’s the first thing I tell people and I feel like that that then you know can lead into other curiosities or next steps.

Kelsey Mech  44:09

Okay, So level one really basic just track the days you’re getting your period and like get to know the length of your cycle and and watch how it varies over time. What would sort of like level to the next step for someone who either does that for a couple months or is already doing that be

Zara Seligson  44:27

the next step I would say is start recording like some symptoms or signs signs or symptoms, you know, that you have, whether it’s like, oh, I started my period, and it was like mild cramps, but I felt good. And then then these are these are all random examples. Day two, I was heavier, and I didn’t sleep well or I had breast tenderness. You know, just start like how do I feel today and recording that in your time of bleeding? And then mark when you stop bleeding so that you’re gathering like information about how your the phase of menstruation is in how long you bleed. Right. You know, and then I think that will that will take someone, they’ll get to see, oh, this period was one way this next period was another way.

Kelsey Mech  45:24

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And then okay, so and then there’s just a lot more that you can do on a level 100. I know there’s so many nuances in the other three phases as well, which I’m, I want to just like send everyone to take the program I know you’re going to be offering in the spring on this. Because I think it’s just like, so important. And I know, you’ll be deep diving in there. But yeah, I guess I think I think my tendency also is always to I know this about myself, like overcomplicate things too early. And I’m almost hearing, I’m feeling my own discomfort of like, but what’s the next thing? You know? Yeah, and I’m actually really appreciating the, the fact that maybe a gradual approach to this is actually more sustainable and more supportive for a lot of folks, especially if you’re totally new to this. Yeah, I

Zara Seligson  46:17

think it really depends on the person. And, you know, I, I like things simple. And my approach to tracking my cycle is very simple. It’s what works for me. So what I think is really important to know also is that this isn’t about like doing it perfect. And I don’t think there is a way to do it perfect. So, you know, like, Oh, I’m not tracking my cycle. So well, or I’m, like almost feeling bad about not being in like 100% Total connection with your cycle. I, there’s, there’s months I track my cycle more, there’s months, I track my cycle less, you know, there’s weeks that I’m just like, oh my gosh, what day am I on? Oh, I gotta meet, really check that and like, remind myself. So I think in the whole cycle tracking connection to the menstrual cycle conversation, it’s really important to note like, this isn’t one more thing for us to feel bad about not doing perfect. Yeah, yes. So I prefer a really simple way to do it. And that’s what I teach and encourage, because I just think people have so much going on in their lives already. That it’s not real, personally, for me to like, have these intricate maps and like vision boards have my cycle, which I know some people love, and that’s great. But that’s not my reality. So it’s not really what I teach. But there are there are really different levels. And there are there’s a lot to track in the menstrual cycle, you know, so if someone is like, oh, likes that level of intricacy there, it’s there, the information is there. I just find there’s a lot of resistance to paying attention to the menstrual cycle. So I’m always like, it’s really simple. Like you don’t, it’s only gonna take a few minutes, to you know, try and like real people in a little to the reality that this is actually a really good thing to know about in yourself.

Kelsey Mech  48:32

Mm hmm. And I mean, how you’re talking about is so permission giving, even in sharing your own experience of keeping things pretty simple, because somehow, I imagine and maybe other people are in the same boat, you know, someone like you who does this for a living who like is deeply entrenched in this world in this work, probably has these like massive spreadsheets and every single thing you know, and then I’m like, oh, shoot, like, if I’m gonna do it, I have to do that, too. And here we are, like, I have not consistently done this, like I’ve had, you know, a few months here and there. I’ve been really quote unquote good about it, as I say to myself, which in and of itself feels so problematic and cringy. And then I’ve, like, faded off with it. And so I think, yeah, why not just keep it really simple, because then it’s actually doable. It’s actually easy. It’s actually something that I can be consistent about, and I really appreciate that that invitation. It feels very permission giving to me, so thank you.

Zara Seligson  49:26

Oh, you’re welcome. I mean, okay, so here’s a funny example. I literally forget to take my basal body temperature every morning. So another. You know, another way you can really track your cycle and especially with tracking ovulation is your temperature first thing in the morning? I have a tip. I have a thermometer by my bed almost every night before I go to bed. I’m like, it’s right there. You’re gonna grab it first thing in the morning and take your temperature. And I get up and like, at some point in the morning, I’m like, Oh my gosh, I forgot Got it again so i don’t know I’m I’m like okay I guess that’s just not my way like I track I track fertility and ovulation another way you know with like the cervical mucus and height of the cervix and these other signs but I yeah, I’m like the you do this you should really be taking your temperature and I literally forget every day

Kelsey Mech  50:27

I just want to pop in here really quickly to let you know about Wellspring, my online membership community. We actually had Zahra do a workshop recently in Wellspring all about this conversation we’re having today, but diving more in depth into the different phases of the cycle and how we can really care for ourselves in each of those phases. When you join Wellspring, you’ll immediately receive access to that workshop. And also two workshops from a whole bunch of other amazing guests that we have upcoming, we have workshops from Jen campus, we have workshops from Crystal Warren, who is an amazing astrologer, we have past workshops from Asha Frost, who is a indigenous medicine woman, and Varvara, arrow cheana, an incredible somatic practitioner, there’s so much richness. And in addition to all of those workshops, you also get access to an incredible community of like minded people. We have regular calls almost every week hosted by myself and other members of the community, to share space and connect and have these kinds of deep conversations, and real talk, we have weekly prompts to help you dive deeper into your own little learning, and growth and seasonal themes. And just a lot of really incredible beautiful nourishing connections. So if you’re craving a place to have these kinds of conversations that we’re having on the podcast online, and bonus, if you want to do a workshop with Zara that’s pre recorded and ready waiting for you, I would love to have you join us inside wellspring. You can go to www dot Kelsey mech.com/wellspring. And your invitation is waiting. I love it. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. Um, I think one aspect of this too is we’re sort of talking about some of the like more granular pieces or aspects or elements of the cycle is that I think people get really stuck in believing or what am I trying to say, like feeling the pressure that there’s, as we’ve talked about one right way to be in relationship with their cycle. And in my own experience, you know, I’ve used a variety of forms of birth control for a while when I was a teenager into my early 20s. I was on the pill. And so that really regulated my cycle, but I still bled and then I had a Mirena IUD and I didn’t bleed at all for several years. And then that almost, I was like, What’s going on with my body I need to check in. So I got that removed and tried just doing basically very intensive tracking, and then got a copper IUD, which is what I have now. So that I could still experience a cycle, but also feel like I was making a good choice in terms of birth control. And so I’ve had those times in my life where I feel completely disconnected. And sometimes also, at that time when I, you know, was in my early 20s. Like I was like, great, I don’t have a period. That’s awesome, you know. And so I think there’s a lot of people in very different experiences of even being able to physiologically connect in the same ways that we’re talking about because they’re experiencing their cycle differently. And that’s totally okay. But I’m wondering, like, when you’re on birth control, and it’s changing or regulating how you move through your cycle, like how can people still connect and or what would you suggest for those folks, if a method of birth control shifts their experience?

Zara Seligson  54:06

Yes. There it’s definitely a it’s a big area. And you know, I feel I always feel like I have to make this really clear. And I feel like it’s okay to say this on this podcast, because we’re unraveling things. When you’re on hormonal birth control, you’re not having a menstrual cycle. You’re not having a period. So the pill the Mirena IUD, you know, like Depo Provera. These like the shots and things like that you’re not menstruating what’s happening is it’s called Breakthrough bleeding. And so like those, you know, on the pill, the period of time where you take Like the sugar pills, and then you bleed. It’s, it’s actually bleeding from an absence of hormones that the body has become dependent on. And I’m in it. And I find myself I have this reaction of like, sometimes I’m very reluctant to say that, because I feel like I’m kind of dropping a bomb on people, but it’s the medically accurate truth and I am 100% supportive of contraception being available to all people, I think it should be free. And I think that people should have accurate information, and they should be told the reality of what it’s doing in the body, so that they can make the best choice. And that is the best choice for a lot of different people. So I also like, always feel like I have to make that really clear. Um, so taking hormonal birth control is 100%, changing your cycle and your experience of your cycle. And it’s an it’s a really tricky cycle. Like, it’s, you know, it’s kind of one of those vicious cycles, because a lot of a lot of people get on birth control to, as you said, regulate the cycle or because they have difficult cycles, especially teenagers. And then you’ve effectively suppressed the cycle. So a lot of symptoms get relieved, because you’re just not having that same hormonal flow. But then once you come off, all those issues are still there, they’ve just been suppressed. So not to make like a whole divergent topic of conversation here. But in talking about how to take care of yourself on birth control, it’s so important to understand what’s going on. And it explains so much I mean, with all the difficulties of having a menstrual cycle and having to figure out hormone balance, and how do I take care of myself and what’s going on in the modern way that we live and all of that there is a natural flow, like, we’re kind of made to go through that natural progression of hormones and moods and like we’re meant to, to change and to feel different, and to have our mood change and all that kind of thing. And so hormonal birth control, in effect just flattens the cycle. And a lot of people have very serious symptoms from that physical, you know, it changes things physically in the body, mentally emotionally. Like, you know, libido, just all this kind of stuff. Yeah, it really changes it. And so I guess my first thing to answer your original question is, is for people to know, like, this is normal, like, what whatever you’re experiencing on birth control, like, there’s nothing wrong with you, this is really normal, like this is literally happening because of these hormones. So I think that in and of itself, can relieve a lot of like, the pressure of like, oh my God, why am I why am I experiencing these things? What I tell people on hormonal birth control and what I really like to talk about is okay, from that, like full disclosure, here’s what you know, you need to do, you have to be eating really well and you need to be like supplementing yourself nutritionally, because hormonal birth control is also like pretty depleting in like, terms of vitamins and minerals. So, you need to be eating really well. You need to be as best you can like as connected as you can be to whatever your fluctuation of like, moods and and thinking and energy is because you can still be connected to how you progress through the month, even if you are kind of in effect not having the normal flow of hormones.

Kelsey Mech  59:47

Right. Yeah.

Zara Seligson  59:50

You know, I tell people to like track the moon, to really make that relationship with the lunar cycle because the menstrual cycle is so connected with the lunar cycle. And so even if you’re not having your period or you’re not, you know, you’re not ovulating, you’re not menstruating, you can be in touch with that rhythm in nature. And I think it’s gonna, it sets the body up to reestablish that rhythm once the person comes off of the hormonal birth control. Right, that was a very long answer to your query.

Kelsey Mech  1:00:32

That’s great. I mean, I feel like we could talk about this for hour. I know, I am conscious of needing to wrap up soon. But I really appreciate that because I mean, even I’m sure I knew this at some point, but even some of the stuff you were saying, I was like, Oh, I don’t know if I actually have ever really fully understood that. And it’s not I mean, I love birth control. I think it’s amazing. You know, it’s it’s very important. And oh, yeah, for whatever reason anyone is taking it, you know, whether that’s actually, you know, to prevent pregnancy or for just like simplifying things, or for medical issues, like 100%, support all of that, and having this information and understanding about what’s that what that’s shifting and changing is incredibly important. And so I really appreciate you planting that seat and sort of giving folks a jumping off point for doing more of their own research research. Pardon me, and exploration around that, because it is important, and tracking will look different. And that’s okay. Right. Like, I think, I mean, the idea of tracking the lunar cycle, obviously, is something I’ve, I’m sure I’ve talked about before on this podcast, but the moon has that dark moon, new moon phase that sort of lines up well with our experience of turning inward and going dark during menstruation. And it has the full moon phase, which is really evocative of ovulation and the sort of fullness of fertility. And so I think it is a really beautiful rhythm to follow. If you’re not cycling in or cycling in a way, that is not the menstrual cycle we’ve been talking about. But yet, so it’s so such an interesting conversation. And I’m so glad you brought it up. Because I think it’s really important for us to know about and talk about and just normalize as well, as part of all of this. Yeah. And

Zara Seligson  1:02:11

for me, it just all connects to knowing, knowing what’s going on and knowing how things affect us. So just like, you know, I encourage people to like talk about their menstrual cycle, even if it’s just in a very gentle way of like, whereas you wouldn’t tell people you’re on your period, you just tell them, you don’t hide the fact like, oh, no, I’m not going to go home. Today, I’m on my period, I’m going to rest or whatever it is, you know. I’m just, I’m all about truth and honesty. And so for me, it’s an extension of like that self respect of, okay, what is this going to do to my body? You know, what is this medication? What is what is this birth control? Going to do? And then I assess, and I’m like, Yeah, this is the right choice for me, because of whatever someone’s personal reasons. So, to me, that’s the most important thing is just the full disclosure, and it blows my mind. I don’t understand why that doesn’t happen. Yeah. So I just try and take as many people as possible. Yeah, yeah. And hope that I’m not like, you know, blowing up their world. Yeah,

Kelsey Mech  1:03:33

no, it’s important, it’s so important to have all the information. And I also really like what you just said about, you know, what are the small steps we can take to start to normalize any of these conversations or anything around this topic? And just tuning in with yourself about like, Okay, what would be just one step out of my comfort zone? When it comes to these conversations? Is it like you said, sort of, oh, I want to go for the hike today, cuz I’m on my period, or is it? You know, like, what is that? How can we just turn the dial up a little bit, because it’s gonna take practice to get to the point where we’re comfortable talking about these things, you know, I, there is no way in hell, even five years ago, probably that I would have, like, been comfortable having a podcast, you know, where I talk about this stuff and don’t feel like cringy the whole time. So it takes practice, and that’s okay. And so I just encourage listeners to think about like, what’s Yeah, what’s your version of just one step out of your comfort zone and normalizing conversations about this?

Zara Seligson  1:04:29

Yes, I agree. Yeah. And I think the first step is, is you know, with ourselves, yeah. You know, even if it’s like, oh, no, like, you’re not ready to talk about it or share it with someone. It’s like, that’s great journal about it. You know, even just saying, Wow, this is how I’m feeling. Or this is where I am in my cycle. And this is how I’m feeling and like, accepting that and giving yourself permission to feel however that is, that’s huge.

Kelsey Mech  1:05:00

Yeah, yeah, spending an hour with us listening to this podcast is also a step for a lot of folks, you know, so

Zara Seligson  1:05:06

Yeah, listen. And honestly, you know if it makes you uncomfortable or any, you know, to people listening, if any part of this, any part of this makes you uncomfortable. I think that’s great. And I just think it’s more information. Yeah.

Kelsey Mech  1:05:25

So learning to be comfortable with our discomfort sometimes is an important part of the process of this work of unraveling. So if people want to find out more about us are where can they find you? Do you want to give us a little I know, it’s a few months out yet, but any sort of little exciting notes of what’s to come in your world so people know how they can work with you in the future as well?

Zara Seligson  1:05:48

Yes, so people can find me on my website, and which is zarabird.com? And I’m guessing, I’ll make sure I add on. Yeah, for sure. And then they can also find me on Instagram. So that’s really like the social media platform I use to share as best I can my take on this real corner of the world.

Kelsey Mech  1:06:12

And Instagram, your @thisiszarabird

Zara Seligson  1:06:14

Yeah, little teaser on what’s coming. I’m putting together a six week course for this spring, that is a mixture of learning about the cycle, like what’s physiologically going on in it and how to care for it. So it’s going to be lots of super rich information. That’s like practical and experiential, about how to care for yourself on many different levels throughout the menstrual cycle. And I think what makes this course so special is that it’s really focused on the community experience. And so there’s going to be a lot of discussion and q&a and like group reflection and sharing, and a space where we are going to be talking about all of this in a private held community space. So I’m super excited about it.

Kelsey Mech  1:07:19

Yeah, so important. I’m so excited that you’re doing this work and creating these spaces to have these conversations because we need it. And I’m assuming the best place for folks to find out about that is to hop over to your website and like sign up for your your sort of newsletter or email letters. Yeah,

Zara Seligson  1:07:35

so all the information about the course is currently on the website. I haven’t announced dates, but those are going to be coming. So yeah, you can sign up for my email list. And then you’ll be the first to know when when dates come out for the spring.

Kelsey Mech  1:07:52

Awesome. Yeah, and I have to say Zara’s Instagram is beautiful. And her she sends out lovely seasonal emails, I can speak from experience, you will not be bombarded. She’s very much like me trying to work on like a slower approach to marketing and does that in such a beautiful way. So don’t worry about being bombarded with like a million emails. Use really intentional and thoughtful with them. So yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so so much. I’m, I’m like so fired up by this conversation. And I really hope it was nourishing and supportive and validating for our listeners. And I’m just so grateful to you for taking the time to share your wisdom with with me and with everyone who’s listening. And also just for the work you’re doing in the world. It is so, so important. And I’m so glad you’re doing it. Oh, thank

Zara Seligson  1:08:41

you so much for having me. This was wonderful. I, I feel like we could, we could just like go all over and talk about so many things. So thank you for that.

Kelsey Mech  1:08:55

Yeah, you’re welcome. And that’s a wrap for our first episode of whatever season. This is of the unraveled life podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, I so appreciate it. Here’s the thing though, I really need your help. This podcast is still a baby podcast. It’s pretty small in terms of how many people are listening to it, which might surprise you because I know it’s pretty awesome. But I can’t really expand the reach of this podcast without you. So if you like the podcast if you believe more people should be having these conversations and listening to the podcast. I would love, love, love, love and really appreciate if you could leave me a review on iTunes. Ideally five stars but you know you do you boo. And share it, share it with your friends, share it on Instagram shared via text, share it, share it, share it, share it, share it. That is how this thing grows. I literally can’t make it grow on my own. I need community support and community care and That would really help me so please, please, please, please Thank you. Have a beautiful rest of your day everyone love you. Bye