As a dancer, menstruation has always been worrisome for me, and it all started when I had my first period a night before a dance show! Periods can be very inconvenient for a dancer with all the cramps, pad rashes, mood swings, and added stress caused due to the hormonal fluctuations.
To be able to understand your appetite and energy and concentrate on one’s work, it might be a good idea to learn about one’s cycle and how one’s body works.
Each menstruator has a different experience in terms of abdominal pain, uterine contractions, or tiredness. Some menstruators also feel bloated or suffer from diarrhoea, fluid retention, or constipation.
These experiences that may last before, during, and/or after your period between three to seven days affect a dancer’s life in terms of their every-day exercise, rehearsals, or training.
As one’s period gets over and the ovulation begins, there is a rise in estrogen levels. As the estrogen levels go up, it starts affecting one’s mood, thus further affecting the confidence, energy, and concentration levels.
During this part of the month, some dancers may experience shortness of breath, and therefore trying various breathing, and meditative techniques should help one relax.
In the post-ovulation phase of the month, when the progesterone levels begin to go up and the estrogen levels begin to drop, the premenstrual symptoms of fatigue begin to appear. For a dancer, this is the part of the month when they have less energy and may find it difficult to keep up with all the dance steps and rigorous training.
However, some dancers find it beneficial to be exercising and rehearsing regularly, as it often helps deal with PMS. Also, regular physical activity often makes it easier for one to sleep, meditate and remain calm.
For dancers, it is advisable to consume food in small amounts to deal with fatigue. Eating meals in small amounts helps stimulate the body’s metabolism and regain energy. Consuming lean protein and carbohydrates is beneficial during this time.
The fourth week of the month, which is the premenstrual stage, is when a dancer experiences PMS symptoms such as backache, headache, tender and/or enlarged breasts, among other things. This is also the time when a menstruator also might experience an increase in food cravings.
The worst nightmare – as I have experienced more than once – is to have a live performance scheduled during one’s period! I have personally been to a number of competitions and shows as a dance practitioner where there are hundreds of people participating and only a couple of toilets to use.
Needless to say, the toilets provided to the performers (and sometimes the audiences as well) are highly unhygienic, not period friendly, not PWD friendly, and overly crowded due to a large number of people present at the event in most cases.
Menstruation to a dancer can be a very difficult time some way or another, depending upon the kind of menstrual products that are accessible to them, the kind of diet and medicines they consume, the authorities of the places they are performing at and how the toilets are being taken care of, and of course the varied range of experiences that differ based on the personal health of each dancer.
Having switched to a menstrual cup has surely made things easier for me, but it does not, however, take away the fact that there is so much to be done at concert halls and auditoriums, school and university premises to make the entire process of menstruation better for every menstruator who wishes to dance away their fears.