I was at the Beloved festival, waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to the woodlands, and sitting on the river bank with others. It was a warm day and some folks were swimming to while away the time. I sat near a couple and mentioned that it looked great in the water. She asked why I wasn't swimming and I said I was menstruating. She baulked, assuming I was embarrassed by the fact. Her partner stepped in and commented that I probably didn't want to do it because of the change in temperature of the water to my body. He was right. He was a man.
I think often about the taboos of menstruation and the supposed liberation of it from those that base their opinions in reaction rather than out of knowledge. From this wise comment from our fellow festival goer, I'd like to extend some reasoning as to why Abhyanga is contra-indicated around this time.
Menstruation can be viewed like digestion, we like to leave it alone. It needs energy and the downward motion of gravity to do it's cleansing process. Having little to do that pulls us away from our centre is a good thing. That red tent idea was not about the slavery of women as much as it was logical for them to take some time off from their "female" duties to get the cleansing done right.
Abhyanga, done correctly, creates friction so that the herbal oils are digested through the skin into the blood stream. That means dissipating energy all over the body and away from the core function of bleeding. Just as you wouldn't do the massage just after digestion, menstruation should be viewed the same way.
As women we are super lucky to clean out each month. A menstruation done well will help you to let go of stuck emotions, excess heat and water. It can feel like a very grounding, insightful time.
If women are indeed more intuitive, which is the claim against the patriarchal system, then we should see more women doing less stuff during this time to honour a natural biological function.