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Know Your Cycle, Know Yourself: An Interview with a Fertility Awareness Educator

Interviewed by Hailey Johnson

*The information in this interview is for informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.*

Annalise Yagya Jyoti is a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner Intern (HRHP), Fertility Awareness Educator (FAE), and 600 hour Certified Yoga Teacher. Her work focuses on merging the scientific and spiritual worlds to help people who menstruate gain a well-rounded understanding of their powerful cyclical nature.

Hailey: How did you get started with fertility education?

Annalise: When I was 22, I realized that my hormonal birth control may have been impacting my mental and physical health. I took a short class where I learned that there were four phases to the menstrual cycle and each one feels different. I had been on hormonal contraception since I was 16 and realized that I didn't even remember what it felt like to not have those synthetic hormones in my system. I decided to come off of it as an experiment and to my surprise and delight, many of the symptoms – including depression, brain fog, low libido and more – started to clear up. I felt better than I had in years. I knew that I wanted to stay away from synthetic hormones, but I was terrified of getting pregnant. I had gotten pregnant when I was 18 and using a copper IUD so that was also not a reliable option for me. I started to dig into various resources about contraception. It was hard for me to find information beyond "use a condom." I started to ask my “crunchy” hippie friends what they were using. An alarming number responded that they "pull and pray." I was 22 and absolutely not open to having children at the time. I needed something with more efficacy than "pull and pray," and although I am open to using condoms in certain situations, I did not want to rely on them alone until menopause. I was directed to the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, which introduced me to the sympto thermal method of fertility awareness. This book taught me that there were noticeable signs in my body that I could monitor and track to figure out which days are fertile and which days are not. Furthermore, I learned that we as cyclical beings are only actually fertile for a maximum of six days in each cycle. I remember telling everyone that would listen about what I was learning. I remember feeling infuriated that I wasn’t taught this when I was younger and that it was so difficult for me to find information even as an adult. I started by teaching my friends and then slowly started incorporating it into my yoga classes and tween menstrual cycle classes. When I started teaching in a more formal capacity, I realized that what I was doing was dangerous. I had read the book but did that actually give me the ability to teach others? I felt both the importance of what I was teaching and a desire to increase my knowledge so that I could reliably teach others.

There are very few schools in the world training fertility awareness educators, and most of them did not seem adequate to me. If you have not picked up on this yet, I have high expectations and low-risk tolerance. I chose to continue to study for the next two years at Justisse College International, the most intensive and thorough training available to me at the time. I now teach in a more formal capacity and with much more confidence. So basically, I got started because I needed to learn how to track my cycle and prevent pregnancy without hormones. I didn't see anyone else doing it at the time and I've always felt a strong desire to share this information with all cyclical beings.

Hailey: You merge the scientific with the spiritual. What is the significance of the menstrual cycle energetically/spiritually speaking?

Annalise: The menstrual cycle is an opportunity to connect to our bodies and to the earth in a deeper way. Energetically, I believe that the menstrual cycle is an opportunity to live our lives more in tune with the cycles of nature. As we bleed, we are in our inner winter where we need more rest and nourishment. When estrogen rises, we may feel a burst of energy similar to spring. We may feel more energetic, social and optimistic. As our estrogen peaks right before ovulation, we hit inner summer where we may feel fertile, magnetic, charismatic and motivated. As progesterone rises, we enter our own autumn where we prepare for winter, tie up loose ends, organize our minds and our space and more. *Please note, these are guidelines for how you might feel but you may experience different sensations based on your individual biochemistry and your reactions to your own hormones. There is no wrong way to feel. I encourage you to take note of how you feel at different points in your cycle. Menstruation can be a powerful time where psychic abilities are heightened, ancestral healing is possible, and where you can release stored trauma, emotions or beliefs. As you bleed, I encourage you to picture your body releasing all that no longer serves you.

Hailey: What was your personal experience with hormonal birth control?

Annalise: I started hormonal birth control when I was 16. I used some form of combined 'low-dose'' pill, although I do not remember the brand. It was okay, but I do remember developing severe depression and having some crazy mood swings. It is hard to tell at that age what is you and what is the medication. I have a history of breast cancer in my family, so I was encouraged by my doctor and my mother to stop taking the pill after a few months, as when you take the birth control pill under the age of 20, it can significantly increase your risk of developing breast cancer. It increases your risk at any age, but exponentially more when you start under the age of 20. My doctor recommended the copper IUD because it was the only highly effective "non-hormonal" option. It is commonly referred to as a non-hormonal option because it does not have any synthetic hormones in it, but be warned it will mess with your hormones. It interferes with estrogen uptake and absorption as well as zinc levels in your body. I had a horrible time. I had the worst cramps of my life, would flood my sheets with the amount of blood, and had a lot of brown blood. I gained over 30 pounds and felt inflammation all over my body. I also developed and needed to be treated for copper toxicity, which I know was related to the IUD even though western doctors have tried to convince me otherwise. After eight months of having this horrible thing inside of me, I found out that I was pregnant. Not only was it the worst eight months of my menstruating life, but it also had not worked. When I got the IUD removed, I began to miscarry. To make sure everything has been removed from the uterus I also needed a D&C (dilation and curattge), also known as a surgical abortion. I used condoms for several months after this and then decided to get the Skyla IUD. I had that IUD in for three years and it was okay. The insertion was just as awful as the first time and my partners could feel it during penetration, but other than that I felt okay. I would cry uncontrollably in the week before I bled, but other than that I don't remember anything serious. After three years, it was time to get it removed and I had planned to get the same brand put in. When I got to Planned Parenthood, I was told that was no longer an option and the only one available to me was Liletta (similar to Mirena). Not only is this bigger in size, but it also has a higher dose of hormones. I had the worst insertion yet (both because of the size and because they had a nurse in training try to put it in and fail three times). I had this IUD for only four months and I had to get it out. I was spotting all the time, could not get my emotions under control, I was experiencing pain during sex, and energetically I could feel it in me blocking my natural flow of creative energy. When I learned about the different phases of the menstrual cycle, I was already deeply unhappy with my IUD and was desperate for something else. Since then, I have been tracking my cycle and using barriers and/or withdrawal on fertile days.

Hailey: How do you feel your role as a fertility educator has evolved since you began, and since the overturn of Roe v. Wade?

Annalise: The overturn of Roe v. Wade has increased many people's anxiety about an unplanned pregnancy. This increases the desire and needs for effective contraception options. I see many people come to me and my work because they want to be confident in preventing pregnancy with natural methods. We talk a lot about risk tolerance and about how and when this method could fail. I do spend more time empowering my clients to know that they have the skills and abilities to prevent pregnancy. Education is so crucial in this! I have been an advocate for safe, affordable and accessible abortion access since my own abortion in 2014. The overturn of Roe v. Wade was heart-wrenching, however, I also felt hopeful that this could lead to abortion reform and greater access and education in the long term.

When I had my abortion in California, I paid $100 after insurance, was not forced into counseling and had access to anesthesia. I now live in North Carolina and the laws have not changed since the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Although abortion is still legal in North Carolina, there is no access to anesthesia, it is harder for folks to pay for, and there is religiously-informed, mandatory counseling, as well as a waiting period before someone has access to abortion. These barriers to access are deeply upsetting to me, however, I am grateful that it is better than in some other states.

I work with clients all over the world. I have rarely needed to educate or assist my clients in obtaining an abortion but when I do, I always refer them to an abortion doula. These are trained professionals knowledgeable in the physical, emotional and spiritual process of abortion and can assist you in figuring out the logistics.

Hailey: Do you believe there are any steps folks who menstruate should be taking everyday to nurture their bodies and cycles?

Annalise: At the simplest level, I believe that we should do more of the things that make us feel good and less of things that make us feel not so good. When I ask a client what they think they could do to improve their health, they always have an answer. Some ways to support your health is to eat nutritious and minimally processed foods, eat regularly and enough, eat food before drinking caffeine in the morning, etc. I often encourage people to look at how they are moving, how they are eating, and how they are sleeping, if they desire a more simple jumping off point.

Hailey: Where can folks who menstruate find educational resources on non-hormonal birth control and cycle tracking?

Annalise: I offer 1 on 1 cycle tracking mentorship, group classes and online courses. I have a free course for those interested in learning more about fertility awareness (linked on my social media) and offer free 20 minutes to anyone who would like to explore working together. You can learn about my offerings at my website: I am also active on Instagram, Tik Tok and somewhat on Youtube.

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