Ayurveda and Menstruation – Creating a Healthy Flow
Your menstrual cycle is a window into your wellbeing. According to Ayurveda, each month your cycle shows you which doshas are imbalanced. Read on for Ayurvedic insights on women’s health from start to completion.
“That time of the month” can feel like a never-ending treadmill of mood issues, heavy bleeding, painful migraines and… the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, these symptoms are so pervasive, we often don’t recognize them as signs of a deeper imbalance.
Ask yourself, do you truly know what a healthy cycle is? Or do you cramp, take Midol, use birth control to suppress disruptive symptoms, and still find yourself saying you’re “all good?”
In many parts of the world, menstruation was once revered as a time for women to recharge and reflect. Today, we’re expected to maintain 60-hour work weeks, drop the kids at soccer, make dinner, and organize our family calendar – all while bloated, cramped, and suffering.
Contemporary lifestyles simply don’t support a balanced cycle. As a result, many people endure painful periods for years, even their whole lifetime. But with Ayurveda, menstruation doesn’t have to be synonymous with suffering.
Symptoms of Menstrual Imbalance
Heavy flow and clotting
Irregular or scant periods
Constipation or diarrhea
Weight gain or bloating
Joint or muscle pain
Anemia or weakness and exhaustion
Anxiety or feeling tense
Crying spells or depressed moods
Mood swings, irritability, anger
Extended symptoms (feeling like your cycle lasts all month)
Chances are you’ve experienced one (or many) of the symptoms above. You might even consider them an unavoidable part of getting your period. Menstrual suffering is so common we treat it as a natural side-effect of having a female reproductive system.
Modern medicine rarely treats these issues as part of a deeper imbalance; it seeks to alleviate symptoms instead of addressing the underlying cause. Unfortunately, while birth control and IUDs may help relieve your suffering, they do little to help you regain balance.
The Ayurvedic Approach to Menstrual Health
Rather than treating individual symptoms, Ayurveda treats the whole person. In Ayurveda, menstrual health is a window into your overall well-being. The goal is not to control and suppress your symptoms, but to use them as guideposts pointing to the root of your dosha imbalance.
Your menstrual cycle influences how you feel in your body, mind, and emotions throughout your entire life. Ayurveda helps bring your reproductive system back into balance, which can bring balance back to your entire life – sounds nice, right?
The Doshas and Your “Moon” Cycle
In the Ayurvedic tradition, as well as many others, the menstrual cycle and the doshas follow the moon through its roughly 29.5-day cycle. This is where the term “moon cycle” comes from.
Our human rhythms are tied to the greater movements of the universe. As we move through our menstrual cycle, the energy of the moon and the doshas ebb and flow within us.
Beginning of Cycle: After a period of physical and psychological cleansing, Kapha rises in the body and we are settled, grounded, and content.
Ovulation: In a healthy body, ovulation will begin as the energy of the full moon draws the egg from the ovaries. Pitta rises in the body, engorging the blood tissue in preparation for fertilization.
Menstruation: If a person does not become pregnant, the period should begin at the new moon. A sudden rise in Vata sparks the menstrual flow – the start of a new cleansing process.
Symptoms of Doshic Imbalance
When we understand how the doshas influence our menstrual cycle, it’s easy to see how problems arise when we become imbalanced. If a dosha becomes inflamed, stuck, or built up – it’s reflected in our monthly cycle.
Vata: Scant, irregular, or absent flow. When your period is present, imbalanced Vata manifests as anxiety and insomnia, sharp or stinging cramps, and blood discoloration.
Pitta: Burning cramps, fiery emotions like anger and irritability, and a clotty, hot, or heavy flow. Severe menstrual hemorrhaging may even require blood transfusions. Whew!
Kapha: Heavy or long-lasting periods, bloating, and yeast infections. Feeling sluggish, depressed, and unmotivated – preferring food (and Netflix) binges to a regular routine.
Ayurveda and Menstruation: Creating a Healthy Flow
If you dread your period, you’re not alone. Many of us approach “that time of the month” with resigned acceptance. We’ve been taught menstrual suffering is normal – and, boy, have we lived it.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In Ayurveda, menstrual cycles are a way to reconnect with the rhythms of the world around us. It’s a time to surrender, let go, and step into a healthy flow.
1. During Your Period
Take Time for Deep Rest
Our monthly period is a time of great power, but first – we need to slow down. It’s harder for our bodies to cleanse when we’re always on the go. We’re also physically weaker as we shed blood, toxins, and heat.
Menstrual seclusion rituals are part of many ancient traditions. Ojibwe women, for instance, would rest and regenerate in small wigwams called “moon lodges” while other women helped care for them and their families. While most of us can’t retreat from our lives completely when we get our period – we can all make space for deep rest.
Avoid exercising and other rigorous activities, as generating heat is counterproductive to the body’s cleansing and cooling processes. Trim non-essential activities from your schedule and find ways to relax. It might be uncomfortable at first, but letting others lend a hand is a wonderful way to honor the value you provide your community.
Calm the Mind and Reflect
Menstruation magnifies feminine intuition. Connect with your calm, centered Self by listening to Saumya Ayurveda’s short guided meditations throughout the day.
Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we learn diaphragmatic breathing, we remain relaxed, focused and less stressed and overwhelmed. We shift our nervous system from fight flight mode, to rest, restore, and relax mode.
Tune into your own enlightenment by studying wise words. Read scriptures like the Yoga Sutras or Bhagavad Gita, or online articles on the nature of the Self and consciousness.
Breathing exercises like Nadi Shodhana before bed and upon waking ease the body into a sense of calm, whether you’re greeting the day or ending it.
Journal to counteract imbalance in the mind. Write about anger, anxieties, or repetitive thoughts you’d like to release. Make gratitude lists and set intentions for the month ahead.
Dig into our popular free Ayurveda recipe box. Saumya Ayurveda was selected Best Ayurveda Blogs and Websites to Watch!
Eat Simple, Nourishing Foods
Fried, processed, and fatty foods can worsen existing period symptoms (even if you crave them!). Food is medicine in Ayurveda, and menstruation is a time to keep things simple.
A period-friendly diet doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply consume a variety of freshly-prepared, colorful plants – and keep the doshas in mind:
Pitta: Avoid spicy, salty, and oily foods. Add flavor with cooling herbs like cilantro, dill, and mint, or mild spices like ginger, turmeric, and cumin.
Vata: Eat warm, soft foods with warming spices, especially if your flow is dry or light. Cooked fruits, lentil stew, and roasted root vegetables all help ground Vata.
Kapha: Counteract heaviness and moisture with warm, dry, spiced food (like this Kapha-reducing kitchari). Ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper all help invigorate the digestive fire.
While these tips are generally beneficial, we all have different bodies and different needs. Book a consultation with Saumya Ayurveda to discover the best food program for you.
Just like any cleanse, it’s important to stay as hydrated as possible during your period. This helps your body to release toxins and waste more efficiently. Increase your water intake and avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.
Coconut water and fresh fruit juices also help hydrate and keep the body cool. Soothing Ayurvedic teas promote a state of calm and help the body release toxins – try chamomile with lemon and honey.
2. Ayurvedic Medicine for Period Pain
Intense period discomfort is a symptom of menstrual imbalance. While over-the-counter drugs like Midol and Ibuprofen might ease your misery, they do little to support your reproductive health. Thus, the symptoms return – again and again.
Rather than suppress present symptoms, Ayurvedic medicine for period pain addresses their root cause. When the body is empowered to fully cleanse and move through a balanced cycle, painful symptoms naturally diminish as the doshas balance.
But what about the discomfort you feel now? Here are a few natural remedies for menstrual cramps and other menstrual pain.
Herbal Tea: Research supports the use of certain herbal teas for menstrual cramps and other period symptoms.
Ginger may relieve cramps as efficiently as certain painkillers.
Chamomile tea helps improve sleep, which is linked to reduced period pain.
Cinnamon helps reduce inflammation to ease bloating.
Lemon tea with honey helps remove waste.
Yogasana: Restorative yoga-sana like supported bridge and legs up the wall help relieve tension in the uterus. This Healthline article highlights a few great poses.
Oil Massage: Regular Abhyanga massage in the weeks leading up to your period helps balance the doshas to alleviate chronic symptoms. For best results, use oil personalized to your doshic makeup. (Saumya Ayurveda can help!)
Essential Oils: Lavender, cinnamon, sage, and chamomile essential oils all have properties that soothe inflammation or reduce cramping when rubbed on the abdomen.
Apply Heat: When all else fails, placing a heating pad on the painful area can help relax constricted muscles.
A note: Ayurvedic medicine for period pain should be personalized to the individual.Working with an Ayurvedic expert is the best way to regain balance and finally relieve your suffering.
3. Ayurveda and Menstruation: The Perimenopausal Transition
The end of the menstrual cycle is a natural part of the aging process. Perimenopause is the beginning of a new cycle: the transition into menopause. It often begins between ages 40-45 but can start for some women as early as their thirties.
In Ayurveda, the perimenopausal transition is a shift from a Pitta to a Vata-dominated stage of life. While you may still get your period, the winds of Vata are rising – and change is underfoot.
Estrogen levels surge throughout the final reproductive years. These hormonal changes can disrupt the bioenergetic field as the body finds its new equilibrium – sparking lighter (or heavier) periods, lower libido, fatigue, and body aches. You may feel more anxious, stressed, reactive, or simply “off.”
It’s hard to over-emphasize just how important it is to balance your cycle through the transition into menopause. Perimenopause can begin as early as your mid-thirties, which means you spend a lot of your life in the final stages of your reproductive cycle. Don’t you want to feel your best for it?
Instead of easing into the later stages of life, most of us live Pitta-driven lives well into menopause. We slam through the decades with intensity, finally hitting a wall when our suffering becomes inescapable.
When we understand the Ayurvedic life phases, we can make adjustments to support the energetic changes underway.
We can reclaim our calm through breathwork and meditation, and learn to use food as medicine and include more Vata- and Pitta-balancing foods. For such a profound transition, there’s no better time to seek the personalized guidance of an Ayurvedic expert.
4. Ayurveda and Menstruation: Menopause
Menopause marks the end of menstruation and fertility. In Ayurveda, menopause is a fully Vata-dominated period marked by insight and “lightening up.” But only if we create space for letting go, make peace with the past, and embrace the beginning of another cycle
“When we recognize the beauty, power, and relief in embracing the Vata stage of life – we can’t help but lighten up! We might simplify our lives by trimming down our busy schedules or downsizing. We lighten the load we’ve been carrying for decades, creating more space to simply be.”
– Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Estrogen and progesterone production decreases in the later stages of perimenopause and ceases altogether in menopause. This can trigger Vata and Pitta imbalances that manifest as increased dryness and heat. Anxiety and sleep issues both reflect our body’s inner ocean dying up. This disconnect in energies can wreak havoc – especially if we continue living agitated Pitta lives.
Ayurveda can help restore balance to the doshas and relieve symptoms like poor sleep, hot flashes, weight gain, and joint pain. Herbal remedies, diet correction (especially calcium- and protein-rich foods), restorative exercise, and practices that boost spiritual and emotional well-being (like meditation and pranayama) all support the body as it settles into its new normal.
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