Ayurveda is essentially Feminine in its essence. It is an extension of the primal Goddess, which nurtures, self-rejuvenates, self-heals, and gives creative form and shape to omnipresent Prana, or Life-giving Energy. The Tridosha principle of Ayurveda, represents the basic character of Nature’s elements. Broadly speaking, Vata (Air/Space) is for movement, Pitta (Fire/Water) is for transformation, and Kapha (Earth/Water) is for consolidation and structuring.
Women as a Manifestation of Mother Nature
Ayurveda is sensitised to the Female body being Sukumara (Sanskrit), or delicate, gentle, and fragile. This is not to imply weakness. On the contrary, it draws attention to Feminine Balance and Balance in Mother Nature, and their intricate connection. When a female body menstruates, it expresses, in one of many significant ways, that it is able to do exactly what Mother Nature does – produce, reproduce, feed, and develop.
Doshas Imbalances and Effects on Menstruation
Akasha Mahabhuta, or Space, is represented by the hollow space of the Female reproductive cavity, and the fallopian tubes. The Dosha regulating the menstrual cycle, is Vata, and more specifically, Apana vayu, a Vata sub-type located in the pelvic organs, and colon. It is responsible for ‘downward flow’ of not just menstrual blood, but also urine, faeces, and toxic wastes. Apana vayu is directly responsible for the quality and quantity of menstrual flow.
Where imbalanced Vata’s cold, dry, and ‘rough’ nature creates a constriction of blood vessels in the reproductive tissues, which causes feelings of piercing pain, particularly in the lower back, and abdomen. Menstruation is dry and scanty, and the Woman feels nervous, and jittery.
Where Pitta is imbalanced, its heat and ‘sharpness’ creates a ‘spreading’ viscosity in the blood. This results in very heavy menstrual flow, accompanied by burning or stinging. Pitta-imbalanced menstruation is also foul-smelling, and induces anger, irritability, swollen breasts in some cases, and ‘bursts’ of acne and high temperature.
Kapha imbalances, as a result of its inherent coolness, denseness, and stickiness, results in ‘stagnation’, which manifests as bloating and heaviness during the menstrual, and even pre-menstrual period in some women. Menstrual flow is mucous-heavy, thick, heavy, and long. The desire to sleep more, feelings of depression, and an inclination towards emotional eating also characterise a Kapha-imbalanced menstruation phase.
Lifestyle Improvements for Healthy Menstruation
• A daily walking/jogging routine goes a long way in ensuring the body is not stiff or disoriented during the menstrual period.
• Daytime naps, especially straight after a meal should be avoided, as this encourages Kapha imbalances.
• Practice of regular pranayama and yoga is recommended, under the supervision of a seasoned practitioner. Shashankasana (rabbit), Vajrasana (seated/kneeling), Mandukasana (frog), and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) are postures that help maintain the body’s flexibility, and general stamina.
• But, when a woman is on her period, then postures like Malasana (garland), Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge), Ustrasana (camel), Bhujangasana (cobra), Matsyasana (fish), and Dhanurasana (bow) provide relief from irregularity, abnormal heaviness, stiffness and bloating, and PMS.
• Inverted yoga postures are not recommended during the menstrual period, as they contradict the importance of the ‘downward’ and outward flow of Apana vayu.
Diet and Nutrition
• Excessive salt and/or spices should be avoided.
• Caffeine intake should be reduced.
• Buttermilk, with cumin, black pepper, salt, fresh coriander leaves, and water is a good dietary addition, for healthy Apana vayu.
• Ghee, fresh fruits, and their juices (without added condiments or water) should also be consumed.
• Eating of seasonal produce, and on time, is necessary during menstruation, as the regular, regimented routine helps balance Vata.
Letting Mother Nature Run its Course
It is an alarmingly popular trend these days, to pop a pill to manipulate the onset of the menstrual cycle. To instigate it before its time, or to delay it, is to play with the body’s normal ‘schedule’ for toxin elimination, and hormonal release/circulation. Despite all our intelligence and awareness, we forget that menstruation is not just about the 3, 5, or 7 days when the female body ‘bleeds’. It is about everything going on inside the female body for the rest of the month, which results in the bleeding. When there is no bleeding, it could either signal the arrival of new life in a matter of months. Or, it could be3 a warning signal for the possibility of new life never being conceived in that body. The menstrual process is not an inconvenient interruption to daily living for a few days in the month, it is life, and living, personified.