Our menstrual cycle opens a window into the female body, and depending on your dosha you’ll experience different symptoms. NH reveals the simple ayurvedic ways to help you keep your period…
We tend to assign a feeling of real inconvenience towards our periods, they’re something to be put up with. This sense of disconnection is not surprising, especially when the expansion of a tampon has been demonstrated through dipping it into a cup of undiluted Ribena by your exuberant sex education teacher. But not all hope is lost. Understanding your ayurvedic menstrual cycle can help you feel better acquainted with the body’s innate rhythm and the natural wonder of this process.
“In Ayurveda, the three main stages of the menstrual cycle – vata, kapha and pitta – possess their own unique characteristics,” says Eminé Rushton, co-author of Sattva: The Ayurvedic Way to Live Well (£14.99, Hay House).
While you’re menstruating, vata rules movement and flow, and Ayurveda encourages us to support the downward swelling of this hormonal change.
After menstruation, the nourishing stage of kapha is dominant. This part of the cycle is where we build up our inner uterine lining, and we often feel softer and more supple in our bodies at this time. “This lasts from the end of the bleeding phase to the point at which we prepare to ovulate,” says Eminé At the stage of ovulation, we enter the pitta point of the cycle.
This is when the endometrium becomes fully congested and filled with blood, ready to receive the ovum. “We can often feel emotional or even angry, and physical symptoms of this heightened acidity can appear as spots or perspiration,” says Jasmine Hemsley, author of East by West (£25, Bluebird). Many women also experience a surge of motivation to do, create and socialise.
While every cycle plays out in the same way, from vata-kapha-pitta, there’s often one that is more dominant, causing dosha-specific-imbalances.
While vata types typically experience short, vacant periods, if out of balance they can be painful. “This is due to the effect of vata on the blood vessels – constricting, cooling, tightening,” explains Eminé. But when we bleed, our bodies naturally seek release. To counterbalance and restore harmonious flow, warm, nourishing foods with moderately heavy texture such as warm milk, cream, butter, soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh baked bread, raw nuts, and nut butters are good for vatas. Drinking a hot or herbal tea with snacks in the late afternoon can help ease the pain by warming and loosening the muscles.
In the days leading up to menstruation, soak a long length of fabric (cotton, wool) in warm caster oil, wring out and then wrap around the pelvis. “Alternatively, relax in a warm bath, and kindly remind yourself to let go and release as your body cleanses,” says Danah Mor, author of Shine Brighter Every Day: Nourish, Balance and Repair your Life (£16.99, Watkins).
Derived from the elements earth and water, kapha is the heaviest and most sluggish of the doshas. The leisurely flow and stagnating quality creates obstacles, making it difficult for things to move around the body; causing fluid retention, bloating and swelling. Seeking out lightness and fluidity will work in opposition to the stickier and heavier nature of kapha. So lean more towards light broths, flavoursome soups and spicy bean curries and stews, while avoiding heavy grains and milk products. “Rest and reflection is also considered an important endeavour,” says Jasmine. So, in the runup to menstruation, forms of yoga such as kundalini or vinyasa and deep cleansing or breathwork are known to support the kapha well at this time, too.
Pitta types are naturally fiery, so can often feel extremely hot and bothered. With this rush of heat, they’re more likely to experience loose bowel movements during their cycle. One of the most important ways for pitta types to restore balance is to lighten up in all aspects. Start by removing competitive, aggressive, and overly challenging activities. “Coconut oil and milk, mint, nettle, lavender, chamomile and coriander are all cooling additions and can be used freely in whatever combinations are desired,” says Eminé. A few days before you start menstruating, heat a little coconut oil in a pan, then soak a cotton flannel three folds thick into the wam oil. Lie down on your back with a cushion underneath your knees and rest it across your abdomen.
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