Modern women have it hard sometimes. Sure, we have our freedom to have a career, choose whether to have children or not, choose whether to get married or not. But we also often have to pretend we’re not women in order to get by in a man’s world.
When we get our periods, we are expected to take painkillers or just ‘suck it up’ and keep trooping on with our jobs, our families and all the other demands, despite the huge changes in our bodies. We lose touch with what is going on in our own bodies.
Traditionally, women rested during their menstruation. Women would be given special huts to rest and meditate in at this time, when blood loss and hormonal changes could leave them feel tired and weak.
Feminists could see this as trying to control women and banish them from society for just being women, but I know, if I was given a choice to relax or keep battling on through mood swings and period pain, I know which one I would choose. Women in the past also had far less periods to contend with than modern women, because they were usually constantly pregnant or breastfeeding.
Ayurveda sees menstruation as essentially a cleansing process of the female body, keeping the uterus and body clean of toxins, in preparation for conception and pregnancy.It is seen that if the menstrual cycle is healthy, there will be a healthy preganancy too. There is also a theory, that women live longer because their bodies are regularly cleansed of ama.
Some women think of PMT as a normal occurrence in the menstrual cycle, something to put up with. Ayurveda doesn’t see PMT as normal at all – it sees it as part of a general doshic imbalance. It states that a normal period should ideally be part of a 26-30 day cycle, 5 days long, of moderate flow, of moderate colour, and with no clots, pain or PMT.
Doshas and menstruation
As a teen, I used to get periods that were so heavy and painful, I would pass out and beome anaemic. Looking back, I had a pitta imbalance which showed up during my period time. This is no longer such a problem now, but I still do get flashes of heated anger before my periods come.
Ayurveda sees the doshas as being involved in what type of period you experience. Any imbalance in your doshas, causes the types of symptoms you will experience during menstruation.
If there is a pitta aggravation in the body, toxins leak out from the stomach (due to overacidity) into the bloodstream. Pitta will accumulate in the blood and liver. The extra pitta heat in the body will leads to pitta complaints, such as irritability and anger. This will become especially pronounced during menstruation as the body tries to clear itself.
Women menstruating who have a pitta imbalance will experience any of the following:
- excessive flow of blood
- bright red blood
- long period (more than 5 days)
- irritated, inflamed skin, rashes, acne
- sharp period pain
- feeling hot and uncomfortable
- anger, irritability
- headaches, migraines
- light sensitivity
This can be balanced by anything cooling, such as resting with a fan going, meditating, drinking coconut water or aloe vera juice, or taking amla capsules.
A vata imbalance means that the nervous system dries up plasma production in the blood, meaning that menstruation is adversely affected.
Vata periods will generally involve:
- less blood, on and off flow
- dark red or brown blood
- short period time (under 5 days)
- pain radiating down into the groin
- menstrual pain
- thigh and lower back ache
- general body stiffness
Triphala and ginger are recommended, as are using more good oils in your diet.
Too much kapha means too much mucus in the body and blood plasma. This will have flow on effects to menstruation too for Kaphas.
Kapha periods will generally involve:
- pale blood
- large clots, mucus, slime in blood
- dull pain
- water retention and weight gain
- feeling sensitive, sentimental and teary
- nausea, vomiting
- feeling the cold
Ginger is good for Kaphas to take during this time, as is Trikatu.
Doshas and the menstrual cycle
As well as for individuals, the actual menstruation cycle is dictated by the doshas. The older I get the more I can see that menstruation affects me the whole cycle through, not just before and during my period. This means, as a woman, I am never NOT affected by the menstrual cycle.
Vata predominates in the two weeks before your periods, after ovulation. During this time, anxiety and insecurity may build up somewhat. I know my general wellbeing takes a bit of a dive during this time, getting steadily worse towards my period time. You may also get constipated and stop sleeping so well. That is usually how I know my period is nearly here. It is important to stay rested and warm during this time. Nuture yourself.
When menstruating, Pitta normally predominates (as is usually the case with anything involving blood). The body is more hot than usual, and moods such as anger and irritability will easily flare up. Of course, the severity of this depends on your doshic makeup too. This is why it’s important to avoid heating things at this time, such alcohol, fried foods and spicy foods. Avoid discussing anything important, as you may just say the wrong thing!
The Kapha time, in my opinion, is the best in the female cycle, the time after your period’s over up until ovulation. I alwasys feel healthy and full of energy and optimism. This is because the body has rid itself of toxins and oestrogen rises. Everything normally feels harmonious again and just swims along.
I like this quote from the Lakota tribes of North America about menstruation:
“Follow your Grandmother Moon. Her illuminating cycles will transform your spirit. Begin with the Grandmother Moon at her brightest and most open. This is a time of outward activity and high energy. Sleep where the moonlight touches you. Walk outside where there are no artiﬁcial lights. Feel joy and creativity.
As the Grandmother begins to cover her face, begin to withdraw into a quieter, less social place. Move to that inward place that is more about “being” than “doing.” In the dark of the moon, when bleeding, the veil between you and the Great Mystery is the thinnest. Be receptive to visions, insights, intuitions. Go to a quiet separate place such as a Moon Lodge. Later, come out of the dark, a woman with a cleansed body. As the moon returns, come back out into the world, carrying your vision.”
From: The Women Warriors
Interesting Links on Ayurveda and menstruation: