The natural state of a woman’s body is vibrant, healthy, and joyous. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, any deviation from this state of being—poor physical health, psychological stress, emotional turbulence, or spiritual blockage—is the result of imbalanced life force energy. Restoring the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the heart is critical to re-establishing this natural state of harmony, and it requires deliberate lifestyle changes designed to bring the life force energies into balance. Thankfully, there are several tips in Ayurveda for women’s health that guide women in rediscovering their peaceful feminine energy.
Ayurveda for women’s health holds that women, as creators of life, are naturally intuitive. We are more sensitive to the rhythms of nature. Energetic imbalance is thus particularly disturbing for women, who feel these off-kilter rhythms on a deep level.
This week, we explore key concepts of Ayurveda for women’s health. Specifically, we delve into some of the specific health issues that women face and Ayurvedic prescriptions for ailing them.
General Guidelines: Ayurveda for Women’s Health
Ayurveda is a holistic wellness philosophy that embraces whole, natural foods and plant-based, herbal medicine. According to Ayurveda, balancing your doshas, or life force energies, through diet and exercise is the key to perfect health. Just as a poor lifestyle creates imbalance, so lifestyle improvements restore energetic balance.
There are several general steps one can take to balance their individual doshas. Knowing what steps to take typically requires an Ayurvedic consultation. Eating the right foods and performing the right exercises for your dosha in accordance with the guidelines your consultant provides will put you on the path to good health.
Ayurveda also provides holistic lifestyle recommendations that are specific to the unique needs of women. Ayurveda for women’s health encourages regular consumption of calcium and magnesium rich foods, like leafy greens, dark chocolate, yogurt, and beans, to prevent osteoporosis. It also encourages the regular consumption of iron rich foods to prevent anemia, as most women suffer from low iron. Whole, iron-rich foods include grass-fed beef, beets, lentils, and spinach.
Certain Ayurvedic herbs cater excellently to the needs of women. Amla prevents osteoporosis, anemia, and aging while balancing digestion and doshic energy. Shatavari balances hormones, thus providing relief from menopause, PMS, infertility, irregular periods and low estrogen.
Finally, the unique demands on modern women result in chronic stress and inflammation. Ayurveda thus encourages regular cleansing and stress reduction techniques to reduce the negative afflictions inherent to the modern lifestyle. Among these techniques are yoga, pranayama, meditation, walking, and regular sleep.
Ayurveda for Periods
Ayurveda embraces a woman’s period as a natural and healthy time of cleansing. Instead of fighting the body, Ayurveda for women’s health encourages us to listen to our bodies during our periods. If you have a healthy craving, honor it and indulge; your body is telling you that you need it. If you are tired, rest; your body is communicating that it requires a rejuvenation period. Feeling restless or agitated? Go for a walk. In general, rest, diet, stress management, and a regular sleep schedule are key to preserving energy during the menstrual cycle.
Monitoring your diet can go a long way in alleviating symptoms of PMS. Eating light, easily digestible foods allows the body to divert energy from digestion to menstruation, reducing fatigue. Avoid fried and spicy foods, which can slow digestion. In so doing, these foods prevent the expulsion of ama, the buildup of which can exacerbate PMS. Instead, consume foods that are warm, heavy, oily, sweet, sour, and salty. These foods balance vata, an excess of which is typically the culprit for menstrual complications. Finally, consume sesame seeds, which help to regulate blood flow and relieve cramps.
Ayurveda for women’s health also suggests physical methods of relief. Regular massage during menstruation eases cramps and stress while expelling ama. Asanas like bow pose, forward bend, fish pose, and camel pose offer relief from cramps. Light exercise produces endorphins and expels ama through sweat to reduce menstrual pain.
Ayurveda During Pregnancy
In addition to the Garbhini Paricharya, a unique and specific Ayurvedic regimen for pregnant women, Ayurveda offers several suggestions for easing pregnancy symptoms and producing a healthy baby.
Ayurveda for women’s health encourages the regulation of Ahar, Vihar, and Vichar: diet, lifestyle, and thoughts, respectively. A clean, vata-pacifying diet, combined with regular exercise, stress reduction, and positive thinking are key to a healthy pregnancy.
In addition to consuming a vata-pacifying diet, Ayurveda encourages pregnant women to honor their cravings. It also emphasizes the importance of consuming Sattvic foods, those that elevate the energetic state of a person’s being. Sattvic foods include ghee, fresh nuts and seeds, produce, whole grains, and ethical dairy. If you suffer from tiredness and bloating, take dietary steps to reduce kapha. These may include eating cool, light foods, like lightly cooked vegetables.
Ayurvedic massage is great for easing the physical tension that is inevitable in a healthy pregnancy. Breast and abdomen massages may be particularly beneficial in the second and third trimesters. A tea made from ginger and fennel eases nausea and fluid retention, while consuming fiber and oily foods relieves constipation by reducing vata. Light exercise and gentle yoga are recommended forms of stress relief during pregnancy.
Ayurveda also recommends certain practices for ensuring the health of your baby. Transcendental meditation reduces the negative impact of stress on your baby. Garbha Sanskar, the Ayurvedic tradition of educating a child in the womb, recommends music and reading. Positive thoughts, meditation, and creative thinking are encouraged to enhance the morale and health of the unborn baby.
Ayurveda for Menopause
Just as a buildup of ama is responsible for many PMS symptoms, it is also responsible for the hormonal agitations that cause menopause symptoms. Reducing ama through a vata-pacifying diet, exercise, massage, and cleansing thus goes a long way in easing menopause symptoms.
To pacify vata and promote healthy digestion, consume warm, oily foods. Eat your largest meal in the middle of the day, and avoid ama-ridden leftovers. Going to bed at a consistent time also helps to tame vata and minimize stress. It is especially crucial that you sleep between the hours of 10pm and 2am. This is the body’s natural period of cleansing and purifying.
Pre-menopausal and menopausal women benefit from the use of the hormone-balancing herb Sundari. They also benefits from warm oil massage. Massage can help regulate apana vata, the energy that governs the genitourinary tract.