Menopause is a vital stage in a woman’s life and it comes with significant physical and mental changes and often challenges. Preparing yourself in advance can make the transition a smooth, graceful and insightful experience.
In Ayurveda, menopause is referred to as Rajonivrutti (cessation of menstruation). Medically, menopause is diagnosed when a woman stops menstruating for 12 months. For most women, this process occurs between 45-55 years of age.
What happens during Menopause?
Closer to menopause, women generally experience irregular cycles and changes in the quantity of menstrual blood. Oestrogen and progesterone, the fertility hormones, decrease and the ovaries eventually stop producing ovum (eggs). This ultimately results in the physiological stoppage of menstruation.
In the months or years leading up to menopause (a phase called perimenopause), a majority of women experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Irregular periods or heavy bleeding
Vaginal dryness & reduced libido
Mood swings, irritability, depression
Hot flushes, night sweats and chills
Scattered thoughts, poor memory, difficulty concentrating
Headaches or migraines
Insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations
Slow metabolism & weight gain
Dry skin and nails, thinning hair
Loss of breast fullness
Increased frequency of urination or incontinence
Muscle and joint pain or inflammation
Reduced bone density
HOW DOES AYURVEDA VIEW MENOPAUSE?
Unlike Western medicine which tends to perceive menopause negatively, associating it with ageing and loss of sexual vitality, Ayurveda sees it as part of the natural cycle of life; a transitional period during which natural metabolic changes occur. This is a very important time in a woman’s life demanding specific care for health and wellbeing in all aspects – physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually and spiritually.
Approaching menopause, wrong lifestyle choices will amplify the increase in Vata dosha, which naturally occurs during this time. Increased Vata is responsible for manifesting excessivly dry, rough, hot/cold qualities in the body as well as degenerative processes. This leads to reduced elasticity of body tissues, particularly the skin and muscles. After the age of around 50, a woman will also have to face the decline in sex hormones, regarded as ‘juices’ that keep our body youthful and nourished.
Thankfully, through Ayurveda, the negative effects that occur during menopause can be managed very well. Symptoms are preventable or can be greatly reduced and there are highly effective remedies available to treat the underlying causes of the negative side effects that occur during menopause.
During this period, your main goal should be to establish a balance of Vata and Pitta dosha, improve your digestive fire (Agni) and eradicate toxins (Ama) from the body. Likewise, after you have undergone menopause (a stage called post-menopause), you have moved into the ‘Vata age’ in your life. This means that regardless of your natural constitution, this dosha (Vata) will easily go out of balance and cause problems like arthritis, osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases.
The best thing you can do is to start preparing for menopause early in your life by taking care of yourself and establishing a balanced lifestyle already from the time of menarche (when the first menstrual cycle occurs at puberty). Embracing menopause through a healthy lifestyle will result in a smoother transition and prevent imbalances and severe discomfort.
Here are some guidelines to help you attenuate many of the challenges and support you to experience a different, much empowered menopause:
1. DAILY ROUTINE
Establish a daily routine that is supportive and balanced. This includes sticking to regular meal times and a consistent bedtime schedule that gives you sufficient sleep. We recommend going to bed by 10.30 PM latest and by rising with the sun at around 06:00 AM. Obviously, these times vary according to where in the world you are located and the season but you get the idea…! Rhythm and regularity help very much in keeping Vata dosha in check and this is extremely important.
Listen to your body and always allow for plenty of rest during the day. You might want to consider delegating more at home and at work. Allow yourself to slow down and set aside time for relaxation, meditation, yoga nidra or mindfulness during the day. We also recommend you practice gentle yoga and cooling pranayama like Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and Sheetali (cooling breath) under expert instruction. All this will help to balance your parasympathetic nervous system, cool down your body and reduce hot flushes.
2. BALANCE VATA
Here is how:
During menopause, you should eat lots of warm, fresh, nutritious yet easy-to-digest food which is neither excessively drying, heating nor pungent (spicy). And while it is recommended to include more vegetables into your diet, select those vegetables that do not increase Vata.
Avoid processed and canned food and limit the intake of dry, cold, frozen, fermented or re-heated foods, refined sugar and red meat to a bare minimum.
Also, reduce coffee and alcohol as much as possible, since both increase Vata due to their drying and stimulating nature. A glass of wine is fine from time to time and instead of coffee, we recommend you to begin exploring the world of herbal teas – you will be astonished how amazing some of them taste!
Favour the sweet taste of whole grains, root vegetables and well-ripened fruits; enjoy basmati rice, mung beans, kitchari and consume quality fats (from ghee, avocado, nuts)
Cook with spices that aid digestion, such as ginger, cumin, fennel, coriander, saffron and turmeric. You can also include foods that are rich in natural phytoestrogens like soy, lentils, linseed, sesame seeds or fenugreek.
At mealtimes, create a calm atmosphere, concentrate on your food and chew well.
Eat only when you’re hungry and aim to have your main meal at noon when digestive power is strongest. Your dinner should be light and taken early in the evening.
Staying hydrated is particularly important, either by drinking room temperature water (warm water is even better) or gently spiced, relaxing herbal teas. Tulsi and ginger are generally good for most people.
There is nothing that drives imbalances more than stress due to anger, resentment or irritations from the past. Now is the time to let go of intensely-fuelled ambitions, over-work and perfectionism.
3. EXERCISE SMARTLY
Regular, mild to moderate-intensity exercise is ideal. Go for a brisk walk in nature, practice yoga or swim for example. Work out early in the morning whenever possible, but if that is not an option, include exercises into your evening routine that relax your nervous system, like walking, Yin Yoga or Tai Chi.
Be aware that high-intensity workouts increase Vata as well as Pitta dosha and you should definitely avoid them – no matter whether it is a Hot Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga class, running, cycling or Zumba sessions. Note that gentle weightlifting can support your bone density and muscle strength and is therefore recommended.
4. MAKE PEACE WITH THE PAST
Making peace with the past and accepting the present may be one of the most important elements of your transition. Positivity and acceptance are essential, as unprocessed emotions may exacerbate menopausal symptoms such as heat flushes, mood swings and irritability.
So take time to make peace with yourself and all those who you have crossed paths with. Also, consider that the purpose of your life might require some adjusting at this stage. After caring for your family, it now is the time to focus more on your individual needs and give yourself the care that you so much deserve. You have accumulated so much wisdom over the course of your life. Consider sharing your knowledge and life experiences with others. Adding value to other people’s life and receiving their acknowledgements will not only boost your confidence but also nurture you deeply.
5. SELF MASSAGE
One of the best ways a woman can show self-love and care is via massaging herself with warm medicated oils (abhyanga), especially Ksheerabala and Ashwagandha oils. Not only does the practice of self-massage nurture dry skin, it is also one of the most effective ways for calming Vata, easing anxious feelings and helping with uncomfortable joints. Ksheerabala or Chandanadi oil massaged onto the feet can help if you suffer from insomnia.
6. USE HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS
A number of Ayurvedic herbs can assist in easing negative symptoms of menopause. Notably, Ashwagandha calms the mind and shakes off stress, while Shatavari, known as the “female rejuvenator”, helps combat heat and dryness and boosts libido. You could also try chamomile, aloe vera juice, liquorice or turmeric.
Since each woman’s experience of menopause is different, it is best to consult an Ayurvedic physician who can prescribe the right herbs for your specific symptoms & constitution.
Looking for inspiring and life-changing Ayuvedic Programs?
This unique cleansing and rejuvenation process can benefit every woman, before, during and after menopause. By removing excess dosha and balancing a woman’s physiology, Panchakarma enables a woman:
Panchakarma programs should be tailored by an Ayurvedic physician according to the state of your doshas and your constitution. Panchakarma programs can help clear physical, mental and emotional imbalances; restore physiological, emotional and mental balance; support the body during hormonal changes occuring during menopause and activate the producion of ‘juice’-giving reproductive hormones.
“Navigating this time of life can be challenging, but it can also be a window of opportunity and a new beginning—a chance to realign with your values, recalibrate your purpose and prioritise your own wellbeing.” (Dr Sujatha Kekada)
In order to balance your body, mind and emotions, your unique ratio of the three doshas must be rebalanced. This can be achieved by Ayurvedic Detox and rejuvenation procedures, dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal medications and various Ayurvedic treatment methods. Amrtasiddhi‘s Ayurvedic treatments are individually tailored to the composition of your doshas. In the course of an Ayurvedic consultation, we determine your personal constitution and current imbalances and design your individual treatment plan accordingly. You can have complete confidence in the profound knowledge of our Ayurveda experts. We at AmrtaSiddhi are looking forward to welcoming you as our guest!