Menopause…supported by Ayurveda

Every woman will generally go through natural menopause (defined as 12 consecutive months without a period with no other obvious pathological or physiological cause) sometime in her mid-forties to mid-fifties. The average age is 51 years. Perimenopause can start up to 10 years earlier and is the time during which we make the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of our reproductive years. It is a normal part of the aging process.

Traditionally native women looked forward to menopause as a rite of passage, a time for reflection and inner peace. However, in our society it is often the case that the stress of juggling career and family results in many women feeling over-burdened, pulled between demanding jobs, rearing children, caring for parents and running a home. Such circumstances don’t allow much time for reflection! Combine this with a youth-obsessed culture and it is easy to see why women today don’t tend to embrace this time of life.

We can choose to welcome menopause and the opportunities it brings, consciously channelling our creativity into new projects that ignite passion in our hearts. If, on the other hand, we cling to our youth, we stay stuck, longing for what is now in the past. We spend our precious energy trying to preserve how we look on the outside. The wisdom of Ayurveda offers many ways to stay youthful and healthy – the difference is, it is from the inside out! Establishing a daily routine is the cornerstone, helping to create and maintain balance in both body and mind, improving digestion, clearing toxins and when appropriate taking herbs to support rejuvenation of our tissues, all with no side-effects. It demands that we take responsibility for our health and well-being – THERE IS NO QUICK FIX! 

In the West, it is estimated that 80% of women will experience Hot Flushes at some point during peri/menopause, accompanied by a range of other symptoms including psychological disturbances – mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression. 

The underlying constitution (prakruti) of an individual plays an important role in symptom manifestation. If Vata (predominantly Ether and Air elements) is dominant, sensory-motor problems, bone and joint issues and psychological disturbances like anxiety, depression and mood swings will be more pronounced. Pitta (Fire and Water) types are susceptible to premature aging and may have an earlier menopause. They are more prone to hot flushes, excessive perspiration and thirst, irritation and anger. Kapha (Water and Earth) dominant women tend to age well and have fewer symptoms generally but can easily put on weight, so need to watch their diet, and exercise frequently.

In Ayurveda, this phase of life is governed by a transition from Pitta to Vata dominance. Even for the healthiest woman, it is time that is governed by irregularity (which alone increases Vata). This is generally apparent in the menstrual cycle during Perimenopause. Here are some guidelines to keep both Vata and Pitta in check at this crucial time: 

  • Establish a daily routine including abhyanga (oil massage) with sesame (for Vata) or coconut (for Pitta)
  • Ensure your electrolyte balance is correct – stay hydrated
  • Cut down or eliminate coffee and alcohol
  • Use Ghee for cooking (great for Agni, the digestive fire)
  • Adopt a Vata pacifying diet and ensure it is not Pitta aggravating:
  • Eat warm, well cooked, unctuous food at regular times
  • Avoid packaged, processed, frozen and canned food
  • If prone to hot flushes, try including coriander, fennel, fresh lime, mint tea, pomegranate juice and ripe pears in the diet
  • Exercise – Sweating is great for joints and bones helps to relieve aches and pains
  • Rejuvenating herbs for menopause include – aloe vera, shatavari, ashwagandha, triphala, dashamula, brahmi, pipali and vidari (Only take as prescribed by your practitioner)
  • Calm the mind and establish a nurturing Yoga practice 
  • Build bone strength with asana (postures) but don’t overdo it!
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing – Inhale left, exhale right, Inhale Right and Exhale left (one round) Repeat without straining (x10 – twice a day)
  • Meditate
  • Try Shirodhara (a continuous stream of liquid – usually warm oil – on the forehead)      this treatment calms Vata and alleviates stress

If we take a preventative approach and start when healthy, long before the onset of perimenopause, this time can be free of aggravating symptoms. It is never too early to start. When we are in balance, we can connect with that part of us that does not identify with an aging body and mind, but with a timeless, infinite intelligence that is beyond ego. We will then be able to navigate through this transition with ease, unperturbed by a few wrinkles!

Article by Paula Herbert (A graduate of our Diploma of Ayurvedic studies program)

Paul started yoga in 1989 and began teaching with David at Ashtanga Yoga Dublin in 2004. Prior to this, she spent several years in the Corporate World but always had a keen interest in Holistic Health, studying Energetic Massage Therapy and Polarity Therapy/Counselling for 4 years, as well as completing a 4 year training in the Practice and Philosophy of Hatha Yoga. She travelled to India on a number of occasions to deepen her personal yoga/Ayurveda practices. After obtaining certification as an Ayurvedic Consultant and Practitioner, she set up an Ayurvedic clinic in June 2019.

Satmya