Updated: Jul 14, 2020
How often do you think about your menstrual cycle? Perhaps it’s just once a month when you bleed, or in the days leading up when you notice cramps or a change in your mood. Day to day, it’s something that many of us don’t consider until we really have to. But, according to ayurvedic medicine, it’s something that could be influencing our lives more than we realise.
“In ayurveda, we say that preparation is the key to success,” explains Dr Deepa Apte, a fully qualified medical doctor, yoga teacher and ayurvedic practitioner.
“We are always preparing for the next stage in life. For example, during puberty, we’re beginning to prepare for adulthood and possibly pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, how she lives in that nine months will prepare her for the post-natal phase. Then, how she lives in this post-natal phase will eventually determine her menopause.”
The same can be said for our menstrual cycle too. The choices we make at different points in our cycle can influence the health of our body and mind, as well as impact our fertility and the likelihood of conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Here, Deepa explains how we can apply the principles of ayurveda to live more in balance with nature and our menstrual cycle.
The doshas and what they mean for our cycle
Ayurveda is based on the idea that everything in the universe is made up of five basic elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. These five elements then combine to give rise to three forces (or doshas). The combination of these three doshas (called vata, pitta and kapha) determine the biological, physiological and psychological functions of the mind and body. They also relate to different points in the menstrual cycle too.
Kapha is a combination of water and earth and is the principle of stability and maintenance. It’s also responsible for growth and nourishment. The kapha phase starts after the end of your period and lasts up to the point of ovulation.
“This is a time for nourishment and preparing the uterine bed, potentially for implantation,” says Deepa. “The kapha phase isn’t a time to start a detox or a cleanse. These go against the nature of kapha.”
Trying a diet or detox during this time may not only be unsuccessful, but it may also have a detrimental effect on your body later down the line. Instead, nourish your body and give it what it needs.
Ovulation is considered to be a vata/pitta event, when there is a change in phase of the cycle.
We then move into the vata phase of the cycle. Vata is associated with air and any form of activity or movement. This is the two weeks before periods begin.
“If there is no conception, the nourishment that was laid down in the kapha phase begins to break down,” explains Deepa. “This is the breaking down of the endometrial lining. It’s a time when you may feel more emotional or sensitive.”
If you’re looking to start a detox or cleanse, the vata phase in your cycle is the time to do it. A simple fast can help to bring the body back into balance and may be useful if you struggle with irregular periods.
“In ayurveda, a simple fast would be to have just one main meal, but to have this meal around lunchtime,” says Deepa. “This is when the sun will be highest and on top of your head, meaning your digestive fire will be at its strongest and help to absorb all the nutrients from your meal.”
The vata/pitta phase again marks another change – this time your period. Pitta is associated with fire and water and is related to glands in the body. As Deepa explains, it’s important to give your body what it needs at this time to ensure your cycle stays on track.
“If your body is too dry, it’s not going to be able to release blood as it should,” explains Deepa. “This might result in irregular, lighter periods.”
To work with the nature of vata and pitta, you need to ensure that your body is fully prepared for your period. On the first day of your period, apply warm sesame seed oil to your whole body, starting at your head and moving downwards.
“The movement of blood is downward during your period,” explains Deepa. “We don’t want to work against that.”
Once you’ve applied your oil from head to toe, wait for five to 10 minutes before enjoying a warm shower to wash off the oil. Your body will take what it needs from the oil, helping to bring you back into balance.
If you no longer bleed, you can still enjoy this ritual to help bring your body back into balance by working with the moon.
“Applying warm sesame seed oil on a full or new moon can nourish your body and help you get in touch with nature,” explains Deepa.
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About Dr Deepa Apte
Dr Deepa Apte is a fully qualified Indian medical doctor (Bachelor of Medicine; Bachelor of Surgery, India), a qualified Yoga teacher (specialising in Hatha Yoga and the Sivananda tradition) and a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.