Menopause: The Ayurveda Perspective

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In today’s fast-paced, high-stress world, menopause sounds like a horrible event looming over a woman’s productive time of life. Ayurveda offers us a look at menopause from a different point of view, one steeped in tradition over thousands of years. Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine and natural system of healing of India, recognizes that there are certain forces, called doshas, at play in all people all their lives. By recognizing how these forces play out in each of our lives, we can learn to bring our lives into balance, creating the opportunity for health and contentment.

According to Ayurveda, there are three stages of life: the Kapha stage, which is the stage of youth, a time of growing and learning and of being nurtured. This is followed by the Pitta stage, which is the productive, working period of our lives. This is followed by the Vata stage of live, a time of inner reflection and growth. It is a time of service, to our loved ones and our society.

Menopause signifies the time of change from the Pitta, productive time period, into the Vata stage of life.

When we recognize this natural cycle of change and accept the gifts each stage offers we can live happily and at peace. But when one is unaware of this time, and one struggles to remain in the Pitta stage once they’ve naturally moved beyond it, much stress can be created. These forces, or doshas, of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, are made up of certain qualities. Vata is made up of the concepts of ether and air, which gives us the qualities of lightness, dryness, coolness and mobility. Pitta is made up of the concepts of fire and a little water. It has the qualities of heat, a little moist or oily, lightness and is unstable. Kapha is made up of the concepts of water and earth. This gives Kapha the qualities of heaviness, coolness, moistness and stability.

As we move from the Pitta time of life to a Vata time of life, the Vata dosha will naturally increase. For some women, this increase does not cause an imbalance. For others, different symptoms of a Vata imbalance will be present. Common symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, palpitations, urinary incontinence and constipation.

There are several components to an ayurvedic treatment program for managing an excess of the Vata dosha. Since Vata is a condition of dry, light and cool qualities, Ayurveda recommends food plans that contain warm, heavy and moist qualities. An example of this would be vegetables lightly sauted in ghee (clarified butter) with digestive spices such as fennel, cumin and coriander, served with rice.

How you eat is just as important as what you eat, if not more so. Ayurveda has healthy eating guidelines that revolve around taking the time to eat in a quiet calm environment with your attention on what you’re eating. In Ayurveda, eating is a time of respect and appreciation for the food you are consuming.

Ayurvedic treatment also includes herbs that complement the food plan. Shatavari, literally “she who has one hundred husbands,” is an Ayurvedic herb used for maintaining a healthy female reproductive system. It is tonifying and has a demulcent property which is helpful for Vata’s dryness. It also has a calming effect and can be used for sleeplessness and a cooling effect which is beneficial for hot flashes.

Ayurveda has several therapies which are helpful for women entering menopause. These include abhyanga, which is a warm oil massage, shirodhara, a treatment where a continuous stream of warm oil is poured across the forehead, and anuvasana basti, a warm oil enema. Ayurveda also encourages meditation to aid in the inner search for self. Seen through the eyes of Ayurveda, this is a beautiful time of transition.