Updated: Aug 31
In Āyurvedā, it is taught that the stages of life are closely aligned with a doṣa (constitution) and the associated maha bhuta (great element) which overlay qualities and characteristics from which we can adapt and adjust as we move through life. The stages described by Ayurvedic practitioners are
Brahmacharya - creation, growth, building, expanding knowledge and developing experiences in the spirit of the principle of kapha, doṣa of prithvi/earth and jala/water
Gṛhastha - ambition, aspirations, attainment, acquisition and accomplishments in accordance with the principle of pitta, doṣa of tejas/fire and jala/water
Vānaprastha & Sannyasa - letting go, releasing and being in easeful flow with the principle of vata, the doṣa of vayu/air and akasha/space
Menopause is a time of life in which we honour change and transition with Vata as the primary guiding energy to balance the period from and between the menopause and post-menopause.
During menopause, levels of oestrogen and progesterone become depleted leading to the reduction of subtle energy essences known as Ojas and Tejas which are vital aspects of the doṣa. This results in an imbalance in the Gunas, qualities, leading to too much dry, rough, mobile, subtle, spreading, cold, or hot in the body.
Ojas - responsible for strengthening and building immunity, stability, and nourishment. It is the most subtle form of kapha and it is said to nourish all seven layers (dhatus) of the body. To thrive - strong Ojas is vital for strength and immunity to adapt and adjust.
Tejas – responsible for intelligence, discernment, drive and motivation. It is the most subtle essence of pitta and in particular, Agni, the digestive fire which transforms. When combined with low Ojas, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and goes into overdrive. Chronic stress builds high levels of hot and sharp pitta throughout the body. In traditional Āyurvedā, the monthly bleed is seen as a rakta moksa or a therapeutic release. When this becomes sporadic or ends, Ayurvedic practitioners teach key impacts which excess pitta leads to
· high Vata spreads and carries the digestive fire, Agni, from the core impacting on digestive and nutritional health
· high Tejas circulates and causes hot flushes, night sweats and disrupted sleep patterns
· high Vata flows throughout and downward causing loss of moisture in the vagina, vulva, bones and skin
· low Tejas leads to lapses in memory and concentration
Doṣa and the Menopause
It is taught that each of the dosa impact very specifically on the menopause as set out in the list below by Ayurvedic teachers and practitioners.
Vata – the presence of high Vata characteristics causes increased nervousness, anxiety or insomnia
· dry skin or mucous membranes (including the vagina)
· irregular bleeding during perimenopause
· digestive discomfort and constipation
· loss of concentration or sleep
· anxiousness, worry, and fear
· loss of skin hydration and bone integrity
Pitta - experience of high Pitta characteristics leads to anger, irritability or short temper, with overwhelming hot flushes
· hot flushes and night sweats
· heavy bleeding during perimenopause
· skin discomfort and imbalances
· anger, irritation, jealousy, criticism, competitiveness
· excess heat in the body
Kapha - high Kapha type experience heaviness, sleepiness, lack of motivation, lethargy and water retention
· feelings of sadness, low mood and reduced capacity to manage
· low concentration and apathy
· feeling “stuck”
The Āyurvedic Path
Key principle - OPPOSITES BALANCE.
Remember that in Āyurvedā, the aggravating qualities of menopause are dry, rough, mobile, subtle, spreading, cold or hot so seek to draw upon opposing qualities
1. Rasayana - increase Ojas – the juicy, lubricating, hydrating and nourishing essence of Kapha
2. Balance Vata and Pitta by calming and soothing the sympathetic nervous system and reducing extreme imbalances
3. Strengthen Agni – the fuel which powers the engine of your body
Regular Cleansing Ritual to Balance Pitta or High Vata
The practice of self-massage moisturises the body, calms and grounds Vata and soothes the nervous system easing feelings of anxiousness and stress
Place a few drops of eucalyptus oil in each nostril to bring clarity
Gradually pour oil or milk on to the third eye, the Ajna chakra, to provide insight and tune in to intuition - you may use sesame or coconut oil, clarified butter or water
Add a teaspoon of grated ginger with lime (in water) before and after meals. Drink tea with cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds
Drink pomegranate juice and fresh lime or peppermint tea to refresh, cool and release excess heat
Meditate daily for at least 10 - 30 minutes to quieten the mind, to release and let go of anxious thoughts and maintain inner peace - layer up your practice by adding mantra.
Chant mantra 3, 11, 21 or 108 times using mala beads or on your breath during your asana practice to direct the breath, guide the subtle energy and calm the mind
Peace & Compassionate Love : Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha
Strength & Power - Om Dum Durgayei Namaha
Wisdom & Creativity - Om Aim Saraswatyai Namaha
Abundance & Generosity - Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha
Yogic sleep is a guided meditative process completed while lying on your back or in a comfortable position - the aim is to turn inward without falling asleep. Take at least 10 -20 minutes every afternoon to invite deep restfulness.
Absorb the illumination and nourishment of Soma (nectar) from the moon to increase Ojas and inviting cooling to the body. Try 15 minutes at a time over 6 nights around the full moon.
Practice Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing practices) daily for up to 5 to 20 minutes – eg Anulom Viloma or Chandra Bedi. Sheetali or Sitkari Pranayama (cooling breath) is cooling during a hot flush.
Chandra Namaskar, Yin or Chakra Tuning Yoga
Yogasana that focuses on opening the hips, pelvis, core and sacrum, ground Vata. Focus and tune into Muladhara, Swadhisthana and Manipura chakra
Warrior I - Virabhadrasana I
Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II
Extended Side Angle Pose - Utthita Parsvakonasana
Bound Angle Pose - Baddha Konasana
Wide-Legged Forward Bend - Prasarita Padottanasana
Cultivate, foster and connect to the divine energy of the moon by aligning the subtle body and feel empowered to take on challenges and change. Breathe deeply with each mudra and envision the easeful flow of the breath.
Yoni Mudra - quietening the mind and drawing upon creative power - a state of calm and tranquility which is experienced inside the womb from which one is birthed is echoed
Palms together in prayer pose
Press the tips of the fingers against one another and separate palms, creating a tent shape
Keep thumbs and index fingers pressed together, bend and interlace other fingers
Turn the mudra to point index fingers down and focus on breathing into lower abdomen
Trimurti Mudra - Gesture of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - representing the presence of all three forces in supporting through transitions, accepting change in life and overcoming challenges
Palms together at heart centre
Keep thumbs and index fingers connected, open up palms like wings
Place the mudra above the head to channel strength and power
Or upend the mudra in front of lower abdomen so that palms are facing the body and index fingers are pointing down to find balance and calm if feeling stressed or overwhelmed
Kali Mudra - represents Shakti energy of Kali – the embodiment of strength, dissolution/deconstruction and power. Kali is derived from the word Kala – Time and so Kali embodies the continual change and impermanence of life.
Palms together in prayer pose
Fold down and interlace last 3 fingers, keeping the index fingers pointing upwards in front of heart and cross the thumbs
Mudra in front of your heart centre and breathe deeply and elongate the outbreath to let go obstacles
Alternatively place the thumbs of the mudra in between eyebrows to connect to the third eye/Ajna chakra intuition or lift the mudra above your head and breathe deep to connect to strong feelings of power and strength
Sleep easy drinks
For restful sleep, drink hot milk with nutmeg or 2 cloves of garlic. Add a a small amount of turmeric for digestion or half teaspoon of Ashwagandha. *Milk is an anupan or carrier which reaches deep layers of body.
Vata-Balancing/ Pitta Pacifying Dietary Choices
Introduce and include elements of Vata - Pitta pacifying diet which is food that is warm, light, cooked, fresh and unctuous (containing good oils). Use spices that aid in digestion, such as cumin, fennel, coriander, saffron, turmeric, ginger and garlic, cardamom, cloves and ajwain. Try to include foods that nourish such as almonds, pistachios, coconut, ghee, pumpkin, sesame seeds & tofu.
Dinacharya / Daily Routine for the Menopause
Rise early with the sun
Morning and/or evening meditation - sit quietly for 10-30 minutes at least
Daily or weekly massage with warm oil before or after bathing or showering
Take a walk outside to absorb the early morning sunlight and practice more accessible, cooling and restorative yoga
Seek calm, reflective, honouring of self and collaborative conversations and engagements with others
Keep a gratitude journal and minimise overstimulating mental tasks including technology in the evening
Go to bed early and no later than 10pm (when kapha hours end) and try a foot massage with warm sesame, coconut or almond oil
Embodying a Balanced and Nourishing Menopause
The shift into the Vata phase of life offers opportunities to create space for allowing and finding deeper connection to your
deep reflection and contemplation
Vata also has a dispersing nature which has capacity to inspire you in to sharing learning, reflections and wisdom with your wider community so that you truly become a wise, curious and reflective Elder.
Thank you to the work of qualified and experienced Ayurvedic practitioners, including Dr Vasant Lad, Dr Vrinda Devani, Nancy Lonsdorf, the Ayurveda Institute and most of all, my mum and her mother before her. They have taught, advised and refined my Ayurvedic practices and whose teachings I have included here.
Coming next The Magic of Mudra & Mantra
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