Updated: Aug 31
Let's start with the physiological. I have not had a bleed for 4 years and frustratingly, HRT is not deemed suitable for me so experiencing the perimenopause, menopause and post menopause has been and continues to be a catalogue of night sweats, hot flashes, tumultuous moods, self doubt and negative self talk, depression, anxiety, low libido and painful sex! Oh the joys. And so with very few medical alternatives, I reflected and re-framed my thinking and drew upon traditional indigenous knowledge of my mother and her mother before her to support me. Below is part one about placing the menopause within the context of dharmic philosophy. Next up, I will share with you how I integrate Ayurveda and Yoga practices to enrich my soulful and ultimately joyful journey through the menopause.
Menopause and the Stages of Life
In dharmic philosophy, there are 4 Āśrama or stages of life through which we embark on a journey to discover and become increasingly more spiritually aware and conscious. Each stage is integrated with the concept of Puruṣārtha – the goals of life. Together these two concepts provide a framework for fulfillment of potential, attainment of happiness and and liberation into freedom during our life span.
Āśrama or 4 stages of life
Puruṣārtha or 4 goals of life
Brahmacharya - student
Dharma - duty, ethics and morality, self awareness and knowledge, seeking one’s life purpose
Gṛhastha - householder
Artha - wealth, health, means of life, security, selfless service, civic, community and familial responsibilities
Vānaprastha - forest walker/forest dweller
Kama - love, relationships, emotions, deep inner desires, re-discovering life with meaning and purpose
Sannyasa - renunciate or hermit
Mokṣa- liberation, freedom, self-realisation, enlightenment
The life span of a person is one hundred years. Dividing that time, they should attend to three aims of life in such a way that they support, rather than hinder each other. In their youth they should attend to profitable aims (artha) such as learning, in their prime to pleasure (kama), and in their old age to dharma and moksha.
Kamasutra 1.2.1 – 1.2.4
Vānaprastha – The Way of the Forest or Return to the Path of Nature
Vana translates to forest, distant land and prastha means going to, abiding in, journey to. Together, it means "retiring to forest" - the phrase for this stage in life invokes a journey, a transition and time for change.
One moves from the life and attachments of a householder to that of a seeker, from Artha and Kama (pursuit of wealth and pleasure) to Mokṣa (liberation and freedom). This transition may be gentle and gradual or thunderous and shattering – one may resist or accept with grace. It may be an evolution or a revolution. There is no prescriptive path – it has been described as the hermit in retreat or the wandering recluse. It is a solo journey – centring the self (of this world) and Self (spiritual Soul). This is the transition to an Elder of the community – the teacher, advisor, mentor, ancestor, wisdom holder and guardian.
Metaphorically, moving from the noise of the city to become a forest-dweller emphasises the shift from entanglement in the complexity of the world’s demands, pressures and power structures to a simpler, more honest and authentic life of reflection, contemplation and meditation – from one who is done to and now to one who becomes the seer of oppression, injustice and inequity – and speaks up with integrity, with freedom of mind to act.
Menopause – Time to Embrace Spirit and Nourish the Soul
When one reaches Vānaprastha, the veil between the material and spiritual self becomes transparent and gossamer thin with the call of saṅkalpā and one’s soul seeking to be heard, seen and envisioned.
This is a time to seek and return to
· one’s own identity and meaningful purpose
· spiritual curiosity, exploration and inner peace
· adaptive coping strategies such as meditation, self and collective care, reflection,
· ritual and ceremony harmonising with cycles of nature
· liberation for the self and the community from the bounds of power and privilege axis and oppressive structures
Coming next My Āyurvedic Menopause
Join me at The Yoga Space London for Sadhana - the Art of Transformation - 21 days of ritual for deep lasting and sustainable change. Last Friday of each month staring 28 September
Join me in person at Studio 70 Glasgow from 8 - 10 Sept for Sacred Activism immersion - this is not to be missed if you want to a deep and committed dive into decolonised traditional yoga.
Want to expand your learning and teaching on a 300 YTT which is antiracist, anti-oppressive and pro-unity, with lead faculty of global Black and Brown teachers? Sign up to Radical Darshan 300 YTT