Menopause: The Second Half of a Woman’s Life Cycle
by Vrinda Devani, MD
reprinted from: www.banyanbotanicals.com
Menopause marks the beginning of a woman’s transition into the later phases of her life, and is dominated by vata. While infamous by reputation, menopause can be a time of insight and learning. It is vital to remember that menopause itself is not an illness, but simply a natural transitional point in a woman’s life. Since vata takes the lead in this time of life, characteristics of vata will predominate. Though one is tempted to focus on the negative, healthy vata also brings forth the qualities of freedom, creativity, joy, and flexibility. If one allows vata to be a teacher, this challenging period could instead be a period heralded by great learning and growth.
It is imbalanced vata and its change in direction of flow that are the root of uncomfortable traits of menopause. Vata sends blood, and therefore ranjaka pitta (a subtype of pitta) away from the artava dhatu and towards the skin, resulting in heated sensations. Apana vayu may alter the moisture of the vaginal lining. Vyana vayu, which by its circulation is responsible for things like healthy heart rhythms and joint health, can become imbalanced
At a physiological level, the ovaries stop producing hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone, at the same level they used to. Hormones, from an Ayurvedic perspective, are agni packaged in molecular messengers traveling throughout the body. The decrease of this natural intelligence puts additional pressure on vata to stay balanced and moving in the appropriate direction. As agni is the subtle form of pitta, the overall state of pitta also decreases. For example, there is a decrease in sadhaka pitta, the subtype of pitta that is dominant in the brain and is integral to healthy concentration and appropriate moods.
Thus, when we look to support a woman through this transition, we want to approach her with an eye of rebalancing vata by helping it rediscover its proper directional flow, and also by rekindling agni, particularly the agni of the rasa dhatu, asthi dhatu, the skeletal system, and majja dhatu, the nervous system.
To that end, the following suggestions may prove beneficial to your clients:
1. Above all, let vata be a teacher. This is the time in life to learn to slow down, reflect on what has been taught so far, come to peace with the things that are still not resolved, and then to give back to society from the wisdom gained. Daily self-abhyanga, or massage of oneself with oil, is grounding and self-giving. Kindle asthi dhatu agni with basti, an enema, using vata pacifying herbs. There is an integral relationship between the lining of the colon and asthi dhatu agni. Basti will also bring vata to its proper flow. This dhatu agni needs calcium. Great sources of calcium include a spoonful of white sesame seeds in the morning, warm milk, and greens such as kale, collards and turnip greens.
2. Spend time in the sun! This is a great source of vitamin D, calcium’s partner for bone health, and is extremely soothing for vata imbalance. Of course, there are many factors to take into consideration, such as genetics, skin type, and history of skin diseases. But, in general, for healthy time spent in the sun, be careful to not burn, bathe early or late in the day when the sun is not at its peak, and build the vitamin D reserves during late spring through early fall.5
3. When there is excess heat in the system, try cooling sheetali pranayama, a drop of vetiver oil to the third eye and wrists, or working with the shanka marma.
4. Applying a small amount of ghee (clarified butter) to the vagina can nourish and moisturize the tissue. The vaginal mucosa, like any mucosal lining, has a strong rasa component to it. Building rasa in the body, with time, will nourish all the mucosa in the body.
5. Nadi shodhana for 20 minutes daily. This pranayama balances the prana flowing through the left and right side of the brain, and is thus a great pranayama for any hormonal balance.
As with any imbalance, remember to cater your recommendations to the doshas most active in your client. Menopause can take a variety of forms, depending on the doshas most at play.
Keep reading our next newsletter for more information on herbal remedies to support a healthy female reproductive system.
Resources: 1. Lad, Vasant. Ayurvedic Perspective on Selected Pathologies. Ayurvedic Press . 2012 2. Tewari, Premavati. Ayurvediya Prasutitantra Evam Striroga: Part II Striroga. Chaukhambha Orientalia. 2007 3. Tewari, Premavati. Ayurvediya Prasutitantra Evam Striroga: Part I Prasutitantra. Chaukhambha Orientalia. 2007 4. Welch, Claudia. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. De Capo Press. 2011 5. Hobday, Richard. Sunbathing: the Benefits are More than Skin Deep. http://www.creationsmagazine.com/articles/C114/Hobday.html