Your Ayurvedic menstrual cycle
In Ayurveda, understanding your own health is centred on recognising your ‘dosha’. In some ways, your dosha is a little like your ‘health star sign’. Understanding your dosha will help you to understand how your body works and, therefore, how you can help it.
There are three core Ayurvedic ‘dosha’, vata pitta and kapha. Everyone will have a little bit of all three, but there is often one that is more dominant than the other. Vata types are highly creative and a whirlwind of ideas, pitta types are fiery, passionate and determined and kapha types are steady, grounded individuals. Already, you can possibly recognise which one you might be. But, how does this relate back to your menstrual cycle? Interestingly, in Ayurveda, the menstrual cycle has its very own vata, pitta and kapha stage. If you can recognise which phase affects you most, we have some helpful tips to support you.
Here is how the Ayurvedic menstrual cycle works:
• Day 1 – 5 (from the first day of bleeding) - the vata phase • Day 4 – 14 (from the end of bleeding until ovulation) - the kapha phase • Day 14 – 18 (from ovulation until your period starts) – the pitta phase
Vata – (day 1 – 5)
Vata is the force that regulates all downward movements in the body, pushing the menstruum down and out of the body. If your vata is out of balance, it will manifest as PMS, headaches, digestive upset, constipation, pain on intercourse, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia indicating the need for some vata balancing practices.
How can you balance vata during your period?
Time to take some guilt-free ‘me time’ and create space for calm and peace to recharge during this time. Try to avoid anxiety-inducing stimulants, such as alcohol or caffeine. Calming, nourishing herbs - such as licorice and ashwagandha - that will strengthen and support your adrenal glands are helpful at this time.
Kapha - (day 4 – 14)
Kapha types naturally support and strengthen others. So, the kapha stage of the cycle is all about building the endometrium (the mucous membrane that lines the inside of the uterus). Oestrogen is the hormone that builds and increases at this time - restoring strength to the body and preparing for conception.
If your kapha is out of balance it will manifest as symptoms such as fluid retention, breast tenderness, weight gain, tiredness, back ache and general heaviness. Kapha types are not only good at holding on to energy, but also to memory and emotion. If women notice they feel teary and low at this time, it could also indicate imbalanced kapha.
How can you balance kapha at this stage of your cycle?
Decongesting herbs such as turmeric and aloe vera can be helpful during this time to remove any stagnation. Shatavari is a strengthening and nourishing herb that supports oestrogen balance throughout your menstrual cycle. To counteract kapha’s cold and heavy qualities, enjoy warming herbal teas such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Opt for an exercise routine that will stimulate sweating and movement of circulation. A dynamic yoga class or a brisk lunchtime walk would be perfect to get the blood flowing and shift stagnation.
Pitta (day 14 – 18)
Pitta is the main dosha involved in the ovulation and luteal phases. Fire is transformative and this is the stage where the body prepares itself for new life. Essentially, pitta fires our body in readiness for conception through a peak in the hormone progesterone. Libido is high at the start of ovulation, but as the luteal phase (after ovulation) prevails any excess pitta can become apparent through hot pitta accumulating in the blood and liver. As the blood channels and menstruation are connected, this causes extra heat in the system, leading to skin irritations, headaches, diarrhoea, feelings of irritation and emotional overload. This is when pitta types can really manifest as fire. Feelings of bloating, diarrhoea, cravings and breast tenderness are also common PMS symptoms.
How can you balance pitta as you prepare for your period?
This is an important time to give your liver a helping hand to metabolise high hormone levels. You can help by increasing the amount of colourful and cruciferous vegetables you eat and incorporating movement into your day. Heat-clearing and liver-regulating spices such as aloe vera, turmeric and spirulina can be helpful during this stage of your menstrual cycle. Keep yourself in balance by favouring cooling herbal teas such as mint and nettle. Tune in to your emotional needs, this may be a time you want to push yourself a little extra but practicing calming yoga will keep those fiery feelings in check.
Don't know your dosha? Take our dosha to find out.
Author: Jo Webber
Head of Herbal Education
As a BSc qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher, Jo is passionate about bringing these two ancient sciences together to help people feel empowered about their health. Jo has put her post-graduate certificate in education to good use, co-founding the Ayurveda academy to help others learn of the wonders of Ayurveda. Jo has also earned a Masters degree in human sciences from Oxford University and has taught in several schools
BSc qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher
Years of experience:
20 years as a Hatha yoga teacher/ayurvedic practitioner
Member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association