How to Care for Women’s Health During the Pandemic
Many women have noticed that their health has shifted since the pandemic started, including their menstrual patterns. Some have noticed that the reduced mobility from sheltering-in-place has actually been great for their stress levels, while others have found themselves feeling the uncomfortable physical, mental, or emotional effects of being required to sync up with a new rhythm inside the new structural guidelines of society.
This level of change has increased awareness of not only the present moment, but also areas of our bodies and health that have gone unnoticed for a long time, including weak spots of the past (khavaigunyas). This can make it quite challenging for women to envision the future or plan ahead.
How do you best care for yourself when there is an ongoing threat from a powerful, contagious disease blanketing the planet, as you are being given the option to start reentering into society? First you have to understand how the pandemic has impacted you, and then you can refine your approach to reintegrating with the world more.
The Good News for Women
Biologically speaking, women are an adaptable group of individuals. We withstand notable amounts of change during each month of our fertile years because the menstrual cycle is always creating an added variable to our lives.
We can shape-shift to meet the demands of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. Generally, we live longer than men. And when we are in the fertile years, the health of our menstrual cycle gives us a lot of important information to evaluate, which helps us be in tune with our health.
When it comes to our biology, we are already well suited to manage big transitions, but in order to do so, we have to honor the shifts that are taking place.
How to Cope with the Changes of Sheltering
While many women have not had the option of sheltering-in-place and have continued to work throughout the time of the pandemic, many others have had to adjust to a completely different rhythm while spending the majority of their time at home.
Anyone who has ever sat to meditate knows that sometimes it’s very difficult to sit still, while at other times, it can be a very calming experience. It’s important to understand that some individuals will feel better from reduced mobility, while it will cause others to start to become further imbalanced.
Sheltering for Vata Dosha
Women with more vata may find it difficult to stay in place, but if they can surrender to it even a little, they will have relief from signs of excess vata, such as anxiousness, foggy memory, cracking or popping joints, depletion, unpredictable energy, or inconsistent menstrual patterns.
Slowness and less mobility are generally helpful for those with excess vata. Perhaps being at home more will allow women with high vata to get the kind of creative rest they have been craving, especially during their time of the month. It may also be the perfect time to implement and practice a vata-balancing lifestyle and routine.
Sheltering for Pitta Dosha
Those with more pitta may find that the reduced mobility and speed of sheltering makes them want to blow their top like a volcano waiting to spew hot lava. However, if they can let their pitta cool down with the slowness, then they may feel great relief.
These women may even notice a decrease in signs of pitta imbalance, like anger, red skin conditions, excess oiliness, burning sensations, excess heat, or very heavy or frequent menstrual cycles.
Sheltering can be good for pitta when cooling and grounding pitta-balancing lifestyle, diet, and herbal measures are taken. Otherwise, pitta conditions could get worse when there is less space in which to dissipate the body’s heat.
Sheltering for Kapha Dosha
Women with kapha conditions may have the most trouble from sheltering. Kapha increases from slowness and lack of mobility, so a woman who already had a kapha imbalance before sheltering may find that this time makes her conditions even worse.
Kapha imbalances are tricky because one may not feel discomfort when there is a real problem going on, and this is why self-study is so important. Women with excess kapha will have to work against the static nature of sheltering by following a kapha-pacifying lifestyle, including making sure to favor qualities that are light, mobile, and stimulating.
How to Reintegrate with the Outside World
Along with continuing to balance your health by following a dosha-pacifying lifestyle, it would be ideal to determine if you have any serious dosha imbalances or metabolic toxicity (ama) accumulated before you start reintegrating with society.
You could work with a virtual professional to do a home cleanse, or you can seek the hands-on help of an Ayurvedic practitioner as clinics reopen with protective measures in place. The risk of reintegrating without cleansing ama or managing major dosha imbalances is that your channels and cells, and therefore your awareness, could be blocked in some way.
When your awareness is blocked, your judgment is not sound. And considering that reentry into the world at a time of so much uncertainty requires good judgment, you will be doing yourself and society a favor by healing and taking better care of yourself going forward.
Once you are balanced and cleansed, you can then employ reintegration strategies from Ayurveda that will help keep your immune system, digestion, metabolism, and vitality strong. One of the reintegration strategies is a gradual reintroduction of solid food (samsarjana krama), in which food is reintroduced after cleansing—first as liquid food, then semisolid, and then as you are able to tolerate it, solid food.
Much like the body has to adjust to digesting the food of the world, especially the harder-to-digest foods, the senses and the mind also do better with gradual reintegration. Therefore, go slowly back into the outside world, especially into those over-stimulating or harder-to-digest environments.
Don’t rush it—but also don’t stay away too long, or it will be more difficult to rekindle your healthy appetite for engagement with the world.
We cannot eradicate COVID-19 from the environment around us right now, but we can take precautions to stop the spread and prevent ourselves from contracting it and having complications. This is especially important if we already have imbalanced doshas or accumulated toxicity.
Staying Healthy and Safe
Avoiding exposure is the most effective way to protect oneself from anything potentially harmful, but that may not be possible or desirable for everyone. Following the proper Ayurvedic lifestyle for your constitution and environmental factors will help your body stay resilient in the event you do come in contact with COVID-19 or any other harmful pathogens.
You have found Ayurveda, and therefore, you know there are many things that are within your power to create a healthy and happy life, even as the environment shifts around you.
The sisterhood that you have with Mother Nature provides you with some pretty amazing foods and herbal allies that can be used, along with lifestyle practices and therapeutic measures, to rebalance your body, protect it from harm, and create ongoing vitality. And when you are healthy, you are helping others stay healthy too.