It happens to all of us, right? Around the same time each month we start to feel our breasts swell, we notice ourselves being a little more sentimental, irritable, or lethargic. We might be holding on to a little extra water weight, we crave chocolate, salt, sweets, and a nap. We wonder, “What’s wrong?” We instantly answer our own question, wait a few days, and then it arrives. We rush to the store to stock up on sanitary napkins, Midol, and the usual ‘dear god help me make it through the next five days’ supplies. This is what happens to all of us, right? Not exactly.
First off, not every woman has the blessed—and I do mean that sincerely—fortune of getting her period on a monthly basis. If you are not pregnant and between the ages of menarche to menopause and you get a monthly cycle—celebrate! You have reason to be delighted. You see, according to Ayurveda, we have seven layers of tissues (lymph, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerves, and finally our reproductive tissues). The principle of seven tissues teaches us that each layer must be nourished sequentially before nourishing the next. Our reproductive tissues are the last layer to receive essential nutrients. Why? Because it is most important that we sustain our own lives before creating the life of another. If you have a monthly cycle, all seven of your layers are nourished. The monthly flow of blood is actually a signal that you are fundamentally healthy on the tissue level. So why do so many of us dread it?
Many of us dread our cycle because it can be accompanied by unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, acne, cravings, and mood swings (to name a few). Many of us have just resigned to the belief that periods are intrinsically linked to these fluctuations and we just have to deal with it. This is not so. Healthy menstruation is the physical discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. This is a natural occurrence that is ideally routine and comfortable. The negative symptoms attached to our cycle are commonly known as PMS or, more accurately, as a request for more self-care.
Many cultures around the world revere the menstrual cycle as a time to tap into feminine power, fertility, and creativity. Bleeding is not seen as a curse, but as a blessing and a special power. The physical body requests that we slow down and take care of ourselves during this special time. Ayurveda offers us tangible wisdom to directly apply self-care into our lives on a monthly basis, specifically around our cycle.
Avoid cold food and fluids.
Cold creates constriction. We need open channels to allow the blood to flow without constraint. Eat warm, moist food such as oatmeal, soup, stewed dates, and baked sweet potatoes around the time of, and during your cycle.
Drink hot tea.
Pain is the result of inflammation. Support your body to help ease an uncomfortable back and occasional cramping by drinking ginger tea, chamomile tea, and rose tea. Rose tea is especially supportive for easing menstrual cramps and serves as a reproductive tonic. Alternate these three teas, having one a day for the week before and the week of your cycle.
Take time to rest.
Discomfort is a signal to slow down. We know that, but what do we do? Typically plough through. Rest. It’s as simple as that. Resolve to make a commitment to rest. You can adopt the affirmation, “I am taking care of myself.”
Give yourself a coconut oil massage.
Coconut oil has cooling properties that help promote a relaxed nervous system and tissues. Before or after your shower, rub a generous amount of organic coconut oil in your palms until it is warm. Once it is warm, massage from head to toe. Take special care to massage around the belly, hips, and lower back.
Use lavender essential oil.
Soak a wash cloth in warm water with organic lavender essential oil and place it over your belly. The warm cloth with lavender brings peaceful and soothing properties that support the release of gripping or tightness in the uterus. You can also add 8–10 drops of organic lavender oil to your hot bath.
Take time to reflect on the month. Express your feelings, thoughts, and desires. Give yourself a chance to tune in and become introspective. Every page in your journal is a blank canvas for new perspectives and ideas.
Avoid coffee and caffeine.
Caffeine is linked to heightened estrogen levels, elevated symptoms of PMS, and amplified states of anxiety. Our cycle is a reminder that we have permission to imbue relaxation into our days—we do not need to be all hyped-up…not for five days at least.
Eat foods that are high in iron.
These iron-rich foods are known as “blood builders.” As we lose blood, we need to simultaneously replenish our supply of blood building nutrients. Great sources of iron include: lentils, kidney beans, prunes, dates, goji berries, and green vegetables. Molasses is another fantastic source. You can add one tablespoon to hot water and drink it as a tea.
Ayurveda teaches us that we can live in harmony by honoring the cycles of nature and utilizing practices that align ourselves with them. Embrace your cycle as a gift. Give yourself permission to slow down, receive, and enjoy the blessings that a monthly cycle can bring.