The Menstrual Cycle Part 2: The Painful and Bloating (Vata) Period

The Menstrual Cycle Part 2: The Painful and Bloating (Vata) Period

In the first part of this series, we reviewed what a healthy cycle would be like. Now, let’s dive into the imbalances and identify which type your body is predominantly showing. Again, remember that this can fluctuate month-to-month depending on what was going on the previous month. But usually there are trends.

Highly consider this cycle type, especially if you had significant vata-provoking diet or lifestyle changes in the month before or in your life in general. Strong triggers of vata are the fall and early winter season (especially if you live somewhere where there is a lot of wind!), high altitudes (or traveling at high altitudes as in a plane), travel in general (even if you were driving), late nights and poor sleep, eating raw and cold foods, drinking cold fluids, constant activity, and switching tasks quickly.

Remember that the qualities of vata (made of air and space) are dry, light, cold, rough, subtle/penetrating, mobile, and clear. Like increases like is the most basic principle of Ayurveda, so anything with those qualities will increase vata.

Also note that the pelvis is the seat of vata (vata really likes to hang out there), so it is not surprising that most women with reproductive issues have some vata component to their imbalance.


wearing slippers in bed

Characteristics of a Vata Cycle

Understand the above qualities to understand the characteristics of the vata cycle. There is cold causing constriction and dryness. There is also mobility causing spasms.

  • Pain that is sharp, spasmodic in the lower abdomen or back (caused by intense uterine contractions preventing proper blood flow; cold quality causing constriction)
  • Drying or lightening of flow
  • Spotting before the flow and after the flow
  • Darkness in color
  • Stiffness in the body
  • Emotions of anxiety, nervousness, or fear
  • Some constipation (particularly at the start or right before the cycle)
  • Frothiness to the flow
  • Frequency—can be more frequent with the above characteristics, and if you have a severe vata imbalance, it can be less frequent

Elsewhere in the body you may notice these signs:

  • Dry skin, chapped lips
  • Cracking, popping joints
  • Less frequent stools, hard stools, or constipation
  • Nerve pain (sciatica), back discomfort
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty going to sleep or sleep disturbances

What To Do About It

The second major principle in Ayurveda therapy is treat with the opposite. So we will work with the qualities of warmth, oiliness, density/heaviness, and stability.

  • Start with Healthy Vata for a combination of herbs that will nourish and hydrate the reproductive tissues. You may add shatavari with ashwagandha for supplemental nourishment. Combine these herbs with Vata Digest to improve the digestabilit of the herbs and pacify vata.
  • Increase hydration. Help your body hold the fluids with electrolytes and healthy oils (vata loves organic ghee made from grass-fed cows!).
  • Bring warmth with hydration with ginger tea. Also consider Ginger liquid extract for an easy go-to form of ginger.
  • Follow a vata-pacifying diet and lifestyle. Eat warm, cooked foods, with plenty of root vegetables and warming spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, and clove.
  • Slow down and have a good routine. Be sure to incorporate self-massage (abhyanga) with a grounding oil like Vata Massage Oil into your routine.
  • Get enough sleep (in bed by 10 pm and at least 7-8 hours of sleep).
  • Practice yoga with slow, steady flows—try Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), and increase flow to the pelvis with deep lunges and hip openers.
  • Use castor oil packs. Castor oil is warming, opens constricted channels, and helps the light vata maintain groundedness and flow in its proper down and out direction.

As always, we recommend that you work with a qualified practitioner, but hopefully these steps give you a good idea of what is going on and what you can do about it.

To make the most of this series, do these steps!

  • Identify what type of imbalance your cycle is showing through the descriptions in the rest of this series. If you find you have more than one, note that and note which type of cycle is most predominant. If you are still confused, see what else is going on in your body and what doshic imbalance it points towards (take our free Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz for this!).
  • Start a menstrual calendar. Note when you start, if you have any symptoms before, during, and after (even as subtle as slight constipation or hardening of stool before the cycle), what the flow is like (any days of spotting, when you start a full flow, how many pads you use or would have gone through), and when it ends.
  • Slow down during your menstrual cycle, even if it means taking a twenty-minute break at the end of your day where you do nothing but just breathe. Become highly aware of your body and its subtle changes. See if you can correlate changes with anything that changed or was highly impactful during the month before.
  • Follow a diet and lifestyle that pacifies that dosha and follow the other types of recommendations given (including herbs that can be super helpful!).
  • Stick with it! It can take time to kindle agni, get rid of ama, and balance doshas. Do not give up. You can always consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for more help and advice.
  • For more information, read the Guide to a Healthy Menstrual Cycle, which has all of this information and more!