August 8, 2022

Ayurveda and Menopause – A modern perspective!

Ayurveda and Menopause – A modern perspective!

It’s a ‘hot’ topic right now – literally and metaphorically. I feel ready to share my journey of the past 8 years, which I hope will be helpful in terms of giving women the confidence to trust their own judgment, and not be ashamed to reach for hormone replacement therapy, if needed.

It has taken me this long to manage my own journey through this change from the ayurvedic ‘Pitta’ to ‘Vata’ time of life. In addition, I’ve been learning to filter the money-spinning celebrities and private clinics that regularly pop up on my social media feed, each with their own approach to menopause – the gateway to the ‘freedom’ years of a woman’s life.

When looking through an ayurvedic lens, menopause really can be a time that allows women the space to focus less on others and more on introspection and self-care – emotional, physical and psychological needs.

I am grateful that factual research has been carried out in my lifetime, that arms us all with much more information about treatments available. The research has also supported various correlations between menopausal symptoms and aspects of our increasingly more challenging daily lives. We know that our environment has a significant effect on our parasympathetic system and that unless we take care of this, any life change will be difficult to manage.

Ayurveda, an ancient medical system developed thousands of years ago in India and passed down through generations, is still widely use in eastern cultures today. Ayurveda’s ultimate purpose is to support the human body holistically, using preventative measures. Arguably ahead of its time, ayurveda uses powerful (plant-based) treatments and supplements that encourages our connection to Nature, allowing it to support us in our daily, seasonal and stages of life.

Caveat: At this stage, for those readers who don’t know me, I should say that I have been working in psychology for 30 years. I support empirically proven methods of treatment, whether science-based or holistic, if (and this is important) I can see they are proven to add value to treatment, through research.

Menopause is a very individual experience and however your journey is progressing, Ayurveda can support your individual needs. Be cautious in your online research of any articles or information that suggest there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the issues you might be experiencing.I came to Ayurveda while living in Malaysia and beginning to experience (what I now know to be) peri-menopausal symptoms. I was 42 years of age and physically fitter than I’ve ever been in my life. Psychologically and emotionally perhaps not so… but, even if I had realised that at the time, I wouldn’t have been ready to admit it. This is where Ayurveda came to my rescue in a very holistic way. It wasn’t until some years later that I realise what an important support this had been through one of the most significant changes in my life. During this period, I had the wonderful opportunity to study for three years with Dr Suresh, at his clinic in Kuala Lumpur and Dr Dhilip, my yoga master, and experienced naturopath.

When I reflect, I now understand that when we listen to Ayurveda and heed the generic advice, it regulates ALL aspects of our metabolic processes. Our bodies are a series of metabolic processes (heart, lungs, thoughts, digestion, reproduction, immune system) and each one relies on the other to support. They also rely on the 5 elements of Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Ether for their healthy functioning. I have grown to both love and hate my own dominant Ayurvedic dosha, ‘Pitta’ (you will have to contact me if you are curious about yours).

If we know what elements are most prominent within our own individual make ups, we can turn to nature to let her support our own metabolic processes. In my case – I have Pitta dominance. In short, Pitta dominant people incorporate a heady mix of the contradicting elements of fire and water and this dominance usually means we (women particularly in my experience) would rather go to ground than admit defeat or we are not able to cope, or, worse still, ask for help!

If I am aware that I have more fire in my body at certain times, and I can feel the heat rising, then I can adjust my diet and lifestyle accordingly to reduce what I am experiencing physically, psychologically and emotionally.

To be a qualified Ayurvedic doctor takes (more or less) the same time that it takes someone to become a GP in the western world – it is an equally complex science to study. I am what is referred to as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Practitioner. I invested in 4 years of study and now spend much time advising clients in a way we can use Ayurveda to help us to adapt to our ever-changing individual environments. Adopting this eastern system of medicine can be challenging when living in a western culture. In my practise, I enable people to tap into this wonderfully self-empowering system by helping them to make little adjustments that can make a significant difference to quality of life.

Ayurvedically, menopause is considered as natural a transition in a woman’s life, in the same way as puberty is viewed. In theory, when all our systems are in balance and regardless of dosha dominance, a woman should ride the wave of menopause with ease and joy. Interesting to point out that if you were ever to venture into the ancient texts of Ayurveda (and you probably aren’t likely to because they were written in Sanskrit and then translated making them anything but straightforward) you would not find a ‘disorder’ or dis-ease relating to menopause. It has even been described in research as a ‘disease of the West’ (Baber, R.J. “East is east and West is west: Perspectives on the menopause in Asia and The West.” Climacteric. PubMed. Feb 2014).

Let’s face it, in our western societies there are so many negative connotations when we talk of ’The Menopause’. I talk to women in their thirties and forties who absolutely dread the onset of menopause.

I have to say, during my own menopause journey, I was taken by surprise – something I am grateful for) – there were no warning signals for me (more of this will be shared at our October Retreat – Ayurveda and Menopause, a modern perspective on an ancient approach). What we could be doing in the West is empowering women to approach this time of their life as a new phase – a freeing phase with less responsibility more independence and, having a voice. The stage beyond menopause from the Ayurvedic viewpoint, is considered as the time of wisdom and women becoming the ‘matriarch’ of the family.

This life stage, as defined by Ayurveda, makes me think of elephants. I have read about them at length, and I’m reminded of the most wonderful research and writings of Cynthia Moss. The question that comes up for me is why, in our culture (I’m talking about UK British, European) are the women I work with almost on their knees by the time they come to Praana Wellness. I’m always relieved that they find us, so we can start to normalise their sometimes-skewed perception of menopause, but mostly so we can empower them to realise that there are many ways we can help ourselves to navigate this change through the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. With Ayurveda a little knowledge goes a long way and leaves you with an appetite for more.

Understanding our individuality is key to this Ayurvedic empowerment. There is a tendency (and has been in other areas of women’s lives – diet comes quickly to mind) to put us all in one big group, often assuming that the symptoms for menopause are all the same and affect us all in the same way. In short, that simply isn’t the case and with a little knowledge of Ayurveda one can understand which of the doshas (body types made up of a combination of the elements) is driving your symptoms and, how simple adjustments may make a significant difference within the menopausal body. Of course, diet plays a huge part (and women often don’t want to hear that) but so do many other factors. If we simply give ourselves the time and space, we quickly realise that menopause doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

In October, Praana Wellness will be offering a group of women (you can be approaching, transitioning, or enjoying your new-found freedom from menstruation) the opportunity to come and empower themselves, in an intimate group, to understand how Ayurveda can support them through this phase and in all aspects of life.

During this Two-Day Retreat, we will be talking about:

Above all, our lives have become increasingly more demanding, more anxious, and post-pandemically, less predictable and certainly more changeable. As uninteresting as this may sound the human body craves routine, rest, and sleep. It may even need a little supplemental assistance such as Hormone Replacement Therapy.

We will be talking about the ‘right diet’ (for you); yoga for our different symptoms; self-care routines; and throwing a whole lot of fun for the different doshas, into the mix.

The event is catered, with a private chef to take care of us, providing seasonally and symptomatic relieving nourishment. This will be a weekend to change your perspective around, what is essentially, one of the most natural times in a woman’s life. There is so much interest in this topic that we are offering a choice of a 2-night mid-week retreat (3-5 Oct), or a 2-night weekend (7-9 Oct) retreat. There is always much to learn with Ayurveda, and we promise to send you away with a thirst to learn more.

Contact to book your place as soon as possible, these two retreats are a celebration of Womankind, their power, strength and rekindling of their inherent ability to heal themselves.