There are three major hormonal shifts in the life of a menstruating and life-producing individual: puberty, childbirth, and menopause. While the two former events receive a plethora of societal attention, menopause tends to be proportionally minimized. Individuals coming to the end of monthly cycles are frequently left to navigate their last major physical transformation using the physical, psychological, and spiritual tools from past decades. However, through updated practices and perspectives the hormonal fluctuations of menopause can become a source of thriving.
Ancient traditions such as Ayurveda recognize the peri and post-menopausal years as a pinnacle of wisdom, intuition, and inner strength. By tapping into the gifts of transition, hormonal shifts can be transmuted into profound healing and wholeness. The following Ayurvedic principles will serve as a guide to accessing the potential of the menopausal years.
Cool Your Emotions
Menopause is a transition from the Pitta-driven period of middle age to the intuitively guided Vata phase of life. Yet, true to its nature, Pitta does not yield without a fight. Thus, any fiery emotions, which have accumulated in one’s energy body throughout the years, will make their way to the surface during menopause. Emotions such as anger, resentment, hostility, and frustration may rise to the surface and demand attention. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, emotional toxins arise for the purpose of purification.
By acknowledging the emotions rather than subduing them, a space for healing can be cultivated. While counseling and therapy may be beneficial for individuals with an unresolved past, many will find healing simply by witnessing, holding space, and allowing emotions to be present. Like a child demanding their mother’s attention, emotions beg to be recognized. Once acknowledged, emotions settle down and leave you in peace.
The next time you feel a surge of emotion, mentally name it and say, “I acknowledge you, [anger, irritation, etc]. It’s okay to make yourself known. I welcome your presence and will stay with you as long as you need.” Then simply watch the emotion. Notice where it moves within your body. Stay present until it begins to dissipate. When the emotion begins to dissolve, say to it, “Thank you for coming up to be healed.”
Eat a Dosha-Balancing Diet
Just as fiery emotions emerge in order to be restored to balance, accumulated fire within the physical constitution seeks liberation during menopause as well. Night sweats, hot flashes, intense bleeding, and inflammation are all signs of excess fire. Individuals who have led a high-intensity, Pitta-dominated life will likely experience the most physical heat. Fortunately, eating a Pitta-balancing diet can mitigate the internal fire. By increasing cooling foods such as fruits, raw vegetables, and peppermint tea while minimizing heating ones such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy peppers, internal heat can be effectively minimized.
On the other hand, individuals who have been primarily dominated by the light, dry nature of Vata may find that menopause brings about brittle bones, vaginal dryness, and constipation. In this case, it is best to tailor the diet to warm, moist, hearty food selections such as vegetable soups, ginger tea, and protein-rich foods while minimizing the cooling foods mentioned above.
Kapha-prominent individuals tend to experience weight gain and lethargy during menopause. These individuals should try to integrate warm, dry, light foods such as sautéed vegetables, baked fruits, beans, and green tea.
Strengthen Your Bones
During menopause, one’s constitution is increasingly dominated by the qualities Vata. Lightness, being one of those qualities, contributes to loss of structure including osteoporosis, weakness, and frailty. Weight-bearing exercises such as yoga, weight lifting, and functional fitness counteract the tendency toward degradation of form. Of course, tailor all exercises to your fitness level and include ample rest days, but discard the old notion that weight-bearing exercise is a relic of younger years. In fact, the most important time in life to integrate weight-bearing exercises is in the peri and post-menopausal years.
Optimize Sleep Hygiene
Ayurveda recommends eating a light evening meal and getting to bed before 10 pm. To make sure your body is ready for rest, create a “wind-down” program to follow each evening. The following are ideas that can be integrated into your personalized regimen:
- Sunset walk
- Warm Bath
- Essential oils
Regardless of what your routine includes, make sure to turn off all devices an hour before bed. That means no phones, computers, television, tablets, or other light-emitting devices. The blue light from electronic devices suppresses the body’s production of melatonin which makes it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good quality sleep. Additionally, maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule as well as maintaining darkness during sleep will program your body’s circadian rhythm and help regulate increasing Vata energies.
Menopause is an invitation to heal stored pains and enter into a space of wholeness, wisdom, intuition, and insight. By prioritizing the need for renewal and self-care, individuals may uncover their authentic self and discover that the menopausal years are actually the best decades of their life.