What Every Woman Needs to Know About PMS: An Ayurvedic Approach
My lovely friend and colleague Rebecca has written this powerful blog post about Ayurveda and women's health for the GoddessCeremony Blog, and I am so excited to share this with you all! Enjoy!
While many women consider Premenstrual Syndrome to be an inevitable side effect of womanhood, Ayurveda invites us to think of PMS symptoms as an indicator of the state of your overall health. Ayurveda teaches that while presentations of PMS are complex and individual, in many cases there is a common root cause of PMS that, when addressed, can provide many women with relief from their symptoms without turning to allopathic treatments like anti-depressants or hormonal birth control.
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old holistic healing tradition that originated in India, is based on the premise that perfect health is the result of living in harmony with the rhythms of nature, with your individual constitution, and with your higher self. When something in your lifestyle and environment disagrees with your constitution—improper diet, eating habits, routines around sleeping and waking, smells, colors—the seeds of disease are planted. Over time this disharmony erodes your reserves of immunity and resiliency, and manifests in diseases of the mind and body. And it is exactly this depletion of immunity and resiliency, or what Ayurveda terms “ojas,” that leaves a woman more susceptible to the erratic hormone swings that create symptoms of PMS.
Rather than a specific disease, Ayurveda considers PMS to be an assortment of symptoms of imbalance that become activated during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s monthly cycle, and are a reflection of low ojas. These symptoms can include any combination of weight gain, mood swings, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, acne, digestive complaints, and headaches, among others.
Ojas is the Ayurvedic concept of immunity and vitality. It is the stabilizing force in the body that supports the strength of its tissues. Everything in the body that works to preserve and maintain its health and resiliency is an expression of ojas, including the immune system, which works on a biochemical level to defend the body from illness. More broadly, we can consider ojas to be an energetic stabilizing force that supports the body and mind’s resiliency to stress and supplies it with inner reserves of vitality.
When a woman’s lifestyle is full of stress and stimulation and is lacking in rest and routine, it creates chronic wear and tear on her body and mind and increases her susceptibility to PMS symptoms. Even though a woman may only notice these symptoms of imbalance during the premenstrual phase of her monthly cycle, the PMS symptoms are often indicators that a larger imbalance is present, and the imbalance simply becomes more obvious during the premenstrual phase of her monthly cycle. Most often PMS indicates that a woman is depleted of ojas. Without the strong and loving container that ojas provides, the days leading up to a woman’s bleed becomes less stable, more erratic, and more likely to include a range of unpleasant symptoms.
To address this issue, we first must understand 3 major factors that lower ojas:
Lack of routine around sleeping, eating, and working. When there is variability in the schedule, especially around sleeping and eating, we are placing stress on the body and we are living in harmony with neither our inner biorhythms nor the external rhythms of nature. This stress and disharmony weakens the body and depletes ojas.
Eating foods that are overly dry and cold, or pungent and hot—both extremes create dryness in the body and can aggravate the digestive system.
A high-stress and high-intensity lifestyle quickly wears down both body and mind.
It requires very simple shifts to begin to create stability, nourishment, and grounding in your lifestyle, but these small shifts can be extremely powerful in replenishing ojas:
Create routines and rituals around eating and sleeping. Make lunch the biggest meal of the day and eat between 12 and 2, when the strength of your digestive system is peaking. Wake up with the sun and go to sleep before 10pm to ensure that your body is able to rest and restore during the night.
Eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods that are moist, nourishing, and warming. This means eating more cooked than raw vegetables, eating lots of soups and stews, cooking with natural oils (like olive, almond, sesame, and ghee), and spicing your food to be moderately warming (using spices like cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, and turmeric), but not extremely hot (so go easy on those hot peppers).
Factor rest and stress-relief into your daily routine. Make sure you’re taking breaks from screens and work, going outside for walks in nature, scheduling in your yoga and meditation, and making “play” a priority.
Other ways you can increase your ojas:
Practice daily Ayurvedic self-massage, called abhyanga, with an organic and constitutionally-appropriate oil: almond or sesame if you are of vata constitution, coconut or sunflower if you are of pitta constitution, or mustard or safflower if you are of kapha constitution. This is an amazing practice to nourish the tissue layers of the body, soothe the nervous system, lubricate the joints, and express self-love.
Bring more ojas-increasing foods into your diet, such as dates, almonds, ghee (clarified butter), avocado, and coconut, to name a few.
Experience deep relaxation by practicing Yoga Nidra daily. Your nervous system will thank you!
PMS can also be exacerbated by the buildup of toxins in your body, which in turn contributes to low ojas. If you have a coating on the surface of your tongue, this is an indicator that there is a build-up of ama, a byproduct of improper digestion, in your system. Consider adding into your daily routine the following gently purifying practices:
Using a U-shaped tongue scraper, scrape your tongue every morning 5-10 times to remove the buildup of ama on your tongue and stimulate your internal organs.
Clean out your sinuses with a Neti Pot at least once per week to reduce congestion and increase the intake of life-force energy, or prana.
Start your morning by drinking warm water with lime upon waking in order to gently stimulate and detoxify your digestive system.
Tune into your body when you eat and stop eating when you reach 75% fullness to prevent overeating and poor digestion.
Ultimately Ayurveda teaches that PMS is not an inevitable annoyance that a woman must tolerate. In fact, it can be a huge invitation to slow down, listen to your body, and explore ways to support and nourish her better. As you create more and more harmony in your lifestyle all month long, you will feel the difference each time your premenstrual phase comes around.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into Ayurvedic living, consider visiting my website at gentleyogahalifax.com and emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org to join my waitlist for online Ayurvedic health counseling.
About the Author~
Rebecca Davies Wilson is an Ayurvedic Health Counsellor, a 500-hour Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga, and a Reiki Master Practitioner. Based in Halifax, she draws on both traditional and contemporary modalities
and science to teach her clients how to heal themselves. Her Ayurvedic Health Counselling brings the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda to life in a fresh, useful, and relevant way for the modern woman in the Western world. In her teaching and speaking she asks you to question the assumptions you have inherited culturally, and the beliefs about yourself you have chosen to accept, and take your innate power to heal back into your own hands.
You can follow her online at~