The symptoms of menopause are no fun. But when you’re going through “the change,” adopting certain lifestyle habits can make a world of difference. Ayurveda, the Indian health science that yoga comes from, has a unique perspective on menopause and how to combat frustrating symptoms. If you’re struggling with things like insomnia and hot flashes, you’re going to want to give these a try.
According to the Ayurvedic perspective, each phase in a woman’s life can be characterized by a distinct dosha, or elemental body type. When we’re children, we are in the “kapha” dosha phase of life, characterized by the earth element and your ability to learn and take in your environment. Adulthood is your “pitta” dosha years, characterized by the fire element and your ability to take action to create change in the world around you. The next phase, when perimenopause and menopause begin, is considered your “vata” phase, which is characterized by the air element and is known as a period of deep philosophical insight, self-inquiry, and wisdom.
We like the sound of that, but the vata phase can also bring physical, mental, and emotional discomfort as it is a period of transition. However, Ayurveda maintains that adopting a lifestyle to counteract the airy quality of vata can help tame the bothers and reap the benefits (yes, Ayurveda actually believes that there are benefits of menopause!) of this deeply insightful time in your life. Check out some of the suggestions below.
Practice self-massage with oil.
Vata is characterized by the air element and therefore has a drying quality to it. You might see this physically as drier skin and hair, and more brittle nails, as well as in issues like constipation or sluggish digestion. Additionally, the airy quality of vata can also lead to a rise in anxiety, insomnia, and fear.
It’s said that massaging your entire body with warm oil daily before a shower can tame the dryness of vata. If you’ve ever had a warm oil massage, you can probably attest to the fact that it helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and can even help you drift off to sleep. To practice your daily oil massage, warm some coconut oil (coconut oil is a cooling oil in Ayurveda that won’t cause you to generate excess heat in your body) in a bowl, and massage your entire body with the oil beginning with your feet, and ending with your face and head. Ten to 20 minutes of massage should do.
You don’t have to massage the oil into your head every day, but do try to practice an oil massage on the scalp at least a few times a week. After you perform your oil massage, take a warm shower. The warm water will open your pores and allow the oil to sink in fully. This practice not only feels great, but it will make your skin and hair soft and silky, too!
Ok, so staying hydrated isn’t only for menopausal women, but it’s extremely important if you’re dealing with any symptoms! Making sure to drink enough water is one of the best ways to counteract the dryness of vata and increase moisture in the body. In addition, make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes to stay hydrated, and eat foods that are high in water content and low in calories, like cucumber and celery. Eating fatty acids from foods like avocados and olive oil can help you tame down vata. Staying hydrated will also help with vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex.
Calm your nervous system.
If you suffer from hot flashes, this one’s for you: Hot flashes are actually a symptom of too much pitta (the fire element) in the blood, which can happen alongside the rise in vata while hormones are fluctuating. To tame the excess pitta in your system, adopt daily practices that relax your nervous system, like deep belly breathing or meditation for at least 20 minutes per day.
Ayurveda says that taming those “hot” emotions and activating the “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic nervous system can bring pitta back into balance and cool the body down. Taking a walk in nature for 30 minutes daily is also highly recommended.
Eat a vata-pacifying diet.
In Ayurveda, the foods you eat can help bring the body back into balance. To deal with menopause symptoms, you want to eat foods that are warm, cooked, and easy to digest. Choose spices that help digestion such as turmeric, cumin, fennel, and coriander. Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Cook your vegetables and reduce your consumption of raw salads. Sip “cooling” beverages like peppermint tea and lime juice.
Drink warm milk with nutmeg.
Can’t sleep? Yet another frustrating symptom of menopause, insomnia can be one of the toughest to deal with. Drinking milk with nutmeg at night is said, in Ayurveda, to help you catch those much-needed Z’s. Add a pinch of turmeric for added antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Strengthen the body.
You might notice more aches and pains with these hormonal changes. Body composition tends to change during this time, so adopt a practice that will help to keep your muscles and bones strong. You don’t have to go crazy and start pumping iron, but practicing low-impact exercise like simple yoga postures can help to increase your bone and muscle strength while also relieving stress.
Release the past.
In Ayurveda, it’s said that during menopause we start to review the course of our lives. Your mind might be tempted to rehash old pain and dwell on past mistakes, but the benefit of this period is to go deeper and reach a place of radical acceptance for yourself and your journey. Practice journaling and expressing your thoughts and feelings about the past, while also honoring how they brought you to where you are, and what you know, today. Acknowledging the beauty of your life’s path is one of the best ways to let go of the heavy feelings that can come along with this time.
We’re wishing you a graceful transition into this enlightening period of your life.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.