According to Ayurveda, menstrual flow is a byproduct, after all, of the most basic tissues of the body. After we ingest our breakfast, this food undergoes transformation through the seven tissue layers of the body. The first is plasma, then blood, which is then followed by the muscle and fat tissues. After these four layers comes the bony tissue, nervous system, and, lastly, the reproductive tissues.
The actual menstrual flow is considered to be a byproduct of the first layer, rasa dhatu, or the plasma. When this layer is healthy and flows freely, so too do all of these nutrients as well as wastes so that they may leave the body with ease. The second layer, rakta dhatu, or the layer of blood, also is part of the menstrual flow, releasing excess pitta.
The menstrual cycle is thought to go with the ebbs and waves of the lunar cycle, as the moon represents flow, the feminine. The lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days, coinciding with the average length of the menstrual cycle for most ovulating women. The healthiest flow, one that is most in tune with the lunar phases, will start on a new moon with ovulation occurring around the time of the full moon. When the moon is full, it is at its peak energy, pulling the egg from its home in the ovary.
In the female reproductive tissue, vata acts through blood vessels, helping flow go down and out. Vata has a multitude of directional flows, and without a fine balance, the downward flow of menstruation can be compromised by strong, upward functions in the body. Without groundness of vata, many imbalances happen in the pelvis, creating a variety of disorders.
The menstrual cycle is effectively a monthly cleanse and is treated as such in the Ayurvedic tradition. Our goal, then, is to support the process of cleansing.
Follow the below steps to support a healthy menstrual cycle:
• Eat a simple diet. You want to reserve all of your body’s digestive fire for the purpose of cleansing. Eating kitchari and other warm, thoroughly cooked meals will do just that. Try adding spices, such as ginger, cardamom, saffron, cumin, coriander, fennel, and cinnamon.
• Honor yourself with rest and rejuvenation. Cleansing involves the movement of wastes down and out of the body and we want to be sure that that directional flow is not counteracted by upward movements, like excessive talking or thinking, sexual intercourse, and even pranayama and yoga. These activities also take up a lot of energy and your body needs to use all of its reserve energy towards cleansing.
• Don’t suppress urges, like urination, defecation, and sneezing. Doing so promotes vata to go opposite of its normal downward flow.16
• Hydrate. As with any other cleanse, hydration is of utmost importance to move wastes. During a menstrual cleanse, hydrate with warm teas, such as ginger tea, lemon tea with honey, or CCF tea (cumin, coriander, and fennel).