In Ayurveda, menopause is known as Rajonivrutti, which literally means “the end of Artava Pravrutti,” or the end of menstruation. The classical texts of Ayurveda do not refer to menopause as a disorder or an indication of pathology—instead, it is a natural transition in a woman’s life.
However, these texts do acknowledge the discomfort often associated with menopause, and show us how life (for all people, not just women) is divided into three stages according to the doshas. From this wisdom, we can most wisely talk about Ayurvedic methods of navigating menopause.
The Three Stages of Life in Ayurveda
Kapha Stage: This is from the time we are born until we hit puberty. The Kapha stage of life is a time of growth and learning. It is associated with the elements of water and earth.
Pitta Stage: Associated with the elements of fire and water, this stage commences once a girl begins her monthly cycle and ends once she reaches menopause. This phase of life is associated with ambition, passion, fertility, and accomplishments.
Vata Stage: This stage begins for women at the onset of menopause. Associated with the elements of air and ether, this is the period associated with letting go and inner growth.
According to Ayurveda, menopause is a manifestation of transition: moving from Pitta stage to Vata stage. In this process, ojas (a super-fine form of Kapha energy responsible for building immunity, stability, and nourishment) is greatly compromised. This depletion in ojas may manifest as different symptoms in different women: hot flashes, depression, osteoporosis, and reproductive hormone imbalances are all possible. The intensity of these conditions depends on the quality and depletion of her reproductive dhatu (tissues).
Doshas and Menopause
As with all of Ayurveda, there are many ways in which an imbalance can manifest. By understanding the relationship between doshas and menopause, you can anticipate what your menopausal transition might look like and gain insight into your general doshic imbalances. It’s certainly possible to work with an Ayurvedic practitioner and adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly to minimize discomfort.
High Vata in the colon can cause dryness. This can look like nutritional deficiencies in some women or even constipation in others. Downward moving Vata also creates vaginal dryness, so having sex can feel more painful. When it reaches deeper tissues, vitiated Vata is also responsible for osteoporosis. Many women struggle with being unable to focus—the mobile quality of Vata is responsible for mind chatter and racing thoughts. One may feel anxiety, fear, or nervousness during high Vata. Trouble falling asleep and scanty bleeding during perimenopause are other signs.
Recommendations for Vata-dominated menopause: Establishing a regular routine—for mornings, mealtimes, and bedtime, for example—can help lower excess Vata. Eat small, fresh, warm, and spiced meals, and stick to a regular eating schedule. Try not to snack in between meals or eat when anxious. Avoid raw salads and cold foods. A daily abhyanga (self-massage) with body-grade sesame oil is often one of the best Vata-pacifying actions. You can add frankincense or eucalyptus essential oils (just a few drops) to the carrier oil.
Our monthly cycle is viewed as a therapeutic raktamokshana, or bloodletting in Ayurveda, which releases excess heat, or Pitta, from the body. If one maintains a Pitta-aggravating lifestyle and mindset, heat gets trapped in the mind-body, as there is no menstruation as an outlet during menopause. Pitta moves from its base site in the small intestine and travels within the body. Hot flashes, mood swings, and skin issues are common with Pitta menopause. The traveling heat can also disturb your sleep and, in extreme cases, cause heart diseases. You might also see heavy bleeding during perimenopause. From a mind aspect, excess Pitta can lead to jealousy, anger, irritation, or a critical nature.
Recommendations for Pitta-dominated menopause: Ayurvedic wisdom reminds us that to pacify Pitta, we must apply cooling qualities. Avoid foods that are spicy, sour, pungent, oily, or fried, as well as an excess of alcohol and caffeine. A Pitta-pacifying diet should consist of lots of cooling foods that are cooked well but aren’t spicy. Eat three regular meals at approximately the same time every day. Ghee is a brilliant option as an oil substitute, and it can be ingested or used externally too. One of the best ways to calm the fiery Pitta-dominant menopause is by using coconut oil for your daily abhyanga. Add just a few drops of rose, lavender, sandalwood, or geranium essential oils. Additionally, be mindful of the company you keep, and pay attention to your triggers—the people, places, or situations that blow you up from within.
One of my clients complained that she gained a lot of weight as she transitioned into menopause and noticed more bloating and puffiness than usual. Kapha imbalance can lead to weight gain and creates a feeling of dullness and lack of motivation. Many women experience fluid retention, lethargy, stagnation, sluggishness, and slow digestion during Kapha menopauase. Some women battle yeast infections and sleepiness too.
Recommendations for Kapha-dominated menopause: This is the dosha that requires a lot of stimulation of the mind and body. If you are a Kapha-predominant woman or experiencing Kapha symptoms of menopause, adopt a disciplined routine. To reduce stagnation and lethargy, move your body daily. Avoid cold foods and beverages, as well as sweet and sour tastes. Use all kinds of spices and eat warm, freshly prepared meals. Favor warm and drying whole grains, such as millet and buckwheat, rather than wheat. Avoid dairy and meats and use minimal oil while cooking. Imbalanced Kapha can lead to greed and overconsumption of foods. Eat small portions, with lunch being your largest meal.
The Path to a Comfortable Menopause
Ayurveda means “Science of Life.” To practice Ayurveda means to live a life where you honor the relationship between your mind, body, and spirit. It also means to acknowledge how your mind, body, and spirit relates to the world around you. Can we honor the cycles of nature as they manifest within each of our bodies?
Menopause is the time to let go, reflect on your life learnings, and make room for self-growth. If you can stop fighting who you are and accept who you have become, this can successfully help to lower anxiety (Vata imbalance), frustration (Pitta imbalance), and depression (Kapha imbalance).
If you work with an Ayurvedic practitioner to understand how your doshas are at play, you might not just find relief during menopause, but also experience overall good health and longevity.
Charaka & Vagbhata, two of the authors of the ancient Ayurvedic texts, define health in the Sutrasthana as: “Samadosha, samagnischa samadhatumala kriyaha prasanna atmenindriya manaha swasthya ityabhidheeyate.”
Translation: “The doshas must be in equilibrium, the digestive fire must be in a balanced state, and the tissues (dhatus) and wastes (malas) must work in a normal state. The sensory and motor organs and mind (atma) must be also in a pleasant state. Such a person is called a healthy person, or Swastha.”
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.