Reflections of Menopause & Ayurveda
I spent a solid 8 years preparing for Menopause. Under the guidance of my Ayurvedic doctor, she recommended a slow shift and change that would not only promote long-term, stable health as I aged while hormones adjusted and decreased but also built immunity. At the time, I was in my very early 40’s, having had a regular cycle for most of my adult life, but found myself in perimenopause brought on by a difficult and very stressful divorce. The change in cycle actually started before I found myself changing my entire life, as if she was the oracle of things to come. Tried as I did, I could not figure out what was happening.
Facial acne, increased sensitivities to food and heat …OHMYGOODNESS, so much heat were some of the early signs that signaled the beginning of this transition. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know it. So, I did what seemed like an important intuitive decision, I eliminated gluten, watched what I ate and did acupuncture. 2 years later things were “better”, but that was short lived.
I was heading into the fire of transformation and was deeply connected to daily Ayurvedic and Yogic practices and so it made sense to me to address the transitions before they became irreversible changes in my body and mind. This is a wise tenet of Ayurvedic philosophy, otherwise known as PREVENTION. I did (and still do) what felt right in my heart. I oiled my body, I chanted and sang, I smelled good smells through incense and diffusers, I spent regular time in nature and I did my best to make sure the food I was eating was whole. Along with a few other practices, this become the crux of my years of change. In essence, I created a nourishing blanket of sensory therapy which allowed my nervous system and my hormonal body to feel supported. While this might seem like a lavish display of care, once in my habit, it seemed essential to my being. And even though being a single parent in school and launching a business kept me very active, I did my best to stay regular with my practices. Keeping in mind that some days, when schedules rested, I rested too. I think had I not done this, I would not have had the energy I needed to get through this time. What I needed to do and be was clear, stable and energetic in a way that was sustainable. These regular practices provided that with little financial output and a willingness and desire to stay close to my growing inner self.
Fast forward ten years and I find myself on the other end of menopause. Heading into 50 in a couple months, I am a little early for this change. But, I feel well. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what these practices have done for this transition that is actually still happening, in my opinion. I have come up with some thoughts and articulations I think are beneficial for me and for others.
The major shift that happens for women as we age is a change in hormones. This natural adjustment/decrease can be hugely affected by the way we live our life PRIOR to perimenopause/menopause. If we run, push and press ourselves to the edge throughout our earlier years, we will certainly feel it as we move into our 40’s. The bandwidth becomes thin and there is nothing else to take from. So our wise bodies do the only thing there is to do, take from ourselves..over and over again. This can create a deep well of depletion and, depending on our own nature, the manifestation is vast. From anxiety to insomnia, hot flashes and mood swings to lack-lustre and to the bone exhaustion, these named ailments show up, like unexpected visitors in Rumi’s
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
And when this type of depletion occurs, the mind and body need support. They need to be cared for, held and nourished. While there may be additional therapies and medications necessary, bringing in a foundation of care aimed at calming, soothing, receiving and loving should ALSO be in place.
And most importantly, what about Spirit? As we age, it is commonly understood in many spiritual and religious practices from around the world, that our needs for spiritual connection and a deeper understanding of our greater selves become even more important. Often, women have spent their lives serving others and in the aging process, find themselves with some time that may have never been available in earlier years. This time and space can often bring about a lot of questions and reflections that are backed with years of life experience and understanding waiting to be gleaned like ripe pears from the mature orchards. So, it is so important to tend to this call and to harvest the fruit of your life and be of mind and body to do so.
This time of life can be powerful and insightful and full of wise action. A feeling of increased synergy and connection to ourselves and others can be fruitful ground of an inspiring life ahead. In many cultures, women step into the respected role of teacher when bleeding ends, as this energy can be retained and harnessed in a very different way. The collected life stories and understanding make for an important backdrop and maturity to guide and lead generations to come.
For me, stepping into the wisdom of my life experience and lessons learned is a place of enormous gratitude, fortitude and learning. And while the shifts and changes of my mind and body are still unveiling themselves, I feel good about the beautiful orchard that is growing before my eyes.
Danielle Hanna is not a licensed physician nor is Ayurveda licensed by the state.
In Ayurveda the emphasis is not only paced on disease but also maintaining the balance of the individual’s constitutional nature, so Ayurvedic treatments are never one size fits all, but custom tailored for each individual.
All content is for educational purposes only and should be considered or replaced with medical advise.