Ayurveda and Women's health

Many women I speak to in my work feel a mixture of these: stressed, over-whelmed, frazzled, burdened, under-appreciated, tired, exhausted, over worked, rushed, under pressure, out of kilter, imbalanced or just ‘not quite myself.’

They are common complaints in the frantic pace of modern day living.

But it is not simply down to the fast pace of western life that women feel like this. But more the lack of connection they have with themselves is a major root cause of this sense of dis-ease with themselves.

There are many times in a female’s life that are governed by significant changes and new challenges.

These used to be marked, recognised and celebrated as important thresholds for women to cross over, cheered on by her female family members and friends as significant rites of passage and meaningful transformations that used to be celebrated and honoured.

The onset of menstruation (or menarche) for young girls on the cusp of newly blossoming womanhood was the first significant rite of passage. It was traditionanally marked by a ceremony of the young girls female family elders, friends, cousins and aunts (real or adopted as such) celebrating this important and significant event. Elders would share their wisdom and grant the new woman their blessings for her upcoming years. She would feel celebrated and special, surrounded by her kin and loved ones; her blossoming a reason to celebrate, not laughed at, pitied or hidden in the school changing rooms during P.E.

It was also, and unfortunately still is, a marker that she is ready to be married off to the first available suitor. A child just embarking on the journey of womanhood with many years of fertility and growth ahead of her.

Monthly menstruation was also traditionally a time of rest, repose and retreat. The Red Tents where women were allowed to gather together as a tribe (often naturally coming into synch at the same time due to closely living together) secluded from the world. It was a time for bleeding naturally, allowing their waste to fertilise the land they grew crops on where women would turn both inwards and towards each other, to create, sing, bake and take rest from the daily duties that befell them.

This natural respect for the dip in outward feminine energy and need to withdraw has been abandoned and forgotten by most of the industrialised world. I vividly recall the tampon adverts of the 80s encouraging women to carry on as normal during their period with this new found ‘freedom’ - the ability to hide your bleeding and ignore it, carrying on as normal was the strongest signal I received as an adolescent about menstruation.

Pre-conception & Fertility is something that now that young women take completely for granted. They can and should be able to have children when they want, on demand. There is nothing to do to prepare yourself for pregnancy - other than stopping taking contraception and trying to get pregnant. More than 5000 years ago and to this day, Ayurveda has always promoted conscious conception - creating the right conditions in both parent’s bodies, the right seasons to create the healthiest baby possible. That is now seen as unnecessary with all the tools of science we have at our disposal.

Pregnancy is not seen as a sacred and deep time of transformation for a woman that is really is. Instead much of it is spent fretting about the birth and pouring over Mothercare catalogues or Instagramming baby wardrobes. Again it is given that a woman is not ill (no, she’s not) with women expected to carry on as normal up to the week she goes on maternity leave, left as long as possible close to the birth.

Child birth is not seen as the ultimate challenge and proof of the strength of a woman’s body and mind but instead feared and fretted about and often over medicated in any attempt to not have to go through that dreadful ordeal. Women spend more time decorating the nursery and buying baby clothes than preparing their body and mind for birth. In this so much is missed. The opportunity to see how strong you are, what an amazing triumph your body is. No, I’m going to waste 9 months beforehand worrying and stressing about it instead of seeing it as the opportunity it really is. Fear and disconnection win.

Postpartum is a period where women around the world were rightly recognised for the herculean task they have just done; creating, carrying and birthing a whole new life! They were (and still are in Asia and Africa) cherished, nurtured and looked after for a period of up to 4-6 weeks during which time they would be massaged, bathed, fed and relieved of all other chores and tasks whilst they recuperate and bond with their new baby. Not back out on the school run or in Asda, or obsessing over baby weight!

In particular this postpartum period has the potential to impact the next 42 years of a woman’s life and health if the first 42 days are not taken care of properly, so important it is deemed to be!

Motherhood is the largest period of a woman’s life that will push her to the limits (and many times beyond!) her reserves of strength, health and stamina. It is one of the hardest challenges she faces, during which time she has to take on the vast burden (still!) of the household chores, childcare, work and mental load of organising family life.

Menopause is the last part of a woman’s major transformation. Traditionally this was a time for retreat, personal growth and space. A time for a woman to reflect of the wisdom they have learnt and earnt and to come back and share with the younger generations. Instead in the West it is a time of a woman’s life that is generally dreaded and feared. This is the time when we get to see how a lifetimes poor health and stress has built up and can affect how easily or not, a woman transitions through this. This also depends on her body-mind constitution. and her attitude towards it. In the West women are far from celebrated at this age, but instead shoved aside to make way for the younger generation, denigrating her life experiences, achievements and wisdom. Instead of viewing it as the start of a new phase, we view it as the end.

It is no wonder then that without these anchors of life and markers of transformation where our feminine energies and cycles are bull-dozed over and neglected, we feel all at sea.

If you wish to start reconnecting to yourself and a more harmonious life with more awareness and balance you’ll want to come to the Ayurveda and Women workshop I am running on 20th October at Cabourne Parva in Lincs. We will go into this in much more depth. We can change the life we live and that of our daughters, sisters and mothers.


Can’t make the date? Don’t live near enough? Not a problem. Contact me to arrange a workshop near you or an online version.

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Vanessa LongComment