Menopause. The very word strikes fear into both men and women at all ages and stages of life. What does the word itself actually mean? The word originates with the word moon. This refers to a time when women lived more in the natural rhythms and cycles of nature and the moon herself. Generally (but not always) women living in community with nature and one another would have bled on a new moon and ovulated on a full moon. When this natural cycle stopped then this was known as the ‘pause’, this then eventually became the menopause.
What does menopause represent for us in 2021 (at the time of writing this). Quite recently there have been lots of articles in the press, on social media and celebrities talking on TV about this very subject. Whilst it is wonderful that this for some reason previously taboo topic is now being more openly discussed it is somewhat disappointing that a lot of the focus is on pharmaceutical ‘solutions’ for any presenting ‘symptoms’. The impact of menopause upon a woman, at whatever age, is of course life changing. This inevitable (if we are fortunate enough to survive long enough) life stage is full of, very real for some, physical and psychological changes. What tends to happen, as with most news ‘stories’ is that we only hear about the negative aspects, we do not often learn about the positive aspects, or about how we may be able to help ourselves without prescription drugs. Here is a thought, just because you are experiencing the menopause it does not mean that you are unwell. This is a perfectly normal life stage for all women.
What now follows is from my own personal experience and from the experience of women I have met along this journey.
Menopause is a time of transition. This may be the time when our household duties, raising of children, career ambitions, marriage and mortgage, are beginning to dissipate. It is also a point in life by which something big has possibly happened, creating some kind of emotional overload, often this is a death of someone close, a relationship break up or children leaving home. This big change in life plus the shifting priorities we instinctively feel as we being to age, create a shift in us. We begin to see what really matters, what is really important in life. We begin to find the courage to speak out about this (because we can see that we need to do this, finally), and to then perhaps change our direction in life to what we probably wanted to do in the first place before we got distracted by all the material stuff, relationships, career and everything else. This re-purposing is very common and very normal. We are finally finding our true path and purpose. Then because of this we can be called ‘crazy’. Largely because we don’t talk with other women about how we feel we then wonder if we are indeed going mad. I can assure you that you are completely in your right instinctive mind. Talk to others, it helps.
Physically there are also changes. In Ayurvedic terms our PITTA increases, this is the fire element and so the body will become hot (sweats and sudden onsets of body heat), digestion may change and you may experience feelings of rage (firey temperament). In addition, the VATA will increase. This leads to dryness in the body, skin, vagina, digestion (leading to constipation), and also anxiety and insomnia. To a large extent we can take control for ourselves by changing our diet. If we stop heat producing foods we will reduce the tendency for excess heat in the body and the mind. Heat producing foods are difficult to stop because they are our favourites and very addictive! They include coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar and hot spices. We can also calm the anxiety and insomnia when we cut these down because they will contribute to keeping us in this state. In addition warm comforting and earthy foods will help us to feel more grounded and nurtured, as well as calming and balancing Yoga and Yoga nidra practices. There are also some helpful Ayurvedic herbs that you can use to balance the hormones, support your immune system and boost energy reserves.
Essential to incorporate with all of this is the Ayurvedic daily routine which helps the body and mind to feel calm and centered in a state of equilibrium. All of these practices and lifestyle habits greatly reduce any effects from the changes going on in the body and mind. Together with supportive circles and gathering together with other women (online or in person), becoming educated and aware of what is happening, can help us to feel empowered in our management and experience of this incredible time which is to be celebrated and not feared.
It does not matter what age you are, it is a really good idea to know about this time of transition, not to fear it but to revere it. It is a time to enjoy, to embrace, to become your wholly authentic self. I am not saying it is easy, change is always a challenge! And of course prescription drugs may be helpful sometimes for some, we are all different. As you approach and encounter menopause please feel that this is a completely natural life stage and it can be viewed in such a way that you are not afraid and that you emerge from it feeling happier and healthier than you have ever felt before.
I am of course talking more about more holistic and Ayurvedic approaches in particular here. This is sometimes called an ‘alternative’ approach. I would ask you to consider for a moment what came first, herbs and plants or human made solutions? Our body came from the earth, these solutions, food, herbs, lifestyle, work with the rhythms of the earth. This is not alternative, it is the original medicine system, which over many years of a more human made and often patriarchal approach has been largely dismissed and forgotten. I highly recommend reading the book Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn, for a comprehensive history of women’s health and modern medicine. This history may also explain why we are so angry, and justifiably so!
Please contact Virginia to discuss any of this further or for guidance on managing your menopause holistically.