Periods are supposed to be painless and while many women experience menstrual cramps, the two don’t have to go hand in hand.
Pitta type PMS includes irritability, hot flashes, and burning sensations. Kapha type symptoms include water retention, heaviness, and sluggish digestion.
However, it’s the imbalanced vata dosha that causes the uncomfortable symptoms that many women tend to experience. Some symptoms may be lower back pain, bloating, constipation, anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings.
While we tend to power through our regular exercise routines despite our moon, Ayurveda recommends avoiding physical exercise completely during menstruation.
Twisting, compressing, stretching, and inverting are not appropriate movements to practice during menstruation when the vata dosha is working hard to expel menstrual blood through its downward flow.
This is a time of intense purification, so it’s better to avoid demanding extra energy from the body. Stopping exercise during this time can provide relief from menstrual cramps and prevent them from happening again.
On the other hand, asana can be used as a tool to reduce cramps while you are not on your cycle. Poses that target the lower abdominal region such as Bow pose or Bridge pose can support a healthy cycle. However, it’s important to try to avoid any type of twisting the few days before your cycle.
Pranayama has a special connection for balancing the vata dosha, as prana is under vata’s scope of functions.
Soothing breath exercises such as honeybee breathing (bhramari pranayama), victorious breath (ujjayi pranayama), and alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) should be practiced several times a month in order to keep vata in check.
During your cycle, it’s best to avoid holding the breath. However, pranayama without breath retention or without excess force in the abdominal region can be very beneficial for calming vata menstrual symptoms.
Vata is aggravated by stress, so reducing stress on period days is cramp-relieving medicine.
While it would be fantastic to take paid leave during your cycle, it has yet to be accepted by our culture. However, we can try to lighten our load by scheduling the bulk of our meetings and appointments on non-cycle days.
Something else to keep in mind is that vata is nourished by routine, as its nature is irregularity. Living in a rhythm of regular mealtimes and sleep can work wonders to reduce vata PMS.
Diet can either support our doshas or lead us toward imbalance. When it comes to vata, certain foods are too light and airy for this energy.
It’s best to avoid cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts) plus other gas-producing foods such as white potatoes and big beans (chickpeas, kidney, pinto, and black beans). A diet based on warm foods and drinks, slightly mushy foods, and naturally sweet, sour, and salty tastes support vata.
Since menstrual cramps are often associated with digestive symptoms such as variable appetite, gas, bloating, and constipation, it’s important to support our digestive fire.
Ayurveda’s go-to is a simple tea made from simmering coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds. This tea can be kept hot in a thermos and sipped throughout the day.
While all of theses guidelines are supportive measures, it’s best to have PMS assessed by an Ayurvedic practitioner for a customized treatment program.