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How Ayurveda Empowers Women to Be Attuned to Their Bodies and Health
In the spheres of beauty, wellness, health and more, women face a number of unique challenges that often go unnoticed or ignored by those who do not share those experiences. Especially when it comes to women’s health, there is a wealth of both anecdotal experience and research that demonstrates how women’s ailments and chronic conditions are often taken less seriously as those of men. For example, one study has shown that women are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than men when it comes to heart attacks. Other research has shown that, despite the fact that period pain can be as severe as that of having a heart attack, women wait an average of 65 minutes to be treated for abdominal pain, while men only wait for 49 minutes when experiencing the same symptoms.
That institutions of Western medicine often produce environments in which women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men is a serious systemic problem that can have devastating effects on women’s overall health and well-being. While recognizing the need for deep structural changes in medical treatment and education, in this blog post we discuss how the system of Ayurveda—which approaches health from a preventative and holistic rather than symptomatic perspective—empowers women to become more in touch with their bodies and to adopt rituals and practices that promote long-term health, healing and well-being.
The Ayurvedic Approach to Health
Originating in India over 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda is a science not only intended to prevent and treat illness—it’s a science of life, and those who practice it learn to view their bodies in dynamic integration with their minds, spirits and external environments. As a holistic and preventative approach to health and wellness, Ayurveda advocates adopting practices, diet regimens, attitudes and behaviors that promote one’s overall balance. Given the interconnectedness of mind, body, spirit and environment in Ayurveda, imbalances in our doshas can have effects that manifest below the surface, impacting not only our health or external appearance, but also our mental well-being and happiness.
What is so empowering about Ayurveda is that it promotes a deep and nuanced attunement to our bodies. It encourages us to pay close attention to how our actions and practices affect our well-being, and it enables us to see ourselves as interconnected with the larger world. Furthermore, Ayurveda outlines a number of practical, natural solutions for ailments specific to women that we can incorporate on our own; as soon as we feel ourselves becoming imbalanced, we can address the root cause of that imbalance by making a change to our daily routines.
While the biased, gendered treatment of women in medical institutions needs to be redressed, and at-home remedies should not replace care from a medical professional but instead should supplement it, the practice of engaging deeply with Ayurvedic rituals nonetheless serves as a powerful, transformative tool for women. Taking up a few of these practices can enable you to feel more connected to your body and more in control of your health—not to mention their long-term effects on one’s health and happiness.
Ayurvedic Practices for Treating Women’s Ailments
Exercise and Regular Diet for Period Pains
When we’re on our period, we often feel tempted to reach for sweet treats like chocolate and ice cream or spicy, oily foods, among other things. Unfortunately, as good as they taste in the moment, these kinds of foods further exacerbate the imbalances in the body, leading to bloating and possibly acne formation as well. Ayurveda recommends eating a diet full of vitamin-rich organic produce and foods that are easily digestible, like soups and bananas. In addition, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend consuming cooling herbs like coriander and cilantro to combat excess body heat and imbalance.
Gentle physical exercise can also reduce tension and improve circulation, which in turn alleviates PMS and discomfort or pain that arises during our period. For example, one study showed that those who practiced yoga experienced less severe PMS and period pains. Especially as an exercise one can do from the comfort of their own home, yoga is a fantastic Ayurvedic practice to take up during one’s period. Given the busy schedules and multiple familial and workplace obligations women must juggle in their everyday lives, practicing a few quick yoga stretches at home can go a long way in alleviating pain and promoting overall health.
If you’re unsure how to start practicing yoga, we’ve outlined a few of our favorite yoga exercises here and here.
Abhyanga for Hot Flashes
Women who experience hot flashes during menopause are familiar with the extreme discomfort and fear they can cause. Fortunately, the Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga, or self-massage, eases the muscles, soothes pain, boosts circulation and purifies the body of toxins, thereby alleviating hot flash symptoms. It is also important to recognize how women’s bodily pain also impacts our mental health and stress levels. As research has shown, massage therapy techniques like abhyanga promote stress relief and improve mood. Abhyanga therefore serves as an excellent, indulgent and revitalizing self-care practice for soothing hot flashes and promoting general positivity, tranquility and self acceptance.
For more information about abhyanga and the kinds of oils best suited for the act of self massage, you can read our other blogs on the topic here and here.
Ashwagandha for Stress and Overwork
When it comes to juggling the pressures of domestic and workplace responsibilities, it can become easy for women to feel overwhelmed by the numerous demands of daily life. Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic adaptogen that boosts immunity, alleviates physical and psychological stress, supports cognitive function, reduces inflammation and more serves as a potent tool for alleviating symptoms of stress and overwork. Ashwagandha also helps promote deeper sleep and balances excess Vata and Kapha in the body. Taking ashwagandha every day can thus promote long-term stress relief and boosted immunity.
We think this herb is so important that we created our own ashwagandha supplement, our Deep De-Stress Herbal Supplement. To use, take one capsule morning or night, either before or after a meal.
We recognize the absolute necessity for profound changes in our medical institutions and the historically-ingrained outlook that devalues women’s experiences and pain. Here, we’ve hoped to outline a few practices that demonstrate how, in spite of these immense challenges, Ayurveda can help women reclaim feelings of self-empowerment and to make small changes to their daily lives that have a big impact on their mental and physical health and wellbeing.
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