Ayurveda for Navigating That Time of the Month

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

For many women, menstruation is often accompanied by pain and discomfort—which can amplify physical exhaustion, trigger mental agitation, and create emotional angst. Not fun, and certainly not helpful for supporting ongoing yoga practice.

Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, offers wisdom for navigating this time in order to prioritize self-care, reduce discomfort, and support revitalization. According to Ayurveda, the menstrual flow is governed by vata dosha, the energy that oversees all movement in the body-mind. Simply speaking, Ayurveda recommends that, during a time of intense internal movement—which is what’s happening during menstruation—the best remedy is to use opposite qualities to balance. In this case, that means slowing down and diving inward. 

Here are a few Ayurvedic tips for making your period a more easeful and nourishing time.

Drink stinging nettle tea. This light, caffeine-free herbal tea is praised for supporting the female reproductive system. Inexpensive and easy to find (dried or in teabags), it's an alkalizing diuretic that's excellent for gently removing excess fluids and flushing waste from the blood and lymph. A cooling, refreshing tea that’s naturally high in iron and calcium, this replenishing tonic helps address anemia, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and urinary tract conditions. (Nettles are also widely used for male urinary tract health, so feel free to share a cup with a guy friend.) Limit your intake to one cup per day, and check with your doctor before drinking nettle tea if you’re pregnant, nursing, have asthma, or are prone to skin rashes. 

Take a break from asana. Give yourself permission to rest a bit more during the first few days of your flow and explore your practice of yoga off the mat; notice whether your monthly energy stabilizes and improves. It’s a simple adjustment to the monthly calendar, but can be dramatically helpful for reducing period discomfort, rejuvenating the body, and refreshing the mind.

Try restorative yoga. If you’re craving a little yoga on the mat during this time, try a restorative yoga class. In a restorative class, you’re supported in the poses with blankets, bolsters, cushions, straps, the wall, and even chairs, so you can deeply relax into each posture and stay there for a longer time. The slow, rhythmic, relaxing tone of this practice is a perfect balance to the vata time of menstruation. 

Practice svadhyaya. Yoga books collecting dust? During your period, practice the niyama of svadhyaya—self-study and the study of wise words. Get comfy and catch up on your yogic reading; take out your journal and write personal intentions for the coming weeks of yoga practice; or write a daily gratitude list. If you want to learn more about Ayurveda for women’s health, curl up on the couch with your nettle tea and read Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch.

Meditation: This is a great time of the month to deepen your meditation practice. Dive into some breath-based or metta meditation—both wonderfully rejuvenating. Too tired to sit? Lie down and listen to a guided yoga nidra practice. 

Do Nadi Shodhana. This soothing alternate-nostril pranayama is wonderful for enhancing mental ease and emotional balance. It’s a great practice to do for five to 15 minutes at home or during a break at work. Watch the video below, or follow these instructions: Fold the middle and index fingers into the palm and keep the ring and little fingers and thumb straight. Close off the right nostril gently with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Switch, and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, switch, and exhale through the left nostril. Continue this sequence. Keep the breath smooth, long, and gentle to balance the hemispheres of the brain, soothe the nervous system, and quiet the mind. 

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Larissa Hall Carlson, E-RYT 500, MA, 20-year Kripalu faculy and former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, guides retreats, directs trainings, and provides Ayurvedic consultations across the country.

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