Vata, Pitta, Kapha: The Ayurvedic doshas are part of our vocabulary usually thought of as yet another label we can put on our personalities, body types, and diets. “I’m so vata,” you might hear from your friend who can’t keep a lunch date or constantly misplaces the sunglasses on top of her head; meanwhile your fiery pitta boss might seem to get a free card for flying off the handle over a typo. Understanding our tendencies, strengths, and areas to improve through the lens of your primary dosha can be extremely helpful, but limiting yourself to just one constitution is not only a misinterpretation of the entire tradition, but it also doesn’t make room for the dazzling cosmos of physical, emotional, and psychological nuances within all of us. In fact, “dosha” means “change”—our constitution is to change, which means there’s no one way for us to feel well all the time.
There’s no better place for women examine our evolving self-care then in our menstrual cycles, which like each of us tend to have their own characteristics and tendencies. The general quality of your period may align with your overall dosha, but a more holistic approach to quelling hormonal tumult is to break down the cycle into its component doshas. Yep, your period is no different from the Ayurvedic clocks governing each day, season, and life stage—and once you’ve gotten the calendar invite to each doshic stage, you’ll feel more prepared for and in sync with Mother Nature’s flow.
Days 1-5: Vata
The arrival of your period marks the beginning of vata time. Ruled by the elements of air and ether, vata is quick and mobile—which makes sense given what’s going on with your uterine lining. During this time, treat yourself extra-gentle with vata-pacifying practices: Draw yourself a warm bath, practice restorative yoga (supported Goddess Pose is great, as it’s grounding and gently opens the hips to ease abdominal discomfort), and eat comforting, well-cooked meals featuring root vegetables, hearty grains, mineral-rich miso and seaweed, soaked dates, and cinnamon. Trade your drying morning coffee for a cup of nourishing milk thistle tea, which helps support the liver so it can do its cleansing work. Set the conditions for truly nourishing rest with a simple sleep ritual of massaging the feet with sesame oil—the golden nectar of Ayurveda that promotes grounding and warmth. In traditional cultures, menstruation is often aligned with the new moon as well, which is considered an optimal time for abundance and seed-planting. Try meditating or journaling about the intentions you wish to manifest with the new cycle.
Days 6-13: Kapha
Once the shedding process is done, it’s time to rebuild with kapha. Steady and strong, kapha is the energy of earth and water, which means you’ll be primed to restore lost blood and ojas, or spirit. To counter kapha’s watery, earthy qualities, choose practices that are uplifting and warming. Your diet can become a little “lighter,” incorporating cruciferous vegetables, berries, seeds, and black pepper; red foods are also your friend here, naturally, so bring on the beets and cranberries! Don’t be tempted to reach for raw salad, though—keep foods cooked and warm, which will assist digestion in your somewhat fragile system. Support any feelings of lethargy and sluggishness with an energized yoga practice featuring chest-openers and backbends (Urdhva Dhanurasana is a great kapha pose), brisk walks, and open-eyed meditations. As your body is preparing itself for potential conception, reflect on your abundant capacity for growth and creativity in your journal—even if it that has nothing to do with children.
Days 15-28: Pitta
You know what they say about female cats “in heat”? That’s code red for ovulation—and yes, your uterus is just like those cats,’ all fired up with pitta energy. The elements of fire and water are at play here, so you’ll want to balance them with cooling practices and foods. Avoid anything extra spicy, salty, or sour, though you may be craving these things; instead, choose watery vegetables like bok choy, lighter grains like barley, and sweet fruits. Raspberry and hibiscus tea are the perfect cooling combination, as are daily doses of super-hydrating flax and pumpkin seeds (read more about seed cycling here). Movement is good during this phase, so you can embrace a stronger yoga practice, or more active cardio to help release any pent-up heat and aggression—just don’t go overboard with heated yoga or intense cycling, as you’ll add more fuel to your pitta fire. If you find that other parts of your work and home life are heating up as well, keep a mister of rose hydrosol in your bag for an uplifting face spritz, or practice cooling Sheetali Pranayama anytime during the day: Roll your tongue in a small circle, or pucker your lips if you can’t roll your tongue. As you inhale, feel the cool air rushing into your mouth and circulating behind your eyes and forehead, then close your mouth and exhale through the nostrils. Repeat for seven rounds. Like with the vata stage, we can also look to the moon for help. Ovulation tends to occur around the full moon, energetically drawing an egg from your ovaries. On the full moon day, meditate quietly on what is no longer serving you and let it go, making space for the creative energy waiting to be born from this cycle.
No idea where you are in your cycle, or how long each stage lasts for you? Try keeping a Daily Dosha Journal; all you need is 5 minutes at the end of the day to record anything you noticed about the quality of your body, your energy, your thoughts, your sleep, your hunger/thirst, etc. Label it with a V, P, or K if there are overly dominating qualities in any one dosha (pick 2 if there’s a tie). Over the course of a month, you’ll start to see patterns and shifts.
In watching your natural cycle unfurl, also take note that these stages are not cut-and-dry. Just as with all Ayurvedic cycles, transitions between your period’s stages are important to honor. If you’re feeling a combination of doshas for one or more days, that’s okay! You’re a normal human, doing your job adapting to all of the changes inside and around you (what you ate for Sunday brunch as well as what’s on your news feed), so things won’t go perfectly even if you’re #Enlightened. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and with practice you’ll be flowing with your flow like a Lady Boss.
Jennifer Kurdyla is a writer, editor, and certified yoga teacher in Brooklyn. She advocates for holistic living as a means to foster physical and spiritual well-being.