The Abhyanga and its benefits on reducing period pain & menstrual cramps

Featured image for abhyanga post on menstrual cramps

An Abhyanga is a valuable Dinacharya which helps regulate dosha balance and overall health in everyone. It is particularly valuable for Women and is an excellent scientific tool that helps regulate reproductive health. A regular abhyanga can help make the menstrual period regular with minimal cramping, bloating and discomfort. Why is this so? In this post we will look at the various benefits that a regular abhyanga has on reproductive health.

Trigger warning: Important

Ayurveda tells us that pregnant women must not be exposed to Menstrual blood, its odour or a Menstruating Woman. Similarly a pregnant woman must not see / read any violent imagery, or anything related to violence or Menstruation during the entire time of pregnancy. The acharyas tell us that our thoughts are extremely powerful and act as a precursor to all physical conditions.

So if you are pregnant and reading this, PLEASE STOP. This post is NOT meant for you. You can come back to this post after delivery – thank you !

This is a trigger warning - if pregnant avoid reading this post

For those of you who are NOT pregnant, please read on.

Feedback from a Krya Customer: Effect of regular Abhyanga on period pain & menstrual cramps

Here is some feedback we recently received on the benefits of an Abhyanga:

“Quick update on the super positives that I experienced with doing continuous Abhyanga. While I’m regular with full Abhyanga twice a week & Mini’s in between, due to non availability of Bodywash, was compelled to do complete Abhyanga. This was for about 7 days till i got my periods which thanks to Abhyanga comes bang on time. I didn’t have any PMS this time.

While Mini Abhyanga alleviated few symptoms that i get during periods, due to continous Abhyanga those were completely eliminated. Didnt experience 1) Any pains ( esp.lower back & calf) 2) Absolutely no bloating 3) Cramps – the lower abdomen which used to be so so painful and uncomfortable vanished !

It was after a long time that period was so normal and so was the flow. I had forgotten what pain free, normal periods were. I’m now going to incorporate this regular everyday Abhyanga a week before my periods. Thank you so much ? “

To summarize this feedback: 

  • The effect of doing regular mini + full abhyanga has ensured that her cycle is NOT delayed and that her periods appear at the correct time
  • When she did full abhyanga 7 – 10 days BEFORE her periods she observed that she had lessened period pain and menstrual cramps
  • In her description of lack of pain, she referred to the fact that there no cramps and no bloating of the lower abdomen, and no pain in the lower back and calf
  • She also observed the blood appeared normal with normal flow during her periods

Why did this change occur? Let us analyze this as per Ayurveda’s definition of what dosha can impact Artava / menstrual flow and what could be the causes behind the uncomfortable periods MOST of us have today.

Please note: this is NOT a detailed post on Menstrual health. As many of you have asked for guidelines on this, we will be covering this in greater detail in a separate post .

Apana Vayu and its importance in menstrual and reproductive health:

Acharya Charaka says this about “Vayu” in his chapter on Vata dosha and diseases due to aggravation of vata:

"Vayu gives life. Vayu gives strength. Vayu helps sustain all
 creatures. (Therefore) Vayu is the entire world and Master 
of all”.

Acharya Charaka says that Vayu gives life and strength and sustains all

There are 5 types of vayu / vata dosha which work in different parts of the body to aid different functions. The first 4 types of vayu are involved in digestion, the movement of breath / prana, the ability to speak and our energy levels and in aiding the body’s movement – both gross and subtle.

Apana vayu, which is of great importance here to us in this post, governs the following activities: it helps release semen, urine, faeces, menstrual blood and also aids the easy delivery of the foetus. Apana vayu’s seat in the body are the testicles, urinary bladder, penis, navel, thighs, groin and anus – so the entire portion from the navel upto the knees (front and back).

Lower abdomen is the seat of apana vayu

Menstrual blood and menstrual cycle: understanding in Ayurveda

Menstrual Blood is an “upa dhatu” or by-product / ancilliary Dhatu formed by Rasa – lymph. Rasa is the first Dhatu formed after ahara is processed and Rasa forms Rakta / blood which circulates in the rest of the body. Ayurveda tells us that Menstrual blood carries all the qualities of Pitta dosha and tends to be slightly elevated in Pitta levels compared to normal rakta circulating in the body.

The menstrual cycle in women is called “Ritu Chakra” or the cycle of Ritu (we also see the word Ritu in Ritucharya which is seasonal care).

Each Ritu Chakra is between 27 – 30 days and the first day of the menstrual period is counted as day one of your Ritu chakra.

In the first part of ritu Chakra is the Rajasrava Kala – the period where rajas / menstrual blood (also called Artava) flows out of the uterus and into the vagina. In this period, Ayurveda says that the blood which has been formed from the rasa dhatu and has been actively working in the Uterus to form the endometrial layer, the unused ovum, and balance nutritious blood which would have otherwise been used to nourish the embryo is all removed from the uterus and all subtle srotas in this region and is expelled out of the body.

To ensure what has slowly been used over the month is expelled quickly out of the body, the powerful forces of Vayu come into play via Apana vayu – As we may recall, one of the qualities of vayu is “swiftness” / speed – this speed comes into play as the menstrual blood is expelled from the body over 3 – 7 days.

Apana vayu helps the removal of menstral waste efficiently and quickly

Role of Apana vayu in Menstruation:

We have seen that the Apana Vayu in the body is responsible for downward and outward movement of Malas (wastes), Artava and the embryo during delivery.

So we can surmise that when Apana vayu is not in balance, its speed, swiftness and ability to efficiently carry out its function will be impeded. So we may have improper or slower or delayed evacuation of menstrual blood, evacuation which is not smooth and is in fits and starts, so periods are longer.

Similarly as Apana Vayu helps squeeze out the blood from all subtle channels in the uterus as it is expelled, if the dosha is not balanced, we do not get a smooth squeezing action. There will be uneveness and ups and downs in the action of the dosha – this can result in deep seated period pain, menstrual cramps, etc.
Smooth action of apana vayu is impaired when it is blocked or in excess

Also, Apana Vayu is one of the 5 types of vayu in the body – each branch of Vayu depends upon the overall balance of vata dosha in the body. If the vata dosha in the body is imbalanced, apart from painful periods , the quality of artava (or menstrual blood) itself may be affected.

When vata dosha is aggravated, the Menstrual flow becomes more scanty. The blood colour turns darker with a brownish tinge. We will speak about the effect of aggravation of other doshas on artava in our other posts on Menstrual health.

On the other hand when our doshas are in balance, we can see the effect both on our experience during our periods and in the appearance and quality of Menstrual blood. When doshas are in balance, Menstrual blood is of good quality. Such good quality artava / menstrual blood has the following characteristics according to Ayurveda:

The colour of good quality Menstrual blood is similar to the 
gunja seed / lac insect,it glows like gold because this is 
the quality of Pitta dosha in balance, it has no special foul
odour, it flows properly and is not thick or full of clots 
or very thin;most importantly it does NOT leave a stain on
 cloth when it comes in contact with it.

Good quality menstrual blood glows like gold and has a good red colour

How to positively influence Menstrual cycles and reduce period pain:

From the above description, we can see that we can influence Menstruation, quality of Menstrual blood, the experience we have during Menstruation, and our reproductive health in many ways according to Ayurveda. Specifically 3 things are in our control:

1. Having a clear, period pain free and easy period :

We can affect the experience we have during our periods (less cramping, free flow of menstrual blood, timing of periods and regularity of periods, painfree periods and quality of blood) by controlling Vata dosha , specifically Apana Vayu in the body

2. Developing good quality Artava from good quality Rasa dhatu:

We can improve the quality of our Artava (menstrual blood) and the health of our reproductive system by the regimen we follow during the rest of the month via ahara, Dinacharya , Nidra, Vyayama, etc

3. Overall Improvement in reproductive health

By following the Menstrual guidelines outlined in Ayurveda there is a noticeable improvement in women’s reproductive health. There is a deep seated and profound yet subtle (sookshma) effect on the quality of ovum, health of the subtle nadis and channels in the women’s body and quality of artava (menstrual blood).

The first part, i.e having clear, pain free and easy period as we have seen is most governed by Vata dosha. In the other 2 parts we can see many factors come into play like Ahara, Dinacharya, our Mental state, our ability to follow Menstrual guidelines, etc. But in the case of the Rajasrva Kala, we can see the effects much faster as we are dealing with a single entity: i.e balancing the forces of vata dosha, specifically Apana vayu.

Our upcoming posts will focus on detailed aspects of all 3 factors to help you improve the quality of Artava, have an easier and pain free period and share Ayurvedic guidelines on menstrual care and regulations during your period.

Balancing vata dosha for a better period:

As we have seen earlier in our many documents on Vata dosha, the ONE thing that acts to bind and balance Vata Dosha is eating and applying Sneha (fats) on your body.

When we eat Sneha like good quality ghee, we drive down air and space in the body. Ghee helps balance all 3 doshas, balance Agni in the body and helps lubricate the body from within, helping balance aggravated Air and space in the body.

Ghee helps lubricate teh body and regulate apana vayu

When we apply Sneha (medicated oils and fats), via Abhyanga, we push Vata dosha which tends to spread quickly through the body back to its seat by binding it with medicated oil and herbs. This is why the regular practice of Abhyanga through the month has such a profound effect on your periods.

In our posts on Abhyanga and Mini Abhyanga, we have suggested that women focus on the lower abdomen, hips and thighs when doing an abhyanga. If a full abhyanga is not possible, the Mini abhyanga suggested focuses on these areas. The focus on these areas helps bring Apana vayu into balance .

Regular abhyanga and mini abhyanga helps bind apana vayu

If you have extremely painful periods with high cramping, this indicates that Apana Vayu is severely out of balance. When Apana vayu is out of balance you should also feel constipated quite often, and bloated as Apana vayu aggravates outward movement of pretty much everything.

But the good news is , when you begin doing regular abhyanga, this Apana vayu comes under control. When Apana Vayu comes under control you will see an improvement in all its functions: your bowel movements will become regular, free, and easy with no incompleteness. Similarly, your menstrual flow will also become easier, freer and regularized.

What Abhyanga oil to use to ensure your period pain is reduced and the cycle is easy?

Moderate to severe vata aggravation needs medicated oils and fats – plain, cold pressed base oils like Sesame oil are less efficient at binding aggravated Vata. To pacify Vata, oils need to be made more sookshma so that they can penetrate the subtle channels that vata excesses hide in.

Because vata itself is very subtle, when aggravated it spreads extremely deeply into minute channels. So only a good sookshma oil which has been processed with vata pacifying herbs can dig this hidden vata out of the channels.

Medicated oils and fats have a more sookshma action - they are more efficient at binding vata dosha

Abhyanga oil selection by Prakriti:

Pitta aggravation or Pitta prakriti:

When selecting an abhyanga oil, go by your overall body type. If you are pitta leaning and in moderate / good health, go for Krya Classic abhyanga oil. Pitta prakritis tend to have high intense Agni (get hungry very quickly), sensitive skin (flushed and easily breaks out), are of moderate build, and typically have reddish tints in their hair with a tendency towards premature greying. They tend to exhibit leadership and perfectionist tendencies with a tendency towards anger.

Please note: these are just indicators – you need not exhibit all of this, but can still be a Pitta dominant Prakriti-the only properly accurate way of diagnosing your prakriti is through careful observation and nadi diagnosis

Classic abhyanga oil recommended for Pitta aggravation and Pitta prakriti

Vata aggravation or Vata Prakriti:

If you are highly vata prone, or are in a special state of vata aggravation (post partum, high exercise, vata diagnosed), go for Krya Intense Abhyanga oil. Vata parkritis tend to have lean build, prominent bones, dull, rough looking skin and hair, lose weight very easily. They are usually easy going, make friends easily, are very creative and quite talkative. When out of balance, they stay up late, have difficulty sleeping, etc.

Please note: these are just indicators – you need not exhibit all of this, but can still be a Vata dominant Prakriti -the only properly accurate way of diagnosing your prakriti is through careful observation and nadi diagnosis
Krya Intense abhyanga oil is suggested for vata aggravation or vata prakriti

Kapha aggravation or Kapha Prakriti:

For high and dominant kapha leaning prakriti, go for Krya Intense Abhyanga oil. For mixed Kapha prakritis (kapha + pitta or kapha + vata), try a combination of classic and intense abhyanga oil. When in doubt, always start with classic abhyanga oil.

Kapha prakritis tend to have a slightly bulky build, good clear and very smooth skin, thick lustrous and dark hair with good hair growth, very stable weight, and have a very balanced and measured disposition. When out of balance they tend to suffer from Manda agni (diminished appetite and digestive power), aggravation in mucous in the body, weight gain and lassitude and poor energy levels.

Please note: these are just indicators – you need not exhibit all of this, but can still be a Kapha dominant Prakriti – the only properly accurate way of diagnosing your prakriti is through careful observation and nadi diagnosis

Abhyanga schedule to be followed to ensure easier periods and balanced Apana Vayu : 

  • Level 0 – If you have never done abhyanga / or are doing very patchy / irregular abhyanga:
    • 2 mini abhyanga + 1 full abhyanga (friday) + 3 pada abhyanga (on days when you are doing neither abhyanga / mini abhyanga)

This is the beginning level where we are simply getting the body used to the abhyanga process. Abhyanga is quite rigorous on the body, so it is recommended we ease into the process. This level of abhyanga can be done for 6-8 weeks before stepping up into the next level.

  • Level 1 : Entry level Abhyanga once body is used to process
    • 3 mini abhyanga + 2 full abhyanga + 4 pada abhyanga (ensure no day is oil free)

This abhayanga level is a good maintenance level for apana vayu. This helps if your period pain is mild – moderate, and you are able to subsist without using pain killers and are able to have a moderately normal day during menstrual cycle. At this level of abhyanga, the body will slowly become saturated with good quality herbs and there will be a gradual and measured balancing of Apana Vayu.

  • Level 2: IF you are trying to conceive, are trying to overcome reproductive health disorders like PCOD, PCOS, or have excessively painful periods, etc :
    • 4 mini abhyanga + 2 full abhyanga + 5 pada abhyanga
If trying to conceive: some more suggestions need to be made – please  email us
  • Level 3: Post Partum mother / Recovering from Vegan diet / Highly Vata aggravated :
    • 3 – 4 Full Abhyangas + balance days mini Abhyanga + Pada abhyanga EVERY night – every day the body must be oiled in some manner or the other
In this level, if you are starting from scratch, start from Level 0 and work your way up quickly. Eat lots of ghee and milk and good nourishing food. Don’t over massage / over strain , taking care to gradually build up strength.
Please note:A regular abhyanga is like a recurring deposit in your bank. When done regularly it accrues compound interest. So for good effects it must be done through the month, regularly, using correct oils and correct technique.

To Sum up: Abhyanga for reducing period pain and menstrual cramps

We maintain that the Dinacharyas given to us by the Ayurvedic Acharyas like abhyanga, hair oiling, careful vyayama, etc are huge blessings and gifts. When we carefully practice these techniques we can see the effects across various organ systems in our body.
In this post, we saw the subtle and profound action of a regular abhyanga on Menstrual health.  A regular abhyanga strongly controls Apana vayu, regularizing menstrual flow and reducing cramping, period pain and discomfort.
Ayurveda offers us many pointers on maintaining good reproductive health in Women. we hope to write many more posts on this subject over the next few months.
If you have any questions on this post or if you too would like to start Abhyanga for good Menstrual health and are unsure about which products to start with, please get in touch with us – please call us (0-75500-89090) or email us.
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