Long gone are those days when females used to sit in a corner of the house, eat food from a vessel assigned only to her during “those” days of her monthly cycle. Now-a days these practices are shunned completely considering them as “old school thought”. Sanitary napkin adverts encourage women to run, dance, play, jump and do anything and everything just to demonstrate the soaking capacity of the napkins. But, are we really heading towards the right direction?
Aversion towards traditional practices are very common. The only reason behind this is ignorance about the science behind them. Let us try and understand the science behind these practices.
A woman during her menses is is called Rajaswala in Ayurveda and the rules to be followed by the Rajaswala is called the Rajaswala Paricharya.
Do’s and Don’ts for a Rajaswala -
- Live Stress free - Have good thoughts - A Rajaswala needs to keep away from psychological stress, tension, anxiety. Stress during these days affects the hormonal levels in the body and may create hormonal disturbances in the long run. Hormonal disturbances are the root cause of many problems like PCOD, infertility etc. So try and keep your mind cool and calm during your periods.
- Avoid physical exertion - Travelling, walking, workouts increase the Vata Dosha (One of the three basic elements of the body according to Ayurveda) in the body which is already predominant in the body during the menses. Complete rest is mandatory to avoid vitiation of Vata Dosha. (Hence the traditional practice of sitting in a corner of the house for three days) Vata Dosha
- Food - There is a natural decrease in the digestive power of the body during menses. Hence, the Rajaswala should have easy to digest food stuffs like milk, yava (a type of cereal), ghee, fruits and should eat in small quantity. (Hence the traditional practice of serving in a separate bowl which used to hold little quantity of food)
- No having bath - the water flowing over the back during a bath has a peculiar effect on the 7 Chakras (plexuses) one of them being the Mooladhar Chakra which is the closest to the reproductive system. This effect of water over the Mooladhar Chakra causes some hinderance to the outflow of the menstrual blood.
- Complete Abstinence - A Rajaswala should not have sex. A hormone called Oxytocin is related during sex and causes antiperistaltic movements (from below upwards) in the uterine walls (while normally it should be from above downwards for the evacuation of menstrual blood).
Ways to follow these practically -
1. Try not to take stress about work, family etc in these 3 days. You should try and be physically and mentally relaxed in the 1st three days of your menstrual cycle.
2. Avoid workouts, exercise, hurrying/running for bus/train. Try to relax/rest/sit down as much as possible in these three days.
3. Have homemade, easy to digest foods like fruits, milk, rice, fulka, moong daal khichidi. Avoid salty, spicy, masaledaar, fried food stuffs, nonveg and eating outside.
4. Instead of a complete bath, take care of basic hygiene by just washing hands, face, legs and genital areas.
5. Complete abstinence is a must.
Some of the other commonly followed practices in the past do not enter a temple/sacred place, do not cook food and many more have their reasons. These reasons are based on the energy flow through the body and the universe.
Role of Rajaswala Paricharya as a whole-
- Complete evacuation - During menses, the uterus is shedding off the blood and tissues accumulated throughout the previous month. This blood is although not what it is typically called -‘impure’, nevertheless, it needs to be evacuated completely to maintain a healthy reproductive system. Most of the Do’s and Don’ts for a Rajaswala like avoid physical exertion, food regulations, avoiding sex etc were designed so that there is absolutely no hinderance to the outflow of the menstrual blood.
- Maintain the strength of the body - About 50 - 80 ml of blood is lost during those 3 days. It obviously takes up some of physical strength of the body. The Rajaswala Paricharya was designed to help female regain the lost strength of the body. Career oriented women, those into sports and physical education and many other sections of the society may think that such small amount of energy loss is immaterial and that they can withstand it and continue doing their daily routine. However, its not about the loss of strength in one menstrual cycle. Its about the strength of the body and particularly of the reproductive system that is lost over a span of many monthly cycles that affects the body (again, particularly the reproductive system!) in the long run. Remember, these are the sections of the society that are the most affected by PCOD, infertility etc.
- Heal the “wound” in the uterus - The uterus is shedding blood clearly indicates that there is an active wound inside the body. Hence, the Rajaswala needs utmost care and rest just as a wounded person, a person undergone surgery, a women after parturition would require. Just because its a monthly phenomena, females do not bother to take rest during these days. Avoiding physical exertion and rest promotes the healthy healing of the uterine lining.
I have published a study done on this topic in the IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences in February 2015 (Volume 14, Issue 2 Ver. II).
Conclusion of the research - Rajaswala paricharya helps women respond healthily to the drastic physical and psychic changes during the menstrual cycle and in relieving most of the associated symptoms of menstrual cycle.
Rajaswala Paricharya needs to be seen not as “oppressive restrictions” being imposed on females, but rather as therapeutic prescriptions.