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While I began exploring the origin behind menstrual practices and the understanding of it as per Ayurveda, I also began experimenting with my own menstrual cycle. I learnt about Mudras from the book “Mudras & health perspectives” written by Suman K. Chiplunkar, and got interested in the process of healing oneself without medication and through Mudras.
Mudras are considered as a developed version of Yoga and are mainly performed as gestures by the fingers, hand positions and also in combination with asanas, Pranayama, Bandha and techniques involving eye movement. The type of mudra you should do, depends on the problem you are trying to fix.
A month into practising mudras, I noticed that my menstrual cycle had suddenly shifted by about 13 days (very unusual for me) and I later realized that it synced perfectly with the earth and moon cycle. I felt healthier overall and my discomfort around menstruation had reduced. Since then, every month, I begin menstruating few days before the new moon and thus in sync with the earth’s cycle. I also notice how I end up affecting everything around me when I have my period. Recently, when I had my last period, my team was involved in a physically tiring activity. I noticed that along with me everybody else had also slowed down. It felt as if everyone was moving in slow motion, with no energy left to work. Looking back, I think it is because I sucked up everybody else’s energy like a vacuum cleaner! The only person not affected by it was my friend who just finished her period.
The theory of menstruating women losing their energy and absorbing everyone and everything else’s energy can be applied to all the menstrual restrictions we know of. Whether it is the withering of a Tulsi plant (Indian Basil, considered as a holy plant), the spoiling of curd, pickle or other sensitive processes like silk worm rearing, it can be explained when we consider that menstruating women have a tendency to absorb energies around them. This affects the menstruating women as it interferes with her natural process of having to dissipate energy and it also impacts the person or any other living being by depleting it of its own vital energy. This also explains the reason behind practising untouchability and menstrual seclusion.
However, not all menstruating women can affect living processes. The reason I am assuming is because not all women have their cycles in sync with nature and therefore, their energies are not as pronounced. So while some women swear that the Tulsi plant they touched withered away, other women rubbish it saying it is superstition. Whereas, in the ancient times, it was said that all women menstruated with the moon’s cycle, and so the menstrual practices would have become a general rule for all women.
Menstrual practices influence attitudes
In India, attitudes on menstruation are strongly influenced by cultural practices. At the core of the problem around menstrual health, lies a woman’s attitude towards her period. If she doesn’t feel good about it, she will not consider herself worthy of care and necessary hygiene during menstruation.
We need to remember that these cultural practices came into being when ancient Indians were more in touch with their body, nature and our indigenous sciences. It is likely that application of such knowledge would have been commonplace, before the advent of western allopathic medicine.As someone who has been working on building positive attitudes towards menstruation, I clearly see the importance of understanding the meaning behind these ancient rituals. Whether or not one decides to believe in these is immaterial. What matters is that none of them were invented to suppress women and it was never with the belief that menstruation is impure.
How do we move forward
Many of you, especially those among you who would be unwillingly following menstrual practices might now wonder if the above explanations are justifications to continue practising what you have not been comfortable with. You might want to ask me “So am I supposed to continue being treated like an untouchable during my period, now that you have given reasons for these practices?”
The answer is No.
The intention of this write-up is to let you know that there were valid reasons and ancient science behind menstrual practices. These practices were relevant and suitable for the time in which they were conceived. They may not be suitable to the current times, but that does not mean that the underlying reason and the energy flow during menstruation itself is not valid.
So, it’s time that those of us who find this information relevant, go deeper to understand these sciences ourselves and even experience some of them. Then, I suggest that we engage with our family / community in conversations regarding what is relevant for us in today’s times. If we feel that some of the practices no longer hold value, then we could challenge them and adopt whatever works for us, but this needs to be done with our and our family’s understanding of the underlying science behind these practices.
This process of understanding the relevance of the ancient sciences surrounding menstruation, while adopting newer methods to practise them, has been beautifully explained in this blog by Jayant Kalawar, an advisor to our Trust – Menstrual Practices for today’s times.
If you are looking for more information about the science behind menstrual practices, don’t miss our latest TEDx talk – The Super Science Behind Menstrual Practices – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dI4L1B9QH0
(earlier published on https://mythrispeaks.wordpress.com/)