In celebration of the launch of A New Cycle, our period-positive guide to a healthier period, we’re introducing you to the contributors! We hand-picked our favorite women’s health experts to write chapters for A New Cycle on their area of specialty. Read on to get know this week’s featured contributor, or click here get a free preview of the book when you sign up for our newsletter!
Meet Andrea Shuman, author of Chapter 7: Menstruation in Ayurveda!
Why is menstruation important?
Menstruation is important because it binds us, as women, to the cycles of the earth and moon. Our monthly cycle cleanses our womb, allows us to refresh, renew, go within and contemplate. Our blood is a gift, keeping us in touch with our fertility, our overall health and reminding us when we need to slow down or reevaluate. Every month, we are gifted with the opportunity to know ourselves deeper and, if we really listen to our bodies, take the time to turn our focus inward and replenish our souls for the coming cycle.
What inspired you to write your chapter?
I was inspired to write about menstruation in Ayurveda because this is the venue through which I made peace with my own cycle and finally made my body healthy! Ayurveda shows us the difference between what is common and what is actually healthy. Ayurveda takes into consideration the seasons, the moon, the earth, the time of life and constitution of the woman to create an individual path to healing. I believe that women would be well served to read this chapter and explore more about how Ayurveda can help her repair and renew her cycles.
Too many women suffer and get too little relief from a western medicine model that uses synthetic hormones to help her ignore her cycles rather than heal them. Fertility issues are on a sharp rise in this country, as evidenced by the growing “fertility industrial complex” of drugs and procedures. Our menstrual cycle is the best place to start in determining obstacles to fertility and to begin the healing. The more that women use their cycles to connect to their body to get real and effective messages, the better luck we will have in reversing this sad trend of diminishing fertility.
As a young woman, I did not learn that my cycles were something to celebrate, but rather, something to suffer through or push away. It is my mission to convey to the young women of today that their bodies are sacred, intelligent and worth listening to.
Do you have a personal story about menstruation you’d like to share?
As a young woman, I suffered with cramping so severe that walking was a challenge. I was on prescription painkillers by the time I was 14, and on birth control pills before I was even sexually active to help “control” my periods. The painkillers dulled my senses and made me feel detached, and the birth control pills caused severe weight gain and mood swings (just what every teenager wants). I grew to “hate” my periods and often wished I did not have them at all!
A nurse practitioner then suggested, when I was 17, that I take the Depo Provera shot, to stop them entirely. I took the shot for one year, lost my cycles, lost my libido, and became depressed: It took more than a year after stopping the shots for my cycles to return. All through out my 20s I then had not only severe cramping but, as a result of my 2 years of absent menses, completely irregular cycles skipping months at a time, feeling plugged up and lethargic.
At 22 years old, I found Eastern medicine in the form of Acupuncture. I started addressing my diet and using herbs to clear out the stagnation and regulate my cycles. This helped tremendously, and clinched my feeling that Eastern medicine, with its 5000 years of experience in dealing with menstrual difficulties, was a better road for me than the experimental, drug-driven methods of the conventional OB/GYN methods.
In my late 20s, I found Ayurveda and was able to fine-tune my body and prepare for the conception of my child, using the ancient methods of Pancha Karma cleansing and good diet. I am happy to say that, through all the years of struggles with my reproductive organs, I am healed, the mother of a perfectly healthy child, and the caretaker of a happy, well functioning body and a smooth cycle! I am a true believer in Ayurveda and Eastern medicine to bring about balance in women’s health, and I now specialize in helping other women heal themselves completely and holistically!
What kind of menstrual protection do you use?
I got my first set of GladRags in my early 20s. While I went back and forth from organic disposables to reusable menstrual products and the “Instead Cup”, I now have a mix of Moonpads and GladRags (both are amazing companies from the very town I live in!).
Andrea Shuman is co-founder and co-owner of The Ahara Rasa Ayurvedic Center and has been in private practice for 17 years as a bodyworker and alternative health professional. Through her own life experience, Andrea was called to specialize her studies in Ayurvedic Medicine, herbs and bodywork for Women’s health. Andrea attended the California college of Ayurveda in Nevada City, CA from 2007 to 2010. Many years have been spent in the quest for knowledge of the body-mind and spirit connection. This quest has led to travels and practice around the world, finally settling in beautiful Portland, Oregon.