Light of the moon pdf
By the Light of the Moon: Ayurveda, Yoga and Menstruation
by James Bailey, L.Ac., Dipl OM, Dipl Ayu, ERYT
A Chant to the Moon:
The menstrual cycle. I can think of few things more mysterious about the human body. Admitedly, because I am a man, but more so because nothing else about us seems so acutely connected to greater cosmic forces. Across many cultures, the magic of creation is believed to reside in the blood women give forth in harmony with the moon. Early menstrual rites are thought to be some of the first expressions of human culture, and gave rise to the earliest calendars. In al cases the menstrual blood is considered sacred.
In Hindu vil ages mothers tel their daughters that as the Great Mother created the earth, solid matter coalesced into a clot with a crust, and that every woman does the same to produce new life. Indians of South America believe al humans were made of “moon blood” in the beginning . Chinese sages cal ed menstrual blood the esence of Mother Earth, the yin principle giving life to al things. And in Europe, Easter eggs, classic womb symbols, were dyed red and laid tantric-style on graves to strengthen the dead.
According to the tantric tradition of yoga, the universe is said to be the offspring of an ovulated egg from the womb of Kali. The menstrual cycle, and particularly the menstrual blood, is considered to be the flower, or pushpa
, of a woman, because like the blossom of a tree it announces its potential to produce fruit. And every fruit, so it is said, has it’s season. In Ayurveda the menstrual cycle is viewed as an internal season in a woman’s biorhythm, as seen in the traditional Sanskrit word for menses, artava
, from the root word rtu
As with western medicine, Ayurveda views menstruation as a means to cleanse and prepare the uterus for the process of conception and gestation. However, it also views it as a essential process of cleansing the body on a much larger level. Women are belived to be healthier and to outlive men because of its cleansing effect. In addition to removing unneeded tissue and blood from the uterus, classical Ayurveda states that menstruation removes metabolic wastes and toxins (ama) generated throughout the body.
To understand menstruation we must understand apana vayu. Apana vayu is an aspect of the subtle body responsible for the circulation and physical movement of energy, wastes materials and body fluids down and out of the body. It is said to move from the navel downward to the lower pelvic gate and governs the elimination of urine and feces, the ovum and semen, as wel as the downward bearing forces required for
labour. When in balance, apana vayu also directs the flow of menstrual blood, contributing to a woman’s overal health, and longevity. Many disorders and irregularities of the menstrual cycle are viewed as imbalances of apana vayu at the most subtle level. Apana may be excessive, deficient, blocked or reversed. Only 30% of women have cycle lengths within a day or two of the statistical average of 28 days. This reflects the variations in the actions of apana vayu from woman to woman.
The Lunation Cycle
The phases of the moon and the constant transit from one to the other and back again are known as the lunation cycle. It is a symbolic representation of the growth, maturation and death cycle that al things must experience and a principle of life whether it is applied to a living organism, a woman’s reproductive physiology, an action, or an emotion. Each phase of the lunation cycle has its own personality, expressed within the human body by an equivalent phase of the physical menstrual cycle. The waxing phase, from the new to the ful moon, represents the growth stage. Using the example of a plant it is the stage between the seed and the ful y matured adult. The waning phase, from ful to new moon, correlates to the flowering, fruiting and dying of the plant.
Associating menstruation with the moon clues us to its cosmic origin (as al seasons are), waxing and waning in sync with the phases of the lunar cycle. Ayurveda suggests that In the ideal cycle the female human body would be synchronised to the cycles with the moon, ovulating on or near the ful moon (a time of ful ness) and menstruating on or near the new moon (a time of renewal), a twenty eight day cycle in al . Upon rebuilding the essences of reproduction (shukra), fertility would peak around the time of the ful moon, considered the ideal time to conceive as the moon represents the ful y awakened mind. At such time, samskaras of both partners are optimal to pass on to a child. Astrologers suggest further that the lunar phase an individual is born under wil set a certain tone for the soul's evolution in this lifetime.
Menstrual cycles that vary from this reflect an imbalance in the internal season, usual y caused by excesses of stress, overwork, stimulants, and malnutrition (including the absence of healthy hormonal precursors in a woman’s diet), and in some cases, the psychosomatic effects of a cultural belief that there is something dirty or bad about having a period.
Because of the complex interplay between hormonal balance and fluid and electrolyte balance, women at the premenstrual phase are more susceptible to what is refered to as a biological tide, experiencing bloating, tension, and irritability. Transient fluid buildups and electrolyte imbalance occur. Male hormones are less involved with fluid and electrolyte balance, and there seems to be no male counterpart of the prementrual-tension syndrome.
Muladhara and Swadistana Chakras and Menses
In Tantra, as in Ayurveda, each of the seven major chakras is defined by a primary tattwa or element, a dominant nadi (either Ida or Pingala - see next section), a dominant guna (tamas, rajas or sattwa) and a sacred Sanskrit syllable known as a bija mantra. Two chakras most associated with reproduction and the process of menstruation are muladhara (root chakra) and swadhistana chakra.
Muladhara chakra is associated with the earth element. Tamas (matter, inertia) is its dominant guna, and its bija mantra is Lam. Located within the perineum at the pelvic floor, the muladhara chakra is the granthi, or psycho-pranic knot of prithivi (the gonads) and the psycho-spiritual center of a grounded, stable being. Shukra dhatu, the purest essence of our reproductive waters, is regulated from this granthi. Under the influence of muladhara, apana excretes menstrual blood from body and aids in labour and the development of new life.
Swadhistana chakra, the Abode of Vital Force, is associated with the water element, the waters of life, and the moon as represented in its symolism. The cresent moon symbolises receptivity and the womb. It is a symbol of femininity and fertility. The process of excretion (including excretion of menstrual blood), under the control of apana, is a major function of swadisthana. It is Ida dominant, and thus feminine by nature. The granthi and its associated glandular functions include the female reproductive system, including the uterus, fal popian tubes, and ovaries. Without
Yogic philosophy, as found in such texts as the tantric "Hatha Yoga Pradipika", refer to the dual forces of the body: the moon (ha) and sun (tha), shiva and shakti; and the principle of yin and yang. The inner "moon" is said to be situated at the roof of the palate which pours down a stream of pure nectar known as amrita. The inner vital "sun" of our being is situated within the Manipura chakra near the navel and consumes the cascading ambrosial flow. In the case of deficient menstruation (ammenhorea), the inner sun is excessive in its solar-like qualities, overconsuming the yin, lunar nectars (shukra, rasa, ojas) leaving a woman deficient in sacred water at the swadhistana center. Many of the physical and emotional chal enges of menstruation in our rajasic society are attributed to the fanning of the flames of the inner fire among women who have learned to adapt to a solar, masculinized work place and social reality.
Yoga and Menses
In hatha yoga, practitioners traditional y rest on “moon days”, the day of the ful moon and the new moon. Moon days are honored as extraordinary and sacred, in which the daily rhythms of the practice shifts toward rejuvenation. However, Ayurveda would suggest that women consider in addition to taking the traditional ful and new moon days off from the practice, include the three or so days of bleeding (menstrual moon days) as a time for restoration to support the healthy flow of apana, and thus pushpa
The practice of yoga asanas is considered one of the most effetive means to regulate the menstrual cycle and prevent premenstrual syndromes, yet practicing during menstruation is controversial. Some asanas have the effect of moving the apana up in the body, against its natural flow. Such an effect would be contrindicated during the period. Here’s why.
Ayurveda advises against inversions because reversing the movement of apana back into the body during inversions may lead to vascular congestion. The uterine veins, which are thin, can stretch and partial y col apse, while uterine arteries continue to pump more menstrual blood into the uterus. If inversions cause you to bleed more than usual during your period, you may become weak and emotional y vulnerable.
Studies are finding however that practicing inversions during menstruation wil not result in endometriosis as previously thought. The classic theory was that endometriosis is caused from "retrograde menstruation," in which bits of menstrual endometrium go up the fal opian tubes, lodge in the pelvic cavity, and grow. It is now known that endometriosis arises from the presence of cel s in the pelvic lining that develop into endometrial type cel s.
Yoga also helps to balance the lunar (ha-, Ida nadi, yin) and solar (-tha, Pingala nadi, yang) forces, reducing many menstrual irregularities. While some women need to increase solar energies to restore balance, many are finding that the rajasic, solar energies of our society are taking their tol on menstrual wel being. To establish balance from these excessive solar energies, restorative postures are recommended in place of inversions, such as Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) and Salamba Upavistha Konasana (Supported Open Angle Pose), with blankets and bolsters under your bel y to bring ease and balance to your entire being. These help you to relax and gently open the lower bel y, pelvic floor, and womb, encouraging a healthy flow of apana and pushpa.
Chandra (moon) Namaskar (bowing to, honoring), or Moon Salutation, is the leser known companion to the Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations, fulfil ing the integration of the sun (ha) and the moon (tha) of hath yoga. In balance to the activating, dynamic energy of the sun, the moon salutations cultivate a calming, rejuvenative quality associated with the divine feminine, Devi Ma. In addition to the asanas, which flow similarly to the sun salutations but with a more soothing and calming quality, Chandra Namaskar is also practiced with a set of mantras that honor the lunar nature of the Goddess. Lunar mantras glorify Devi, the lunar or feminine aspect of divinity and thus are best practiced at night when the moon is visible or at dawn on the ful moon. In the practice the moon is visualized, either directly or in the minds eye. If the moon is not physical y visible, visualize it in a clear night sky, shining brightly upon gentle ocean waves catching the light of the moon.
The Chandra Namaskar is a useful yogic practice which can harmonize the lunar energies of the yogini, brining balance to the mind and to the period. To lear this practice I suggest Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s book “Asana, Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra” published by the Bihar School of Yoga.
Lunar Plant Energies
The use of natural plant sourced estrogen, or phytoestrogens, has long been an important part of women’s health in al stages of a woman’s life, from menarche to menopause. The contemporary use of synthetic hormone therapies to regulate menstrual problems in young women and during menopause is a crude and belated attempt to replace what nature already provides and often with undesirable risks and side effect. Natural sources are preferable because they provide a moderate supply of hormonal precursors, al owing the body to manufacture complete hormones when needed and in the proper quantities. Never too much and never too little.
There are many thousands of herbs used to maintain menstrual and reproductive wel being and to support the internal flow of seasons. Most are specific to a particular age and type of imbalance. However there are a few that can be safely used by most women to maintain menstrual wel ness, regulate minor imbalances in the menstrual cycle, and offset moderate premenstrual discomforts.
The most wel known is Shatavari, a member of the asparagus family whose Sanskrit name translates as “one who possesses 100 husbands” – symbolic of its pranashakti or abundant supply of life energy and the belief that it imparts youth and beauty to the user. Shatavari has tonic and rejuvenative (rasayana) qualities on the reproductive system and can be used any time between puberty and menopause. Its quality is sattvic and enhances the feelings of love and devotion. Shatavari helps to generate healthy reproductive fluids and blood and to regulate the period.
The nutritive benefits of Shatavari increases fertility and is aphrodisiac to both men and women, though ashwaganda is the equivalent herb for men. Shatavari is rejuvenating to pitta and vata types, soothing the reproductive organs and both nourishes and cleanses the blood. Shatavari is contraindicated in cases of excess mucus and yeast infection. Two teaspoons of dried Shatavari can be taken in warm milk with ghee and honey twice daily.
Ashoka, or Hemapushpa, is one of the most sacred trees to the women of India. One story has it that the mother of the Buddha clung to the tree while giving birth to the Buddha. It was under the Ashoka tree that he was born. In the Ramayana, Sita lived beneath an Ashoka tree in Sri Lanka while abducted by Ravana. The Sanskrit word Ashoka translates as “without sorrow” and is said to remove the sorrows of women. It is a
uterine tonic that reduces uterine pain, inflammation, and menstrual cramps. It is the most often used herb for excessive menstrual bleeding, due to its healing effect upon the endometrium of the uterus. Ashoka is also used in the treatment of uterine fibroids, helping to prevent the need for some surgeries. Ayurveda also uses Ashoka to prevent miscarriage in women who are susceptible, and is safe to use in pregnancy. Ashoka is prepared by adding two teaspoons to a cup of milk and a cup of water. The combination is boiled until the water evaporates and drunk twice a day.
The diet consumed during the last week of the menstrual cycle is very crucial. The hormones in our bodies are especial y sensitive to diet and nutrition. PMS and menstrual cramping are not diseases, but rather, symptoms of poor nutrition. Sugar craving, fatigue and headaches signify a different type of PMS. In addition to sugar, women may crave chocolate, white bread, white rice, pastries, and noodles. These food cravings may be caused by the increased responsiveness to insulin related to increased hormone levels before menstruation. In this circumstance, women may experience symptoms of low blood sugar; their brains are signaling a need for fuel. A consistent diet that includes complex carbohydrates wil provide a steady flow of energy to the brain and counter the ups and downs of blood sugar variations.
As far as recommendations, I suggest women eat light, warm things with some fats. The emphasis should be on taking more ojas producing (yin, ida, feminine) foods, and fewer yang (pingala stimulating) items such as coffee and caffeinated teas. So, more rice, less wheat, more yogurt, less milk, more fruits and vegetables; however, when used properly milk wil not create mucous if a bit of dried ginger or cayenne are added.
Women should not eat fried or sour foods during their period. They should not take anything that wil cause constipation. As mentioned before, impairment of apana vayu is primarily responsible for many mentrual imbalances. Its normal course is downwards and if it fails to move due of constipation, or any other factor the best thing to do is to add a sufficient quantity of flax seed or asafoetidia to the diet.
Lunar Consciousness in Closing
The Lakota tribes of North America offer the fol owing to aid in developing a more heightened lunar consciousness. They say: fol ow your Grandmother Moon. Her il uminating cycles wil transform your spirit. Begin with the Grandmother Moon at her brightest and most open. This is a time of outward activity and high energy. Sleep where the moonlight touches you. Walk outside where there are no artificial lights. Feel joy and creativity. As the Grandmother begins to cover her face, begin to withdraw into a quieter, less social place. Move to that inward place that is more about "being" than "doing." In the dark of the moon, when bleeding, the veil between you and the Great Mystery is the thinnest. Be receptive to visions, insights, intuitions. Go to a quiet separate place such as a Moon Lodge. Later, come out of the dark, a woman with a cleansed body. As the moon returns, come back out into the world, carrying your vision.
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