We’re all here because of our moms and for those of us who are moms, having kids is like having our hearts walk around outside our bodies. Whether a woman is a mother or not, the aspect of the divine feminine principle, Shakti, is ever-present with the ability to nurture, lead and be the strength of a community, it is what being a woman is all about and what motherhood itself represents.
To quote from Charaka Samhita, one of the Ayurvedic root texts, “Dharma artha streeshu lakshmischa streeshu loka; pratishtitha.” Women can bear children and are responsible for the continuation of the human species. Every woman represents righteousness, abundance, auspiciousness and indeed, the universe itself.
Ayurveda for Women’s and Mother’s Health
In any stage from puberty to menopause to aging gracefully; for women’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, reproductive health, breast care, hair care, skin care, immunity and overall resilience, Ayurveda has a beautiful role to play. For mothers there are guidelines right from the time one is trying to conceive, to prenatal care, management of pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal care and lactation in what is called Garbhini Paricharya. For every month and stage of pregnancy there are specific dietary suggestions and therapies prescribed and the focus is to make sure mom is happy and satiated, and the fetus nurtured.
In many cultures, women are told to stay home with babies after delivery for some time. We may want to get back to work and not buy into this concept initially, but as time goes by our bodies will delight in getting the break and healing. I myself didn’t realize this was an Ayurvedic principal; it was just part of our lives in India.
Ayurveda has beautiful guidelines for the postpartum period of six weeks after childbirth when moms get depleted and need nourishment, rejuvenation to recover and bond with their babies. Right after pregnancy agni (digestive and metabolic fire) is depleted and needs to be rekindled and vata dosha is aggravated. Moms are supposed to eat freshly cooked, warm, and easy- to-digest nourishing vata pacifying sattvik (light and fresh) meals. They are advised on particular herbs, therapies, massages with medicated oils, and herbal baths. Complete neonatal care is attended to, and there are dietary and herbal recommendations for moms that are breastfeeding (common herbs are fenugreek and Shatavari). Besides taking care of the mom and baby’s health, these are ways to prevent mom’s feeling fatigued, hemorrhoids, depression, stress, digestive issues as well as to rejuvenate her body.
Ayurvedic Tips for Mother’s Day
As mothers, we are deeply invested in the health and well-being of our children. How can the knowledge of Ayurveda help us with our own health?
- Self-care. Ayurveda is a holistic mind-body-spirit science that attends to all facets of our lives—ourselves, our families, communities and nature. We start with ourselves. If we’re not whole and healthy, how can we give from an empty cup? What kind of example will our children emulate? Whether we’re working moms, single moms or stay at home parents, it is all too easy for us to get immersed in our kids’ lives, identifying with their feelings and their milestones above all else. Like they say on a flight—put on your own oxygen mask first.
- So what will you do for yourself on Mother’s Day? Take a break and take care of yourself! Even if you’re alone, do find a way to pamper yourself! A beautiful aspect of Dinacharya, or the daily routine according to Ayurveda, is to wake up and start the day with introspection. Connect with yourself, meditate, and reflect on how you’ve taken care of your health thus far and set an intention for the future.
Do an Abhayanga self-massage followed by a relaxing warm shower after about 15 minutes to half hour. Abhyanga prevents wrinkles, fatigue, aids longevity and sleep, alleviates stress, and helps draw out the toxins from the body. And, it makes you feel great!
Treat yourself to a class, reading a book, writing or painting, or anything that gives you a true break!
- Set health goals. As you take care of yourself, set your health resolutions; let Mother’s Day be like a New Year for you to reinvent yourself. This piece was written for the New Year but outlines tips on setting resolutions with links to articles on understanding your Prakriti, or body constitution, nutrition and various aspects of health. Take this simple quiz to know your Ayurveda body type now.
- Attend to your inner and outer beauty today—and everyday. Very often, moms let themselves go. I can vouch for that as a post-menopausal mom in sweatpants writing this article. But the Ayurvedic definition of beauty is so holistic. Outer beauty is reflected in clear, radiant skin and healthy, shining hair, and taking care of your body; inner beauty is that which shines through from your heart, the values and goodness in you and lasting beauty is longevity, nourishing yourself and aging gracefully.
You may also want to learn these yoga poses for a better night’s sleep, one of the most important things for a beautiful you—inside and out. Inner and outer beauty is so much related to your happiness levels. On this Mother’s Day, gift yourself or your mother or loved one an opportunity to learn some simple, powerful tools to take their happiness to the next level and to restore vibrancy and live their best life.
The Art of Living Retreat Center’s Happiness Program is an immersive journey into the powerful SKY breath meditation practice.
Health, fulfilling our human potential—and letting go. The Ayurvedic definition of health is preventing disease, managing ailments and living our lives to our fullest potential. Striving to live our full potential brings us to ponder, what is my life’s purpose? Ayurveda offers a framework for this reflection. How do you define your duty (dharma)? What is the definition of wealth(artha)– it could be any kind of wealth we are looking to attain; love, wisdom, material wealth, meditation; what gives you pleasure (kama), maybe creative pursuits, relationships, travel etc. And ultimately we are all working towards freedom or Moksha, however we define it and the means of attaining it. As mothers, we tend to love with a mighty grip, but we have to let go of our kids at some stage. Our kids need to separate; they have their lives, their dreams and their own journey towards moksha. Our gift to them is in believing in them, loving them and letting go.
There is no love like a Mother’s love. It is because of my kids that I want to make the world a better place, and I want to start with myself. I’m reminded of these beautiful lines from Khalil Gibran about children, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and (S)He bends you with (Her) His might that (Her) His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as (S)He loves the arrow that flies, so (S) He loves also the bow that is stable.”