After working as a menstrual educator in government schools, Sinu Joseph, founder and managing trustee of Mythri Speaks, found out that there were many questions about menstruation that were being unanswered.
In her book 'Rtu Vidya', she explains the ancient science behind menstrual practices, based on the decade-long groundwork on menstruation practices across the country. In fact, she recently took to social audio platform Swell to give a new perspective towards native menstrual practices which have been gaining traction since its release last month.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, the author says, "There are so many practices associated with menstruation - right from specific food habits, rest, not visiting temples - all of which sound superstitious at first but I realised that they’re all rooted in Indian knowledge systems and can be understood through Ayurveda, yoga, tantra, chakra and other similar systems."
The interactive session with Swell answered the science behind specific menstrual traditions and practices. So, what were these questions? "They were mostly about cultural practices girls are expected to follow at home, like why we shouldn’t eat papaya during periods, not have curd or spicy food, why we should not go to the temple, why girls are told to take rest during menstruation and so on," says Joseph.
As she worked with children in government schools, she points out that she preferred to have sessions privately instead of group sessions. Joseph explains, "It's better this way so that they are comfortable to speak up. I usually start the conversation by sharing an embarrassing story of public staining and laughing about it. Conversations about this topic often lead to questions on rape, sexual abuse as well."
Involving parents is a great idea but due to their jobs in rural areas, Joseph says it wasn’t possible for them to get a day off work. However, some schools saw teachers taking a lot of interest.
To bring in more understanding on how Ayurveda has a part in all this, Joseph explains that Rtu Vidya is not just about a theory. "I did my work in rural areas and came back to share this knowledge with urban women. Ayurveda clearly helps us understand how the colour and quality of the blood reveals a person's overall health. Period cramps that girls go through have a lot to do with the food we consume. Ayurveda suggests ways which can reduce cramps," she explains.
Contrary to popular belief, Joseph points out that rural women are more equipped to handle their period. "Our studies in Karnataka showed women in Bengaluru had the highest number of menstrual issues, whereas other so-called backward areas saw women with better health. That’s because of the day-to-day practices they follow. These are indications that something is not right," she says, adding that Ayurveda doesn’t consider mood swings and period cramps as normal.
To keep the conversation going, online courses designed on her book will be released via the Centre of Indic Studies. "A lot of my work has been about decoding cultural practices - outside menstruation as well - the entire science of temples, even day-to-day things as to why we eat with our hands or the significance of a saree, all of which are deeply connected to science," she signs off.