For most women, having a baby is a life-changing mix of joy and exhaustion. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medical system based on holistic approaches to supporting physical and mental health, views the first 42 days after giving birth as a sacred time for mothers. According to Ayurveda beliefs, getting plenty of rest, love and self-care during this period not only helps a mother recover from the physical and emotional toll of childbirth, it can also shape the next 42 years of her life. And the life of her baby.
Ayus, a new San Francisco Ayurvedic apothecary (1695 Union Street), offers an array of products and services to help moms thrive during the sacred window of time and beyond. Owner Chandra Swenson has been a devotee of the benefits of Ayurvedic medicine since discovering it in 2011 while studying yoga in India.
“I learned all about Ayurveda when I was there,” she says. “But outside of healing myself, I wasn’t sure how to use it to help others.”
Then, while training to become a prenatal yoga instructor, Swenson met a postpartum Ayurvedic doula or Ayurdoula (A doula is a healthcare professional who provides physical, emotional and educational support to new mothers.) She was so impressed with the woman’s knowledge and her work that she became a certified Ayurdoula.
“It just felt like a calling to me to educate more people around what the sacred window of time is and how important postpartum care is,” explains Swenson, who is a mother of two.
Her serene shop is stocked with products she regularly uses when working with clients as well as other oils, supplements, tinctures, and teas with Ayurvedic powers. Sesame oil, for example — known for its grounding and nurturing properties — is used for warm body and womb massages. Postpartum belly wraps help strengthen a new mom’s stomach muscles and pelvic floor. And sitting on a yoni steam stool filled with steamed Ayurvedic herbs and flowers aids in drawing out any excess blood remaining in the womb after childbirth, relieves cramps and reduces inflammation.
Ayus tailors postpartum duola care packages to meet the needs of individual clients. “Typically, I work with a mom for about three to four hours a day, three days a week for six weeks,” Swenson says. “Sometimes it can be more than that, sometimes less. Some moms want full food support, some don’t. Services are all crafted to each person’s needs.”
In addition to offering her own services as an Ayurdoula, Swenson trains others who wish to become one. Her friend Soi Kim recently completed the training and joined the Ayus team, along with doulas Elizabeth Gress and Emily Laskelle. Any doula who shops at the apothecary gets a 15 percent discount.
Swenson notes that while Ayus focuses on fertility, pregnancy and postpartum, it’s not just a place for mothers. Many of the products she carries are used to treat numerous other health issues.
“I’ve had men come in here and ask about what to do for headaches,” she says. “Herbs like ashwagandha are good for them.”
Ayus also hosts a variety of events for new and expecting mothers, such as candle-lit Satsang women’s circles, mommy meet-ups, and free belly-binding workshops. For more information and store hours, visit the website.