Few women hop and skip their way through the menopause because the physical and emotional changes are considerable. From extreme tiredness and irritability to hot flashes, life can be difficult. There are natural remedies to help ease the symptoms, making the transition as smooth as possible and yoga can really help.
Natural but frustrating
If you are amid the menopause, you’ll know that natural or not, it can be extremely frustrating. From hot flashes, to irritability to dry skin and fluctuating periods, you can start to feel like a whole different person. This makes sense when you consider that there are natural rhythms at play here and these rhythms would have been consistent for many years. Yet now, the shift can create somewhat turbulent and uncertain times, and this can be highly disconcerting to you as well as to all those around you. The worst part is that there is little control over it. You cannot choose when is best to go through it, the changes simply start to happen and you may not even realize initially.
Living with the menopause
It’s of the utmost importance that we find ways to make the transition easier and one of the best ways of doing so, is through the practice of yoga. When we think of yoga, we must think about balance in life and unity of the mind, body and soul. All things are interconnected and so, we cannot just take care of our physical health if we do not take care of our emotional well-being too. Importantly, yoga can provide a variety of benefits when we practice regularly. It can be energizing for those times when we feel fatigued and are not sleeping properly, it can be restorative when we feel irritable and moody. You start to learn the techniques that link all aspects of health and well-being together.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of menopause are different for everyone. So, while one person may experience very few symptoms, someone else will feel the weight of the transition much more deeply. With yoga, you learn to identify areas of tension – in the body and in the mind and, you also learn the art of acceptance which is about co-existing with change and going with the flow where possible. Sometimes, it is impossible to manage all the symptoms of menopause and so, there will be days when you feel extra tired and need to rest and there will be other times, where you burst into tears for little reason.
Letting go of the fear associated with change
Few of us really like change. Unless of course, the changes benefit us greatly. But with the menopause, change just means uncertainty. It can help if you open the mind to relish the transition of life rather than to fight it, block it or to refute it. If you already practice yoga, you must take this openness to change onto the yoga mat with you.
Instead of creating more tension in the mind and body by stubbornly fighting against the prospect of the menopause, you listen to your body and you work with it. Yoga provides you with a great way of tuning into your physical and emotional self. You learn this from the moment you step onto the mat as you need to develop your instinct when it comes to moving in and out of the postures. When you listen to your body, you can understand what is happening. You start to develop an instinct as to what you need to do to ease it or to nurture it.
Start with Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and engage with the mat and the practice that lies ahead. Also, take this moment to quieten the mind and to simply enjoy the moments before you begin. Move slowly in and out of the postures and add in some backbends as this can have a wonderful counter effect on the heaviness you may feel at times of the month. This is especially important when there is some tenderness in the breasts and abdomen area. Make sure you finish any posture in the Corpse pose (Savasana) and learn to let go of any remaining tension and to truly relax.
Consistency of practice is key. Although you could provide one long yoga session at the end of the week, it’s far better to practice every day or every few days. This way, the body prepares, it resets and then, moves forward as you approach these postures. When you step onto the mat, you must do so with the idea of self-support and care. These are elements that should be carried into everyday life too. It works well because there will be times when a sudden surge of emotion arises unexpectedly. With yoga, you recognize these changes and symptoms and so, with awareness, can take a different approach to your feelings.
Targeting menopause with awareness
Your body has its subtle energy which can be felt when you tune into yourself and listen instinctively. With awareness, you connect to your inner core, that essential you. This may be experienced this in a variety of ways, you may notice the rhythm of your heart, feel your pulse or even, connect with an inner, subtle vibration. This is only achieved when tension is eased, and your mind and body is open. When you approach the menopause with awareness, you accept that life is what it is. You know that there will be times when emotions undulate or, you feel physically low.
At these times, consider what will nurture you. Practice gratitude meditation by finding something important and good in your life and generate positive, strong vibes that will make you feel better. You can do this before or after your yoga session, or, indeed, at any time. It’s important to engage with the feelings – whether they are positive or negative. You’ll feel these sensations moving throughout your body like a wave, this could be a surge of emotion, it could be the hot flash enveloping you. When you feel this, stop, focus on the breath and the feelings associated with your body and tune into a mindfulness session.
Yoga postures for the menopause
Mountain pose (Tadasana)
Most people think that Mountain pose is just the starting point of any session. It’s also important to use it as a standalone pose. Then, you can quieten the mind and embrace the power of good posture. This pose centers you and has a calming effect.
Supported Hero pose (Virasana)
Only practice this posture if you are comfortable with sitting on the buttocks in between your feet. For this posture, use pillows and bolsters to support the back. This opens the chest turning this into a highly relaxing and restorative pose. It works on the abdomen, the thighs, knees and ankles as well as the hip flexors. It increases the strength of the foot arches and eases tired or aching legs. This pose has a great many benefits including: easing the menopause or any menstrual issues. It soothes headaches, problems with digestion, respiratory issues and insomnia.
Reclining bound ankle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This posture has a wonderful effect on the kidneys, ovaries, bladder and prostate gland. It stretches the inner thighs, releases the groin area and works on the knees too. It is a wonderful pose for the menopause or, for any menstrual issues. Move into Badda Konasana (as above) and on an exhalation, lower your back to the floor. Support this movement with your hands and then, lean on your forearms so that your back is supported.
Actively spread the back of the pelvis with your hands and this has an amazing effect on the lower back and buttocks. Lie all the way back but use a blanket or bolster to support the head and neck if required. The idea is to rotate the inner thighs by pressing down on the outer thighs moving them from your torso. Try to imagine that the inner groins are sinking down into the pelvis. Relax in this posture.
Cat/Cow postures (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Go into tabletop pose with hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. This is a gentle, nurturing sequence between the two poses and it brings great flexibility to the spine. It stimulates the abdominals, kidneys and adrenal glands and helps to reduce stress. It also calms the mind which is useful for times of the menopause. These two poses help to bring balance back to the spine, it improves alignment as well as improving posture.
Finish in the Corpse pose (Savasana)
Irrespective of where you are on the menopause journey, understand that there will be days when emotional and physical changes seem overwhelming. Accept that this is likely and try to go with the flow. Nurture yourself as and when is necessary. This will help you to remain resilient but adaptable during these transitional times.
Meditation can really help as it creates clarity when the mind becomes foggy. Try natural remedies so that you can improve your sleep and take care of yourself. If you do need extra help, do seek advice from your doctor, there are treatments that can be prescribed. Yoga, meditation and natural remedies will most definitely reduce many of the symptoms associated with living with the menopause. A holistic approach is always best where possible. When you incorporate yoga into your daily schedule, you will start to see and feel some of the benefits fairly quickly and get your life back on track.