Practicing yoga through menopause will not only alleviate common symptoms associated with it such as hot flashes but will also help us view this passage of time with greater insight and wisdom. In some Far Eastern traditions menopause has been viewed as a natural transition to be embraced and celebrated. In Westernized countries this is not the case although it is slowly changing. Women in the West are assaulted on a daily basis by a barrage of anti-aging advertisements, which tend to glorify youth. As a result many women mourn the loss of their reproductive years and fear getting older. Menopause does not drain women of their vital function and turn them into old women overnight! We will all age eventually and with that will come inevitable physical changes but as the Dalai Lama says so brilliantly, "What's the alternative, not getting older?" Midlife involves deep and powerful inner change. I, for one, prefer to focus on the benefits of hard earned wisdom, greater self-assurance, deeper insight, confident sexuality, cultivated compassion and the freedom to own and love who you truly are without needing anyone's approval.
Instead of resisting change we can embrace it and view it in a positive light. This is your time to shine and celebrate yourself! Yoga will not only keep you fit and flexible but, it will also help you feel grounded, grateful, energetic, and radiant as you move through and beyond menopause.
Menopause is the moment that menstruation stops however, the transitions takes several years. This phase is called perimenopause. During perimenopause, which typically occurs in woman between 45 and 55, fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels can trigger a myriad of challenging symptoms. The most common are an erratic menstrual cycle, fatigue, hot flashes, anxiety and irritability, insomnia, sleep disturbance, depression, mood swings, and memory lapses.
An estimated 55-65 percent of women experience some mild menopausal-related symptoms. About 25 percent report almost no disruption to their daily lives, while approximately 10-20 percent suffer severe and often debilitating symptoms, says Rowan Chlebowski, M.D., of the Harbor UCLA Research and Education Institute.
The adrenal glands play a huge role in balancing hormones during menopause. A woman's adrenal glands become exhausted from years of wear and tear caused by chronic release of stress hormones. When you are chronically stressed, your adrenals work overtime and lose their ability to function
How Yoga Can Help
Not only do yoga postures and breathing practices balance the endocrine system, they also serve to stabilize our moods and adjust our attitude, as well. Women who practice yoga will tell you first hand how yoga positively affects their mood and general outlook.
Here are some common symptoms related to menopause and their yoga antidote.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
The classic inverted postures such as Headstand and Shoulderstand, as well as forward bends and restorative postures cool and calm the body and the mind. Tension and gripping in the body make the hot flashes worse.
Props are recommended to support the body and create total relaxation. Placing the head on a bolster or chair during forward bends helps relax the brain. Supported reclining poses such as Supta Baddha Konasana and Supta Virasana relax the abdomen and help the chest release; Ardha Halasana (Half Plow Pose) with legs resting on a chair calms nerves. For a more restorative shoulderstand you can practice Viparita Karani with your legs up the wall and pillows underneath your hips.
Depression and Mood Swings
Backbends, especially if supported, help you feel a lightness in the body and therefore in the mind as well. They stimulate the adrenal glands. Poses that emphasize opening the upper back and chest area improve respiration and circulation, which energizes the body and helps counter depression. By simply opening and broadening your chest you can improve posture and elevate your mood.
Many yogis know that by turning upside down you shift your perspective of the world, your life, your thoughts and the result can be a more positive emotional state.
The poses that help counter depression will also help your memory. These moments of memory loss are associated with great hormonal fluctuation.
Backbends, heart openers, and inversions help you focus and improve memory. You can also practice Adho Mukha Svanasana ( Downward-Facing Dog Pose), which sends blood to the brain and promotes deep breathing, improving mental clarity. And Savansana (Corpse Pose), which calms the nervous system.
Supported back-bends. They open the heart and improve circulation and respiration. They are energizing and promote feelings of nourishment, safety and joy.
Supta Baddha Konasana is a deeply restorative posture, which will help elevate your mood and lighten your spirit.
Anxiety, Irritability and Insomnia
Forward bends are calming and cooling. They are the perfect antidotes for stress. Also Bramari, a yoga breathing practice, which is essentially humming, is the fastest way to quiet the mind and relieve anxiety and irritability.
Bramari, Uttanansana (Standing Forward Bend), and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend) you can rest your head on blankets or bolsters. Forward bending helps you shut out external distractions and gives the adrenals and sympathetic nervous system a break.
For insomnia I recommend Viparita Karani (Modified Shoulder Stand) with a breathing meditation.
Yoga Pose Explination of the Week:
Viparita Karani (Modified Shoulder Stand)
Lie on your back with buttocks close to the wall and extend your legs up the wall. You can start with your hips against the wall first and then swivel around. You can place a pillow or blanket under your hips to elevate them. This is best practiced for a minimum of 10 minutes before bedtime. Viparita karani calms the nervous system.
To quiet the mind, which is usually the culprit in the case of insomnia, you can close you eyes in Viparita Karani and count your breaths to yourself. Make sure you are counting at a comfortable pace. Inhale to 3, 4, or 5 and exhale twice as long. For example, if you inhale to a count of 4 you will exhale twice as long to the count of 8. This helps quiet the mind and slow down racing thoughts so that you can fall asleep.
References: Yoga Journal
Published On: July 30, 2010