Yoga through the menopause

Yoga journey through the menopause

Emerge glowing at your destination using the wisdom of yoga to navigate the trials and challenges of menopause. By Gillian Osborne

The menopause — and the period that precedes it, known as the perimenopause — can last for several years. It’s not something that most women can ignore because in around 80% of cases women are affected by several of the known indicators, signs and symptoms; and these can have an extremely debilitating effect on one’s ability to lead life as before.

However, the first and reassuring thing to remember about the menopause is that this is a natural stage of life; one of many. If we follow the path of yoga then our practice will be there to support and accompany us through all of the many stages. The menopause is the passage through the child-rearing years and the emergence into the next stage of life which can be welcomed and embraced. But the troubling symptoms that it can bring need to be managed — they cannot be cured. This is a journey in which women need to travel through the difficulty and emerge glowing at the other end. There is no diversionary route.

Common issues and how your yoga practice can help:

1. Hot flushes
Changing hormone levels in the body and the interrelation of all bodily systems with each other can lead to erratic temperature changes causing hot flushes. A regular yoga practice to keep the body supple and free from energy blockages, will ensure that a good flow of prana is delivered to all bodily systems. This will assist in regulating your physiology and body chemistry and can help enormously. Ayurvedic remedies, routines and practices for pitta, which gives rise to heat, may also be appropriate.

2. Anxiety
The lack of stability through the bodily systems that can be generated by the changes that begin in the perimenopause and continue into menopause can give rise to an increase in vata, which in Ayurveda is the principle of movement. This can lead to anxiety that might be either free floating or worries that have a specific focus. Bringing balance to the physical body through yoga asana is the first stage in addressing this because it is more effective to work from the gross to the subtle. Following an asana practice, there are calming yoga breath exercises that will help anxiety, followed by relaxation and meditative practices that can help to restore equilibrium in the mind.

3. Insomnia
Following the same logic and working from gross to subtle, yoga asana is the foundational practice to help restore the bodily balance here. On a purely practical level, it is also extremely difficult and unrealistic to expect to sit to meditate and find that elusive peace and harmony that gives rise to the settled state of mind that is conducive to sound sleep, when the body may feel uncomfortable or unbalanced. Insomnia begins during the day with the activities and events that take place and get carried forward to the evening when we then begin to process them.

Develop a regular and balanced routine to help set yourself up during the day for a peaceful sleep at night.

Yoga, pranayama and relaxation or meditative practices will be highly beneficial. Ayurvedic abhyanga practice, which is an easy self-massage that can be done in whole, or in part (to just hands and feet), is very effective in settling down the nervous system at bedtime and calming the vata dosha, which can be aggravated by all of the bodily change that is taking place.

4. Headaches and palpitations
These are just two of some of the other physical symptoms that can be troublesome.

In line with the recommendations for hot flushes, all physical symptoms will be improved by bringing balance and regulation to the body through yoga practice. There is a great deal of change taking place and a corresponding balanced and harmonious routine will go a long way to bringing the stability that will help to counteract it.

5. Sexuality
This can be a difficult time for women; it is a transition that marks the end of the fertile child-bearing years and can have a negative impact on sexuality and self-esteem. This is a key time to focus on the yama and niyama, to give quiet time for study of yoga philosophy and to re-evaluate your yoga as an overall philosophical modality and not just a physical movement practice.

With or without children, it is the self that we come to experience. Spending time to consider the limbs of yoga (ashtanga), and perhaps seeking out a teacher who is integrating the philosophy as well as the movement, will help to move your practice to the next level. This will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your self-image, peace of mind and sense of purpose, that will filter through into all relationships whether sexual or not.

6. Don’t forget your partner and family
Throughout all of this, remember that your partner and your family may be experiencing your behaviour as different and may have their own difficulties to address in respect of that.

Explain what you are going through, be honest, practice satya. They will undoubtedly benefit from knowing what you are feeling and will then be able to support you in meaningful ways. This support alone will help to combat some of the negative symptoms of menopause.

Outlined above are some of the ways in which yoga can help to ease the transition through menopause. However, there are many yoga teachers and practitioners who have experienced no or very few symptoms because the balance that regular practice brings to body, mind and spirit ensures the physiology is sufficiently robust to withstand the physiological challenge. There is no life experience to which yoga cannot bring benefit.

Gillian Osborne is Chair of the British Wheel of Yoga (

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