Article by Cheryl MacDonald.
The number of women who begin practising yoga after the age of 40 is on the rise with women realising that yoga is the perfect way to reduce the discomforts associated with menopause and ageing.
The benefits that can be reaped from yoga are far higher for women than men since women tend to experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives. The hormonal changes we experience in menopause are the same hormones affecting us during menstruation, often causing PMS.
So how can yoga help women during menopause?
- It lowers stress: Yoga controls breathing, which in turn reduces anxiety. It also clears all the negative feelings and thoughts from the mind leading to reduction of depression. It is a proven effective method to reduce and control anger. When practicing yoga regularly the overall sense of calmness increases and as a result a happier, stress-free life can be led.
- It’s eases physical pain and discomfort: Yoga practitioners are known to have higher pain tolerance. Aches and pains associated with menopause can be eased along with any back pain, chronic pain or neck pain you may be experiencing. A gentle practice of the flowing Surya Namaskara (sun salutations) helps to increase flexibility in the joints and works every muscle in the body, a complete physical and emotional work out in itself. Try practising 5-10 rounds per day, even if you don’t have time for other yoga you will experience dramatic relief from general aches and pains.
- It decreases the hassles of hot flushes. During the menopause, hot flushes are caused by an excess of pitta (fire) in the body and that has to come out! General asanas (yoga postures), which help for this include Ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana (half bound lotus pose), Ardha matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose), and Supta padmasana (reclined or sleeping lotus pose). Movements should be slow and weight bearing, paying close attention to the rhythm of the breath and position of the tongue to the roof of the palate during practice. This allows the mind to become calm and stabilize.
- It reduces blood pressure. A common symptom during the menopause is night sweats. Regular yoga practice reduces high blood pressure and promotes oxygenation and blood circulation in the body, in turn easing the terrible night sweats. Vasana (corpse pose) is perfect for allowing yourself to relax and just bring your attention to the breath. By taking our focus away from the stresses and strains of the outside world, we focus on what’s happening now and on managing any anxieties
- It’s a natural remedy. Yoga is a fantastic and natural way to help alleviate the pain associated with the menstrual cycle. So many women suffer in silence, or take endless pills, but yoga is an ideal way to soothe the symptoms, that you can do either in a group or in the comfort of your own home. It helps bring you to a calmer place emotionally and physically.
- It’s even better when combined with Aromatherapy. Yoga and Aromatherapy have physical, mental and spiritual benefits for the practitioner and therefore, it becomes logical to use aromatherapy when practising yoga. Not only are your senses enthralled by the beautiful aromas during your practice, the focus and effects of your practice are intensified by the therapeutic use of the essential oil blends. Healing benefits of aromatherapy oils include releasing old or negative emotions; experiencing a detoxifying or cleansing feeling; soothing tense muscles; helping to balance hormonal fluctuations or even helping to realign the chakras and promote feelings of calm and peace.
- It’s great for the joints. Yoga has been proven to help people suffering from problems associated with joints, such as arthritis. While not all menopausal women will have arthritis, it’s a health concern that’s often associated with ageing. Research from the USA shows that practicing hatha yoga can help to ease joint pain, fatigue and other related symptoms. The small study involved women aged 21 to 35 that on average had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for 10 and a half years. After six weeks, they asked both groups about their condition. The group that practiced yoga said they were happier than when they started and could better accept and manage their pain. The women were also reported better general health and more energy in general.
Yoga positions that are particularly useful to learn when it comes to soothing the menopause includes the beginners pose; sit cross-legged on a mat with your eyes closed. Take 3 deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Really shut your mind off from the rest of the world.
One such lady who experienced the benefits of yoga for the menopause first hand was Jo Dunn who runs Bosom Buddies, a bra fitting service. At age 53 the first symptoms kicked in; her mood dropped, she felt anxious and awoke every night with dreadful night sweats. Despite trying several herbal remedies the symptoms showed no signs of slowing down and after meeting Cheryl MacDonald and Audrey Victor from YogaBellies Jo decided to give yoga a try.
Jo Dunn is a self-employed mobile maternity/nursing bra fitter
Jo comments: “I’d heard yoga was a good way of learning to focus and relax with the added benefit of toning up the body and helping to cope with the menopause symptoms, but I didn’t realise quite how effective it would be! It was so good to know I could help ease the menopause without having to take tablets. It allowed me to feel more in control of the changes happening to my body.
“When the menopause began my waist seemed to disappear and my confidence decreased. After just a few sessions I started toning up again and began looking forward to going to work again. Not only has it helped the symptoms such as night sweats but it’s also made me sleep better and helped with physical problems which I’ve had for many years such as pains in my hips and knees. I’d highly recommend yoga to any woman experiencing menopausal symptoms.”
Cheryl MacDonald, YogaElder and founder of www.yogabellies.co.uk