By Cheryl MacDonald, founder and principal yoga teacher at YogaBellies®
This is a YogaBELLES® yoga for women sequence created by Cheryl MacDonald. It is an advanced sequence created to relieve the symptoms of the menopause.
Yoga can help to alleviate symptoms by helping to balance the endocrine system, and the gentle stretching releases any increased muscle tension. Yoga regulates breathing and improves circulation around the body as well as helping with digestive issues.
This sequence is suitable for all levels of yoga practitioner. The postures should be held for 5 breaths each but if you feel able, you can repeat the flow as many times as you wish up to 10 times. If the posture is practised on the left and right, then hold for 5 breaths at each side.
1.Pigeon Pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is a great posture for releasing tension in the hips and groin and to allow yourself to completely chill. Pigeon can help relieve tightness and restore flexibility.
Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch your back. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of your left hip, but if this variation is painful, lean forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. If you can, point the extended toe upwards. If you want more, stretch up and over with the opposite arm to grab the toe. Hold for five or more breaths, and then repeat this pose on the other side.
- 2. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) The warrior poses such as Virabhadrasana II, help women find emotional and physical strength and to feel revived and invigorated when they are feeling anxious or low.
Very gently engage uddiyana bandha (draw the navel upwards and back towards the spine,) and place the shoulders directly over the hips. Stretch out through the fingertips in opposite directions. Our focal point or Drishti (where our gaze lies) is forward over the front hand. Remember to engage the triceps to support the arms, and the quadriceps to support the legs. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Beginners can take the legs slightly closer together but always be sure the front knee doesn’t extend forward over the ankle as this can create strain on the joint over time.
- Natarajasana or Dancer’s Pose requires a significant amount of flexibility in the hip flexors and spine, as well as an unwavering sense of balance.
Begin in Tadasana and stretch the right arms forward and keep them parallel to the ground. Bend the left knee towards back and hold the left big toe from left hand. Engage the knees and keep the left leg straight and perpendicular to the floor. Keep the balance for 10 seconds then release the grip of the left foot and lower the arms. Repeat the posture on the other side.
Beginners can practice this pose by placing the front hand on a wall for balance. They will still feel a fantastic stretch and feel all of the emotional benefits too.
- Uttrasana or Camel pose helps to stimulate the thyroid gland in the centre of the neck to balance metabolism and affects the entire endocrine system.
Come up onto the knees. Reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels and then bring your hips forward so that they are directly over the knees. Allow the head to come back, opening your throat and chest.
If this is too much of a stretch to reach all the way back to the feet, just gently knee and take the hands to the hips. Look up towards the third eye (between the eye brows) and bend gently backwards as much as is comfortable. Take the shoulders back and down and open the chest as you bend backwards from the hips.
- Dhanurasana or Bow Pose is a great back bending pose which will help to stimulate the reproductive organs and helps to balance the levels of progesterone and estrogen in the body. It stimulates both the back and front of the body, especially the lumbar and pelvic regions and helps relieve depression. Combat cramps and upset stomach with a backbend like this pose, which gets the spinal fluid moving and relieves compression in the vertebrae.
Lie on the belly with your hands by your side with your, palms up. On the exhale, bend your knees and bring the feet towards the buttocks. Reach back and take hold of the ankles. The knees should only be hip distance apart, if possible. Inhale, lifting the heels away from the buttocks and also lift your thighs up from the floor. Your head and chest will follow and lift off of the floor. Keep your back muscles soft.
Continue to lift, press the shoulder blades together and open the chest. Draw the shoulders away from the ears. Gaze forward while breathing more into the back. Breathe here for about 5 seconds, release with an exhale and repeat once or twice as comfortable.
If grabbing the feet is too much of a strain, you can use a strap around the front of the feet and reach back and grab the strap. Remember you don’t have to come all the way up either, for many people just grabbing the ankles and raising the chest is enough of a stretch.
- Chakrasana or Wheel Hormonal mood swings and symptoms of the menopause can be combatted by practising Chakranasa (Full wheel pose) or Ardha Chakrasana (half wheel pose.) This is a beautiful heart opening posture and can allow emotions to be released and freed. It is even claimed that it delays ageing so even better 😉
Begin lying on your back and bend your knees so that the soles of the feet remain flat on the floor. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart with the heels close the buttocks. Raise your hands, bend your elbows and then extend your wrists, placing the palms on the floor beside your head, underneath the shoulders. Gradually raise the body off the ground by lifting the hips. At the same time, push with the legs and arms and try to straighten the arms as fully as possible. Lift the hips and extend the back as much as possible. Try to old this position for ten to 15 seconds in the beginning, gradually increase the duration as is comfortable.
Beginners: an alternative pose for beginners is Bridge pose (sethu bandhasana.) Lie on the back with feet flat on floor and knees bent, knees directly above the ankles. Walk the shoulders in towards the middle of the back, opening up the chest and reach down to grab your ankles or place palms of the hands on the mat. As you do so, raise the buttocks off the mat and take the hips towards the sky. Hold for 5 breaths and lower.