Yoga, a safe journey through Menopause
The menopause is not a disease, but a transition between one’s childbearing years and the large segment of life that follows. In some less industrialised cultures, menopause is viewed as “a cause for quiet celebration, a time when a woman has completed her childbearing years and is moving into a deeper level of self discovery and spiritual awareness.
According to Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, there is a deeper magic at work during the menopause “for those who can let go of the outward focus of maintaining youth, glamour and beauty. It’s possible to emerge with a way of being that honours this powerful transformation”. She describes how this power recalibrates our priorities enabling us to see the true opportunities available to us as older women and to articulate words of deep meaning and wisdom.
The menopause can bring with it some unpleasant symptoms. Why some women experience more severe symptoms than others isn’t fully understood. Stress can have a big impact, making the process much harder. Facing the reality that our body is ageing, for some women, is hard to bear. Some women really come face to face with this reality when experiencing severe symptoms e.g. urogenital atrophy, urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Coupled with weight gain can make many women feel unattractive, fearful, limited and low in self confidence. During this vulnerable time, it isn’t surprising that many women feel isolated, limited, embarrassed, fearful, and low in confidence.
Developing some self care routines, making space and time for much needed rest, self nurturing and reflection can be hard to achieve but really beneficial in the long run to make room for the menopause and the transformational experience that it is.
YOGA used therapeutically can help in many ways…
Asana can improve posture, pelvic organ support and alignment which means the body functions more effectively. A regular practice can build strength and flexibility physically, reducing the possibility of osteoporosis. Keeping the mind in the present moment, focused on noticing physical sensations or breath can bring relief from negative feelings and thoughts from the past. A restorative approach can calm the stress response and provide an opportunity to restore health and balance.
If suffering from unsettled sleep this can be a real drain on energy. Depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, cause huge disruptions to the way we interact with life and relationships.
Breathing and pranayama can increase energy by improving the function of the lungs and heart. Diaphragmatic breathing brings maximum oxygen intake and optimal posture. It also promotes pelvic organ support. Breathing practices stimulate the vagus nerve, calming the nervous system, creating a more peaceful, and balanced existence – reducing anxiety and depression. By calming the mind and the nervous system, sleep and energy can be restored.
Stress around this vulnerable time can often relate to current day circumstances e.g. childcare, looking after ageing parents, job related worries, etc, but can also relate back to past emotional trauma, to our premenstrual and postnatal days. Grudges, regrets, anger and other emotional baggage experienced earlier on in life can come back to haunt us during the menopause unless we have been able to let go and move on. Unfinished business can often crawl out of the woodwork, e.g. feelings of loss and bereavement appear in some women as their periods reduce in frequency. With childbearing years coming to an end some women mourn the loss of not having children, when at the time it felt like a conscious decision.
Hot sweats usually come on very suddenly and spread through the whole body. It can feel as if your thermostat has gone haywire. Constantly trying to adapt to these new circumstances must feel frustrating and limiting.
Relaxation, visualisation, mindfulness and meditation can reduce our stress, bring a more peaceful, hopeful, and positive approach to life. We might then be more open to new perspectives and possibilities. See more clearly how our stress and thought patterns impact our life. To be able to problem solve our way past life challenges and creatively move into a more positive place.
When feeling happier in ourselves we become more aware of our true selves, the unique qualities that make us who we are. We are able to realise we are more than our menopause experience. And are able to develop an acceptance of our life circumstances, and its transience. When living more consciously we are able make good choices for the happiness of oneself and others. Find purpose in life, notice new opportunities to use our unique gifts to successfully live our life in a happier and healthier way.