A devoted Yoga practice is a profound healing modality for transitioning through the major life passage that is menopause. Yoga’s eight-limbed path to wholeness—including meditation, asanas (postures), and healing breathwork—is well proven to assist in this process. As we explore our inner world and the strength and wisdom to be found there, we come to accept all facets of the menopausal transition and by extension, aging. We realize that the awareness, happiness, peace of mind and compassion that a yoga practice brings teach us not to fight what is, but to flow with it. Acceptance not resistance changes everything!
Yoga is a major stress reliever, soothing and calming the central nervous system, while helping to balance body, mind, emotions and hormones.
Just a small taste following of how yoga can assuage some of the symptoms of menopause—as shared in my book Rejuvenation: Spa Secrets for Menopause.
Turning Hot Flashes Upside Down
A consistent yoga practice balances the endocrine system—the great hormonal regulator of the body—and can relieve hot flashes and night sweats.
Inverted yoga postures are valuable for their cooling and calming effects. Legs-up-the-wall, shoulder stands, headstands, forward bends, and downward-facing dog are some of the possibilities. Try inverting your body every day and relish this posture’s rejuvenating and balancing effect.
How to do legs-up-the-wall:
- Sit on the floor with one side next to the wall and knees bent. Turn your legs up along the wall as lying onto your back.
- Bring your arms out by your sides.
- Lengthen your neck along the floor, making certain your chin is lower than your forehead.
- Check in with your body and make certain there are no areas that feel tense or strained.
- Breathe smoothly and evenly as long as desired.
- To come out of the pose, bend your knees to your chest and release toward the side onto the floor. Plant your hands on the floor to raise your body.
Aches and pains, shifting moods, insomnia, and mind-numbing fatigue may have to do with the health of our adrenal glands. If the adrenals are exhausted because of habitual stress, they are unable to increase their hormonal output to compensate for the lower output of our ovaries due to menopause. Poses that bend the lower back, such as bridge, cobra, camel, and bow, tonify the kidneys, nourish the adrenal glands, stimulate the liver, and alleviate fatigue.
How to do bridge:
- Lie on your mat with knees bent, feet hip width apart and close to your buttocks, arms by your sides.
- Breathe smoothly, slowly and deeply. Pressing feet into the floor, slowly lift your pelvis/spine upward toward the sky as you inhale.
- Feel your back, glutes, and thigh muscles strengthening. Stay in bridge for a few breaths or longer if desired.
- As you exhale, slowly roll down to the earth. Feel each vertebra touch down until finally the sacrum area of the spine touches the mat.
In Control with Yoga
Urinary incontinence can have many causes, including reduced estrogen and weak pelvic floor muscles. Yoga has a variety of postures that strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles, especially mountain pose, chair pose, locust, warrior II, and the cat-cow pose, a particularly effective one.
Cat-cow pose can strengthen your pelvic floor, especially your pubococcygeus, also known as the PC muscles, while flexing your entire spine.
How to do cat-cow:
- Come into table pose with hands positioned shoulder width apart, one hand’s distance forward of the shoulders (to alleviate pressure on wrists). Knees are beneath your hip bones, spine parallel to the floor.
- Inhale as flexing your spine toward the earth, rounding your belly toward the floor. Your head/breastbone gently comes up as your sit bones blossom out and back, tilting your pelvis up, creating a concave arch through the back.
- Exhale as arching your spine toward the sky like a Halloween cat; look down, drawing/tilting your pelvis toward the earth, and pull lower belly inward while gently contracting your PC muscles (feels like you’re trying to stop yourself from urinating).
- Repeat several times, moving your spine in opposing curved directions aligned with your breathing, tightening the PC muscles as exhaling, releasing as inhaling.
For more details on pelvic floor health, see my article here.
Postmenopausal women are particularly susceptible to weakening of bones, increasing risk for fractures/broken bones. After menopause, we can lose one to five percent of bone density yearly (from diminishing estrogen and its bone-protective properties).
Weight-bearing exercise slows bone mineral loss, preventing bone deterioration and loss, and actually stimulates bone growth. It also preserves muscle strength, and boosts balance. Strengthening yoga poses include: chair pose, triangle pose, bridge pose, plank, and downward and upward dog poses.
How to do downward dog:
- Come into table pose. Fingers are spread open wide. Press into the earth through the base of the fingers. Toes are tucked.
- Inhale as raising your knees off the ground. Lift your hips up and back, working to lengthen your spine. Draw your chest toward your thighs.
- Exhale as you begin to straighten your legs as much as possible, heels reaching toward the ground. If your legs are straight, lift the thigh muscles strongly up as you press into the ground with your feet.
- Lift the shoulders away from the ears and flatten the shoulder blades on your back. Rotate your upper arms down toward the floor. Firm your outer hips in toward the center. Keep inhaling and exhaling evenly as you hold the pose.
- Move into restorative child’s pose if desired.
In my advanced mat yoga classes, my students move from down- into up-dog for an exhilarating flow of strengthening bennies.
For more details on how to navigate menopause, please read my article here.
I also highly recommend this new release—YogaPause: What Women Need to Know After 40 And Why Yoga Is the Answer by Cheryl Kennedy MacDonald.
The information presented here is not a replacement for medical attention as needed.
A respected wellness and beauty resource, Mary Beth is the President of the Janssen Source, Chief Wellness Officer for Chicago's Inspired Wellness Group, and Ayurveda/Mind-Body Health Specialist for the Chopra Center for Well-Being - personally trained by Deepak Chopra MD, and partner, David Simon MD. She shares that "my dharma is to teach mindfulness to as many folks as possible because it changes every facet of your life for the better." She's an award-winning educator, writer and author of 7 books, including her most recent book: The Book of Self Care: Remedies for Healing Mind, Body, and Soul. She also pens her regular column, "Ask the Organic Wellness Expert," for Organic Spa Magazine. Whether globally or stateside, Mary Beth's company offers highly experiential wellness seminars, workshops and retreats in spa, medical, corporate and higher learning settings.