09 Jun How to manage menopause symptoms naturally with Yoga?
“The first and most sacred duty of a woman consists in taking care of her own body” wrote Mother Sitadevi Yogendra, a pioneer in yoga for women’s health. She adds, “An unhealthy or a diseased person is not only a nuisance to himself but is a drudge and a danger to the society.”
Physiologically, menopause is not a disease but a natural phase in a woman’s life when the regular cyclical function of menstruation comes to an end. Usually around the age of 40 – 55 years, a woman normally goes through perimenopause when the estrogen and progesterone levels in her body start fluctuating. These changes can occur gradually or abruptly. If it happens gradually, it could last several years and may trigger a constellation of uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flushes and insomnia. From a broader perspective, hormonal fluctuations and certain discomforts are generally observed by women during passage into each new biological stage of life – acne and mood swings at puberty, morning sickness during pregnancy, and postpartum depression. Similarly, menopause is no exception.
Menopause is reached when menstruation stops for a period of one year. The age at which a woman starts menstruating is not related to the age of onset of menopause. There is yet no laboratory test to ascertain when a woman will experience menopause.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
- Changes in the menstrual cycle – it may become shorter or longer, lighter or heavier
- Hot flushes and/or night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Trouble focussing
- Urinary incontinence
- Irregular weight distribution – especially in the middle
- Loose muscles
- Skin pigmentation
Must Read: Yoga and Menopause
Since menopause is a biological phenomenon in a woman’s life, many medical practitioners highly recommend yogic management of these perimenopausal symptoms instead of prescribing medication or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that could lead to side effects. It has been found that the restorative and supportive yoga poses, <https://theyogainstitute.org/5-quick-energizing-yoga-poses/> pranayamas or breathing techniques, and other practices can ameliorate the undesirable symptoms of perimenopause.
Women who regularly practice yogasanas and pranayama find it easier to cope with this transition in life. Establishing a disciplined yoga practice before the onset of perimenopause definitely makes a difference since the postures and techniques are already familiar. However, the most wonderful thing about yoga is that one can start practicing it at any age.
Experienced yogis believe that what you do with your body mindfully can affect your thoughts and attitude. At times, with a simple change in the way a woman carries herself – stands tall with dignity, opens up her chest, and lifts up her chin to walk with self-confidence – she sends a message to the world and to herself that she is balanced and in charge of her life.
Positive effects of Yogasanas
- create a balanced mental state
- meditative postures cultivate detachment from irrelevant thoughts
- backbends build up confidence and bring a sense of lightness to the body
- forward bends encourage humility
- chest-expanding postures energize the body
- stretches bring neuro-muscular coordination
- inversions, such as Sarvangasana or Shoulderstand, can help improve a depressed mood
Here are some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause and suggestions on how to manage them using yoga practices that can help one to alleviate these symptoms with ease and comfort. These practices make the body and mind strong enough to bear the changes it is going through.
Hot Flashes/Night Sweats
This is one of the most common symptoms and is experienced by as many as 80% of women during perimenopause. It is characterized by a rise in body temperature along with a rapid pulse rate and produces blushing that begins on the face and spreads down the neck and arms. Hot flashes can disappear as quickly as they appear, often leaving a woman feeling chilly and clammy as her body tries to adjust to the temperature fluctuation. The cause of these surges is still unknown, although there are many theories. One theory states that the hypothalamus plays an important role. Another theory says that the hormonal fluctuations in the body irritate the blood vessels and nerve endings, causing the vessels to over-dilate and produce a hot, flushed feeling. Many menopausal women agree that stress and intense periods of activity tend to aggravate these symptoms.
This asana is extremely effective in relaxing your mind while making it alert.
- Lie down on your belly making a pillow of your hands.
- Keep your legs outstretched with toes inwards, touching each other and heels apart.
- Remain motionless in this position and place the weight of your body on the ground completely.
- Close your eyes and breathe normally.
- Relax in this posture for a few minutes.
- Slowly open your eyes, turn to your right side for a few moments and then gently lift yourself up into a sitting position.
Shitali – The Cooling Breath
This pranayama removes the excess heat in the body to further cool your body by reducing anxiety, fear, and depression.
- Sit comfortably in any cross-legged position.
- Close your eyes gently and relax your body and mind.
- Breathe in and breathe out naturally a few times.
- Pout your lips and stick out your tongue.
- Roll your tongue to form a tube.
- Inhale slowly, smoothly, and fully through the rolled tongue.
- Draw the tongue in, close your mouth and exhale through the nose.
- Stick the curled tongue out and repeat. The breath should produce a sucking sound.
- Repeat 4-5 times.
Note: If you cannot roll your tongue, place the tongue behind the upper front, stretch your lips, and inhale through the gaps beside the tongue.
The aim of this pranayama is to calm a restless mind and to bring refreshing coolness to the body.
- Sit in a comfortable asana.
- Press the index and middle finger of your right hand towards the palm and use the little finger and thumb of your right hand to open and close your nostrils.
- Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril.
- When your lungs are full, close both nostrils momentarily and immediately open the right nostril.
- Exhale gently and fully through the right nostril.
- Repeat 20 times.
Learn More: What is Yoga Healing and Menopause Management?
Fatigue is second only to hot flashes of all the symptoms women complain about during perimenopause. It is sometimes accompanied by depression and lethargy and a woman could feel weary for several days or weeks on end. This condition could be a result of low progesterone levels or depleted adrenal glands.
Utkatasana – The Upraised Posture
This weight-bearing asana builds up strength and the ability to concentrate.
- Stand straight keeping your feet parallel at a hip-width distance from each other.
- Keep your hands stretched out, parallel to the floor, and palms facing downwards.
- Inhaling, raise your heels.
- Exhaling, bend your knees, and come into a squatting position.
- Suspend your breath for 4 seconds.
- Inhaling, slowly rise up.
- Lower your hands.
This supported restorative backbend opens up the chest and brings energy and joy.
- Lie down on your back and bend both legs at the knees to bring the soles of the feet together.
- Press the knees down towards the floor with your hands.
- Interlock your fingers and place them on your belly.
- Breathe normally and hold this posture for about 1 minute.
Kapal Bhati – The Radiant Face
This practice clears the mind and enhances attentiveness.
- Stand or sit in any meditative posture.
- Inhale and exhale sharply, forcefully, and quickly.
- Avoid flaring the nostrils and ensure there is minimal movement in the body. The throat muscles will be automatically used.
- Practice ten such sharp short breaths to make one round. In one sitting, practice 3 to 5 rounds.
Anxiety, Irritability, Depression, and Insomnia
This range of unpleasant symptoms is usually associated with physical and psychological changes in a person’s life. Hormonal fluctuations, as in the case of perimenopausal women, could intensify these symptoms.
This forward bend involving the hands and feet can reduce irritability and anxiety because bending forward and shutting out external distractions can soothe the mind and reduce the effects of mental tension. This asana brings humility and acceptance of the self along with surrender to the universe.
- Stand with your feet together or as close as possible and keep your hands by your side.
- Inhaling, lift both hands from the front above your head.
- Exhaling, with head and hands as one unit, bend down to touch your toes or grasp your ankles keeping your knees straight. You may micro-bend your knees if you have lower backache.
- Make an effort to touch your forehead to the knees.
- Stay in this position breathing normally for 1 minute.
- Inhaling, bring your head and hands up as one unit.
- Take your hands up above your head.
- Exhaling, bring your hands to the sides with a backward rotation of your shoulders.
Inversions like this asana can relieve insomnia because they ground the body’s energy and reduce excess anxiety. When followed by deeply relaxing postures, they calm down the nervous system.
It is highly recommended for beginners to practice Ardha-sarvangasana – The Partial Shoulder Stand for a couple of weeks and then move on to Sarvangasana – The Shoulder Stand.
- Lie on your back with feet together and hands resting beside the body.
- Breathe normally for a few seconds.
- Bring the feet close to the hips and fold the legs against the thighs.
- Lift your hips up with your hands.
- Exhaling, lift your legs up together with both knees bent.
- Keep your chin in the hollow between your collarbones.
- Hold this position for a few seconds or more but less than two minutes while breathing normally.
- Slowly lower the hips onto the mat and release your hands from the back.
- Rest for a while and breathe normally.
- Follow the first four steps of Ardha-sarvangasana.
- Exhaling, raise high the legs together enough to make a right angle with the body.
- Keep the knees straight and the body above the hip joint on the ground in a stable position.
- Keep your chin in the hollow between your collarbones.
- Hold your waist and push the body up as far as possible.
- Let the weight of your body rest on your shoulders, neck, and the back of your head.
- Breathe normally and hold this position as long as convenient, but not longer than two minutes.
- Gently bend your knees and rest your hips on the mat while supporting them with your hands.
- Release your hands and relax on your back.
Bhastrika Pranayama energises the entire body and the mind.
- Using the muscles of your chest, inhale and exhale deeply and fully through the nose.
- Pull in your abdomen during exhalation and expand it during inhalation.
- Slightly exaggerate these movements and make an audible nasal sound while breathing.
- Maintain the speed of breathing as per your capacity and ensure that it is rhythmic and controlled.
- Practice 10 breath cycles per round. Relax for a few seconds in between by breathing normally. Practice not more than 3 rounds in one sitting.
Current: Some lifestyle tips on effective management of Menopause:
Suggestion: Some lifestyle tips on managing menopause symptoms naturally with Yoga
- Include pulses like chickpeas in your diet.
- Avoid spicy food especially at night as it increases hot flushes.
- Include soybean and other soy products as these are natural sources of estrogen.
- Drink warm milk before sleeping and maintain good sleep hygiene.
- Go out for walks in open nature.
- Engage yourself positively in a hobby, learn new skills, or volunteer to participate in activities at local social groups.
- Follow a disciplined lifestyle to avoid depression and anxiety.
- Avoid overthinking.
- Continue devotional practices, if so inclined.
- Learn and practice yogic techniques such as Dhyana, Jal Neti, and Vaman Dhouti.
- Maintain silence particularly when one starts becoming irritable.
- Write 10 positive points about yourself or your day in a journal.
- Read books that build a philosophical mindset.
- Practice detachment and a letting-go attitude.
- Learn to accept changes in the body.
These yoga practices are some methods a woman can follow as she journeys through the occasionally turbulent phase of perimenopause and successfully manage the ‘big M’.
Yoga can be a wonderful aid when your body feels out of control. If you have been practicing yoga for years, you might find that this is a good time to modify your practice to give your body what it needs. On the other hand, if you have just begun to explore yoga, a regular practice of asanas, pranayama, meditation and other techniques could lead you to discover rich depths within yourself that may bring a new dimension to your existence.
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