A women in her late 40’s approached me recently, she’s been struggling with the changes that goes on in the body during menopause. On top of the usual menopause symptoms, she’s been experiencing unpleasant odors, hot flashes and she feels very disconnected from her body.
We agreed on meeting 2 hours a week for 6 consecutive weeks. Even though I do not have any menopause experience personally, I do know that this is big shift in the body where it wants to turn inwardly and seek for solitude.
On the soul level, it means the body needs lots of quiet time and the solitude provides an opportunity to a journey inward. All of us have a sacred essence, that we are positive, intentional and happy beings. The practice of yoga — whether the physical asana yoga practice or the inner practice such as meditation, the inquiry can unveil the sacred essence that we are forgetting. In the Sanskrit, these afflictions are called forgetfulness (ignorance), egoism, desire, aversion and fear of change (clinging of the way things are). Obviously menopause is a time for a tremendous shift and energy release that is both unsettling and liberating. I imagine there must be lots of discomfort and tension of holding onto certain attachments.
Working individually help to understand the student’s need. She has been a super woman all her life, very successful in her career yet at the same time, accumulated lots of tightness around her shoulders, neck and chest cavity. It was really important to give her lots of prop support to calm the nerve system and I tailored the class to focus on opening this area of the body so she learns to unwind the habitual way of shallow breathing. We did plenty of yin and restorative poses to open up the fascia around her shoulders, chest and neck. The cooling and calming effect of the yin and restorative poses were really helpful.
Now one might ask, why yin and restorative yoga? It all depends what the body needs. Most of the women are exhausted from juggling their roles inside and outside the house, the adrenal has not stopped since a long time ago. Although the style of yang (vinyasa) practice can achieve gaining certain disciplines, this isn’t really the time for that. Menopause is the time that the body needs literally „a pause“, and practicing yoga’s relaxing, restorative poses on a regular basis will help ease out the transition.
Here are some poses that are very helpful for menopause. Remember to practice these poses with an intention of a slight ujjayi pranayama.
This pose is restorative and very cooling to unwind the day. If you’ve been on your feet or sitting for most of the day, this is a great pose to allow the blood flow to come back to your pelvis and your heart. Make sure to place a bolster or a folded blanket underneath your sacrum area for slight elevation and support. Legs should be nearly 90 degrees up the wall for full benefit, if you can’t keep the legs straight, knees slight bend or crossed legged. A variation of this pose: the feet can come in to a Baddhakonasana (Butterfly Pose with the soles of the feet together and knees apart.) Stay here for 10 – 30 minutes. You’ll feel so light and rejuvenated afterwards!
Lying Down Bound-Angle Pose
Supta Baddha Konasana
A pose that increase blood flowing the pelvic region, increase the flow of fresh oxygen to your reproductive organs and help to balance the hormone function. This also helps alleviate tension and constriction in the abdomen, vagina and uterus. A great pose as well if you have breathing problems. Remember to prop a block underneath each thigh so the pose stays relatively easy on the body, allowing one to rest deeply.
Supported Downward Facing Dog
Ardho Mudkha Svanasana
The supported down dog is with a firm block underneath your head, so your head is fully rested on the block or a bolster. Make sure you are not clinging your neck or shoulder for this one. The half inverted pose is has powerful effects on neuroendocrine system, allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to flow to the glands in the head and neck. It can also break the vicious cycle of adrenal exhaustion, stimulation and fatigue. A correct alignment is important, so if you have a tighter hip or hamstring, make sure to bend your knees and lift you sitting bones up, allowing the spine to decompress in a straight line. Pressing all knuckles of the fingers down, so there is a firm root with the support of the arm. Feel a slight lift ever so slightly from the crease of your thumb and index fingers. Firm the forearms in to tone and build strength in the arms and shoulders. Stay here 5 – 10 minutes.
Restorative Seated Forward Bend
In this forward fold, place your bolster right in front of your abdomen. Take a deep inhalation to lengthen your spine, as you exhale hug the bolster in and fold. Depending on your flexibility, you may want to prop a folded blanket underneath your sitting bones if you have a tighter hamstring. And prop a block or a bigger book on top of the bolster so you can rest your forehead on there. The intention of this pose is not to fold deeply with a rounded back. Remember, forward folds are intended to lengthen your heart away from your shin. As you settle in, feel yourself becoming comfortable. Once you feel relaxed, the body has no problem opening up.
This pose is very somehow very underrated. In many foundational yoga poses, hero pose can help to open up the feet for e.g Downward Facing Dog (Ardho Mukha Svanasana). Perform this pose in two stages because it may be uncomfortable to sit in the same pose for long. Stage 1: Start with your toes tucked under in so you are sitting on your heels. The intensity is good for reflexology of the body. If it is too much, place a block between your heels to sit. Stage 2: Tops of the feet on the floor and sit on the heels or on the block. Allowing yourself to come out of the pose between each stages. This one helps to ground the energy, connect with your reproductive organs with gentle massage and toning of the pelvic floor. Come out whenever necessary.