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How yoga can help in menopause (and how it can’t)

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Yoga is a wonderful practice that can help you in menopause. The physical asanas (postures) can build strength and flexibility to help with symptoms like aching joints. Further, the subtle elements of yoga such as breathing practices (pranayama) and meditation can help with the emotional changes during this time.

Yoga can also help us to connect with our inner strength and wisdom in midlife. 

In this blog post I share ways that yoga can help you, as it has me, in menopause. I also share how it hasn’t helped me. Yoga can be part of holistic self-care during menopause but, sorry to say, yoga can’t “balance your hormones”. 

The physical practice can be so nourishing 

Yoga can be a great low impact way of bringing movement into parts of your body where you might be feeling tense or achey.  

The best yoga poses don’t have to be complicated, “advanced” or put more stress on potentially painful joints. Poses that are grounding, restorative, that use large muscle groups, involve balance, and that gradually build strength are ideal.  

I make sure to spend extra time at the beginning of my practice focussing on mobilising the wrists, shoulders, hips, knees and feet. This gives my sometimes stiff and sore joints a chance to warm up before adding load to them. 

Here are some examples of great yoga poses to do in menopause: 

  • Child’s Pose 
  • Warrior II
  • Triangle Pose
  • Tree Pose
  • Legs up the Wall
  • Savasana!

Despite what you might see on social media you don’t have to do Downward Dog, handstands, headstands, arm balances or planks. Your yoga practice is equally valid if you do none of these (or indeed if you do all of these). 

During menopause we can feel fatigued and low in energy. Quieter yoga practices such as Yin yoga, slow Vinyasa or gentle Hatha can be great options to explore. When done mindfully and with connection to our breath we can feel surprisingly energised. 

The subtle elements of yoga  

The classical yoga text Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outlines 8 limbs (branches) of yoga. Only one of those limbs makes reference to asana, or the physical postures. In fact, ancient yogis only practiced physical postures in preparation for long periods of sitting in meditation. You can read more about the roots of yoga in my post Honouring the roots of yoga.

The subtle elements of yoga such as meditation and breathing practices is where you might find the most help in menopause. These practices can help with the potentially debilitating symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, low mood, a feeling of overwhelm and a loss of confidence. 

Subtle elements of yoga have benefited me
most during this time

A pranayama practice such as Sama Vritti, is one example. Also known as equal breath or box breath, Sama Vritti translates as ‘equal mental fluctuation breathing’. This pranayama can help bring a feeling of balance, reduce mental stress and slow down the heart rate – great for the roller-coaster of emotions we can feel during menopause.  

To practice Sama Vritti pranayama

  1. Settle into a comfortable seated position
  1. Find a slow and continuous breath at a pace that allows ease 
  1. Start your breath cycle: Inhale to the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 
  1. Continue for 6 rounds or as long as you can stay present and focussed with the breath 

Yoga is a complete system of knowledge for mind, body and spirit. With a regular practice it’s possible to find greater acceptance of yourself and others and a feeling of deep contentment.

What yoga CAN’T help with in menopause

Yoga isn’t a quick fix, a magical healing therapy or a weight loss regime. If you suffer from hot flushes yoga won’t make them go away. Most menopausal symptoms are due to the depletion of hormones including estrogen and testosterone, and no amount of Sun Salutations will change this.

Some people get relief from hot flushes with a cooling breath practice of Sitali. To practice this pranayama curl your tongue and you inhale air slowly as if through a straw. Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose. 

For me, no amount of Sitali pranayama could temper my hot flushes. As much as yoga has helped me in menopause, it was a pharmaceutical that gave me the best relief from symptoms. I’ve written about my experience here. 

Whilst there is no evidence of the effectiveness of yoga on vasomotor (hot flushes) or urogenital symptoms, there is moderate evidence of effectiveness for psychological symptoms in menopausal women (Cramer et. al., 2012)

If menopause symptoms are severely impacting on your quality of life, you’re best to seek advice from a menopause specialist doctor, not a yoga teacher. 

Tips for getting the most benefits of yoga in menopause 

Yoga that supports you in menopause shouldn’t make you feel you’re not “flexible enough” or not able to do the “advanced” version of a pose. 

  • Seek out a studio or a teacher that offers a welcoming space for all, including women in midlife 
  • You’ll get the most benefits from a consistent practice. A daily yoga practice might not be realistic for you, but once a week (or however often you can manage) can be life-changing 
  • A home practice or an online class can be great options when menopause symptoms are bothering you.  
  • Be mindful of how yoga is represented, especially on social media. Making pretzel shapes with your body is not necessary, nor is it evidence of an advanced practice.  

Yoga is a tool that can help you in menopause

Whilst a regular yoga practice can be a great tool to help you in menopause you won’t necessarily become a beacon of “love and light”. We are all (yoga teachers included) human, flawed, and ever-evolving. Radical self-acceptance is so powerful at this time. 

We live in an anti-ageing culture where we’re meant to feel bad about changing bodies, our lined faces and our saggy necks. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t want to look and feel our best, but how can we counter these messages and embrace the positive changes that come with menopause?  

By moving your body with awareness and connecting with your breath and your inner wisdom, yoga can be a wonderful practice to help you in menopause.  

Love, Sally

PS You might also like these related posts:

5 benefits of yoga beyond the mat

Finding calm: an interview with my mum, a meditation teacher

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