By Cheryl MacDonald.
The number of women who begin practising yoga after the age of 40 is on the rise as they realise yoga is the perfect way to reduce the discomforts associated with menopause and ageing.
The benefits that can be reaped from yoga are far higher for women than men since women tend to experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives. The hormonal changes we experience in menopause are caused by the same hormones affecting us during menstruation, often causing PMS.
So what’s so great about yoga for menopause?
1. It lowers stress: Yoga controls breathing, which in turn reduces anxiety. It can also clear negative feelings and thoughts from the mind leading to a reduction in depression. It is a proven effective method to reduce and control anger. When practising yoga regularly the overall sense of calmness increases. Just try beginners pose; sit cross-legged on a mat with your eyes closed. Take 3 deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Really shut your mind off from the rest of the world.
2. It’s eases physical pain and discomfort: Yoga practitioners are known to have higher pain tolerance. Aches and pains associated with menopause can be eased along with any back pain, chronic pain or neck pain you may be experiencing. A gentle practice of the flowing Surya Namaskara (sun salutations) helps to increase flexibility in the joints and works every muscle in the body, a complete physical and emotional workout in itself. Try practising 5-10 rounds per day. Even if you don’t have time for other yoga, you will experience dramatic relief from general aches and pains.
3. It decreases the hassle of hot flushes. During the menopause, hot flushes are caused by an excess of pitta (fire) in the body and that has to come out! General asanas (yoga postures), which help for this include Ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana (half bound lotus pose), Ardha matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose), and Supta padmasana (reclined or sleeping lotus pose). Movements should be slow and weight bearing, paying close attention to the rhythm of the breath and position of the tongue to the roof of the palate during practice. This allows the mind to become calm and stabilize.
4. It reduces blood pressure. A common symptom during the menopause is night sweats. Regular yoga practice reduces high blood pressure and promotes oxygenation and blood circulation in the body, in turn easing the terrible night sweats. Vasana (corpse pose) is perfect for allowing yourself to relax and just bring your attention to the breath. By taking our focus away from the stresses and strains of the outside world, we focus on what’s happening now and on managing any anxieties.
5. It’s a natural remedy. Yoga is a fantastic and natural way to help alleviate the pain associated with our cycles. So many women suffer in silence or take endless pills, but yoga is an ideal way to soothe both menstrual and menopausal symptoms that you can do either in a group or in the comfort of your own home. It helps bring you to a calmer place emotionally and physically.
6. It’s even better when combined with aromatherapy. Yoga and aromatherapy have physical, mental and spiritual benefits for the practitioner and therefore it becomes logical to use aromatherapy when practising yoga. Not only are your senses enthralled by the beautiful aromas during your practice, the focus and effects of your practice are intensified by the therapeutic use of the essential oil blends. Healing benefits of aromatherapy oils include releasing old or negative emotions, experiencing a detoxifying or cleansing feeling, soothing tense muscles, helping to balance hormonal fluctuations or even helping to realign the chakras and promote feelings of calm and peace.
8. It’s great for the joints. Yoga has been proven to help people suffering from problems associated with joints, such as arthritis. While not all menopausal or post menopausal women will have arthritis, it’s a health concern that’s often associated with ageing. Research from the USA shows that practising hatha yoga can help to ease joint pain, fatigue and other related symptoms. The small study involved women aged 21 to 35 that on average had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for 10 and a half years. After six weeks, they asked both groups about their condition. The group that practised yoga said they were happier than when they started and could better accept and manage their pain. The women were also reported better general health and more energy in general.
You can find all the poses mentioned in this article here.
For more help with menopause check out what you need to know about perimenopause, how to thrive through menopause and sex and the menopause. We also write about the impact of alcohol on menopause.
For more on yoga see yoga in midlife is the answer and meet the world’s oldest yoga teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch who’s 98!
Cheryl MacDonald is the founder of fitness franchise www.yogabellies.co.uk. Cheryl has been practising yoga since she was 17 and developed a keen interest in teaching perinatal yoga. She has always loved and been fascinated by all things yoga, birth and baby and loves working with women and especially mothers. After being made redundant from her job as a business analyst in Glasgow, she set up YogaBellies which now has over 110 franchisees worldwide.