I have been reading, researching and reflecting on the different phases we experience as women as well as considering different parts of the Yoga Sutras in relation to pregnancy and childbirth. What has struck me is how relevant these ideas are to any change in our lives. I am more sensitive to changes as a woman so am focusing on the female rather than male journey. Here’s my question:
Can we use yoga philosophy and practice to understand and support us during peri/menopause – one of the most important transitions in our lives as women?
I’m assuming you know the answer is yes
The Yoga Sutras is a classic yoga text ‘representing the foundation and pinnacle of the yoga tradition’. Although it was written about 2000 years ago, its teachings and observations are relevant to our practice and life today.
The starting point for walking this part of our journey, common to all women from about the age of 45 to 60, is to acknowledge it is happening. One of the most unhelpful aspects is that its acknowledgement is retrospective. Perimenopause has the same symptoms of menopause but with a regular or irregular menstrual cycle. This often means that women question their sanity and their health before considering that their hormone levels may be changing. Perimenopause tends to creep up on women and is often put down to multi-tasking or juggling life and work.
The menopause is only official when you have had a year without bleeding. You are post-menopausal when you hit the two year mark of no periods. After this time, women still report needing to adapt and being aware of changes occurring. I think for many women, the menopause happens to other women and when we start experiencing the first changes we do not connect to them. We are used to a monthly cycle anyway, to fluctuations in our energy and how our bodies feel and behave.
If your internal landscape is changing and you have higher levels of anxiety, issues with sleeping, general dryness, lack of motivation, fatigue, brain fog or aching muscles (other symptoms are also available), give yourself some space to consider whether you could be perimenopausal. A one off blood test will rarely be informative. Some women have minor and uncomfortable symptoms while others need a whole lifestyle change in order to manage day to day living. Whether you breeze through or slog your way through menopause, it’s big stuff:
- The average age of menopause in the UK is 51 years
- Perimenopause can begin in a woman’s forties and last from 5 to 10 years
- Earlier menopause is possible and women under 40 years are diagnosed as having Premature Ovarian Sufficiency
I encourage you to talk to female friends and family about your and their experience of this time; there’s a lot of wisdom out there. I was astounded to be told that women don’t tend to talk about it however I think we are making assumptions about each other because when I’ve mentioned my own experience, women have not been shy to share theirs. It has been reassuring to talk to others, to share knowledge with sympathy and laughter.
As with any change in our bodies, stress has its role to play and stress has many faces. It can be emotional, mental and physical and each layer will affect the other. If we become aware of our stress triggers we can use our yoga practice to counterpose them. Our external and internal environment can cause us stress and the self-awareness and resilience from yoga practice is an excellent counterposture and support.
At this stage I am not sure what offering to make. Here are some options, let me know what would interest you:
- Meeting up as a group (online for now) to chat about our experience of peri/menopause
- as a weekly class with yoga practice
- as a one off session
- if either appeal, what time of day and which days would work for you?
- Meeting one to one
- Sharing blogs
I have changed my daily practice and I am reaping the rewards. This has not been done in isolation. In giving myself space to be gentle and to reflect on what I need, I have also accessed regular osteopathy and taken homeopathy. I seem to have curbed my hot flushes and improved my sleep. It all feels more manageable. I can be in it rather than feeling I have to get through it.
This blog hints at some of the elements of yoga philosophy and practice that have been useful for me so far:
- Yoga – personal practice and cultivating a relationship with myself
- Panca Maya – the five levels of being
- Svadhaya – self reflection
- Tapas – discipline, regularity
- Parinama – change
- The four stages of life/four parts of the breath
- Savasana and other posture work
I look forward to hearing your thoughts