Chances are, someone, perhaps even your doctor, has suggested you try yoga to relieve your peri- or full-blown menopausal symptoms. Once considered an offbeat, unconventional source of healing, yoga’s potential for relieving many women’s menopausal symptoms has significantly increased, particularly since the Women’s Health Initiative and other studies linked hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to breast and ovarian cancer and stroke.
Now, the established medical community is investigating the benefits of yoga. For example, Duke University’s Integrative Medicine department incorporates yoga into its treatment and outpatient programs. The University of Southern California’s Department of Bio-Kinesiology and Physical Therapy has a center for yoga and seniors, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is studying the effects of yoga in women and men in their 50s and 60s. While the jury is still out on which menopausal symptoms can be addressed by yoga, nearly all agree yoga does relieve stress, improve sleep patterns, and positively impact joint and heart health. Furthermore, the thought centering, gentle movements of yoga have been found to relieve feelings of depression and anxiety that frequently accompany menopause. But, you don’t have to know all of that to begin practicing and benefitting from yoga.
I’ll share a bit about how I came to yoga in the hopes that it may help you, or someone close to you, get through what can be a difficult adjustment more comfortably. I transitioned to yoga during my 40s, when running no longer agreed with my aging knees. My only regret is that I didn’t start the practice 10 years earlier, when my peri-menopausal symptoms started. I learned yoga at the YMCA, while my children were in pre- and elementary school. Even though I only practiced a few times a week, I reaped several benefits, including:
• Better sleeping patterns
• Improved moods and reduction in bouts of depression
• Improved posture and height – I grew an inch to reach 5’5”
• Fewer aches and pains, greater flexibility, and
• Improved stamina.
My quality of life significantly improved during those critical child-rearing years, when I was still playing with my kids and driving them everywhere. Now that they are teenagers, my yoga practice relieves my anxiety about their whereabouts and future. The practice continues to relieve minor aches and elevate my sense of well-being. Also, it’s the only exercise I can do with my 18-year-old athletic daughter.
While you can collect images of yoga positions from cereal boxes (truly) and watch demonstrations online, nothing replaces learning from a certified practitioner who can physically adjust your body to make sure you are in proper alignment. This can mean the difference between having pain or risking an injury versus feeling completely energized and “stretched out,” as I describe a good yoga session. Most instructors will encourage you to continue your practice at home. You can find yoga positions beneficial to specific menopause symptoms at Yoga Journal and other websites or magazines. Renowned yoga instructor and author Suza Francina, R.Y.T., published this useful article with photographs of the top seven poses recommended for menopausal women.
It’s never too late to begin practicing yoga; it’s a life-long, non-competitive form of exercise that many women continue into their 70s and 80s.
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