Yoga, Women’s Health, and the Menopause

Yoga, Women’s Health, and the Menopause

Thanks to the campaigning efforts of high-profile women, such as Davina McCall with her recent, Sex, Myths and the Menopause TV documentary, the silence surrounding the taboo of the Menopause is gradually being demolished.

However, Menopausal experience in our culture is still viewed negatively: As a point of ridicule to diminish women, the topic made invisible by a lack of discussion, and because women’s value is often placed on the sexual attractiveness of youth.

Often the Menopause, felt with hot flushes, brain fog, dry skin, aching muscles and joints, weight gain, mood swings, and insomnia, can coincide with offspring leaving the nest, and caring for elderly parents or children as for the latter women have increasingly chosen to delay parenthood to focus on their careers which often means women tend to look after everyone else rather than themselves.

Sometimes going through the experience is not just about change, but also loss, and deep questioning such as on life’s purpose. It can also be a time of challenging emotions and a survey undertaken by Radio 4 and Radio Sheffield as part of Woman’s Menopause week found that 48% of women said that if had affected their mental health too.
Not only should the topic and experience of Menopause be widely shared and supported seriously by employers, government policy, and healthcare, but it should be normalised. Yogic wisdom sees this time as about self-acceptance where women are called upon to become truly authentic within their own mature wisdom and power, gathered through life experiences. Eastern cultures tend to embrace and celebrate this transition, highly valuing older women who are believed to be more attuned to their internal power and intuitive feeling.

Furthermore, Yoga has been shown to provide the most promise as an effective tool in the management of the Menopause by a research study carried out between 2008 and 2014 by the University of Washington. Yoga poses, done slowly and steadily, are of proven benefit in the prevention of osteoporosis such as in grounding standing shapes that allow for fluid soft movements that embrace empowered feminine strength. However, the practice of vigorous or hot yoga needs to be cautiously evaluated during this time.
To honour and support this change as well as self-care, gentle Yoga such as restorative poses can help to encourage a feeling of being nurtured, promoting better sleep, and reducing the temperature of hot flushes with Supported Bridge, Bound Angle pose, and Legs up the Wall.

Breathing practices have also been found to calm, soothe, and cool the body such as Sheetali. To practice sit comfortably with a straight spine, focusing on belly breathing through the nose for a couple of minutes. When ready, form an O with your lips and curl your tongue so that is sticks out of your mouth, then draw cooling breath across your curled tongue as if through a straw down into your abdomen. Bring the tongue back in to breathe out through your nostrils. Practice for a couple of minutes returning to natural breathing.

Tristessa Moore is a registered Yoga Therapist and Trauma-sensitive Practitioner: For staff and pupil well-being in education:

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