Why Yoga is good for Menopause
Is yoga good for menopause? Yes, it is. As a Yoga practitioner, I was aware of my monkey mind. I could easily spot the ebbs and flows of feelings and thoughts with a discerning mind. Then one day, all that changed. A sudden stressful turn of events left me surprisingly more frazzled than expected, and a newfound feeling of cortisol shot through my system. At the time, I had prioritised my finances not to include a Yoga studio membership and to start a home practice.
Unfortunately, this did not eventuate regularly. For the first time in a long time (pre-Yoga), my feelings felt overwhelming, and I felt a shift in my body. It was as if a switch had turned on. My sleep started to get hot and bothered, my mind was racing, and I seemed to gain weight quickly. Suddenly, my midsection expanded, and my clothing didn't fall on my body as it should. The face that looked back at me in the mirror wasn't happy, fueling a downward spiral that kept the feelings agitated. Was this aging? My usual grounded Yoga self was drowning in a sea of weird emotions. That's when I heard about perimenopause.
Previously to this newfound term, I had no idea what menopause meant- other than you can not have babies. This phenomenon (perimenopause) was like the green (waiting)room before menopause took centre stage when a woman's body prepared to shut down the baby factory. Usually, ten years before menopause, with symptoms of hot flashes, bloating, headaches, insomnia, weight gain, tiredness and so on. The body reshuffles its hormone cocktail - the proportions for the next chapter of life while leaving the women hot and bothered as if the thought of becoming an aging woman was not enough.
Already on a budget, buying new clothes was not an option. Body positive or not, I was not happy with my growing body shape. It simply did not feel like me. All sense of identity was shifting to what? It scared me and fuelled more depressive thoughts. A self-initiated barrage of information, like what supplements to buy, and exercises to do, took over my waking life to return to my old self and feel normal again. Ironically enough, like a broken record when shit hits the fan, I recruited my cure-all, the Yoga practice and dragged my tail between my legs to the studio.
At this point in my life, Yoga is my automated default setting for anything. However, my studio was hot, which seemed counter-intuitive—doing hot Yoga when you get hot flashes. The intensity was no joke, but such environmental factors (like the feeling of dying) brought me immediately back to my present moment. My negative agitated mind started to melt away with new emotions of the physical struggle and the heat. Each savasana (the last pose in a class, usually lying down) was a source of unbelievable peace and gratitude.
Disgusting sweaty, I decided to sign up for a membership. The financial commitment forced a regular practice from my grumpy perimenopause self. It did not matter if I took the less strenuous option; the fact I made a conscious choice to be there and prioritise my mental wellness over my physicality lifted my mindset. The niyamas of Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration, and Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender, started to creep into my awareness. Slowly everything started to improve, and a smile reappeared when I peered in the mirror and slipped on the jeans to find them fitting perfectly, if not better. I had found not my old self but perhaps a new one. With the advent of a woman's body biologically shutting down the mechanics of babymaking, the reptilian mindset can shift from nourishing others to nurturing herself. Yes, I was becoming the wise old crone. I decided to embrace irritability' (a symptom of perimenopause) as super-powered sensitivity. I believe it developed my intuition further. If I allowed space and patience, my decision making was better from my self-care perspective. Much documentation on perimenopause and menopause will state a brain fog. In my own experience, I found sharp clarity and confidence in what I needed and wanted that I did not have before. After a year of solid 4-7 x weekly practice, I realised if 2-3 of those classes were softer and more restorative, that also worked. I could not identify with the wise old crone, but more like the wise saged goddess. Just like that, I found perimenopause empowering.