Yoga and Breathing Provide Natural Relief for Stubborn Menopause Symptoms by Rose Bak
Twenty minutes a day can make a huge difference in how you feel.
If you join a conversation with women in their 50s invariably the conversation will turn to menopause.
“These hot flashes are killing me!” someone will exclaim, fanning themselves.
“I can’t sleep anymore,” someone else will say. “My mind just races, then I feel itchy all over.”
Menopause occurs when your body ceases ovulating and menstruating, which typically happens around age 51. A woman is considered to be in menopause when it’s been twelve months since her last period.
However, the transition into menopause is a lengthy process that can take up to ten years to move through. During the transition period into menopause, known as perimenopause, most women will start to experience uncomfortable symptoms. Common symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, depression, weight gain, heavy or irregular periods, insomnia, and loss of bone density.
There is also a myriad of more unusual symptoms that can plague you, including frozen shoulder, dry mouth, burning mouth, anxiety, dry or itchy skin, joint pain, digestive problems (constipation or diarrhea), dry thinning hair, and tingling extremities. Many of these symptoms are caused by the hormonal adjustment taking place in the body. As your ovaries gradually reduce the production of estrogen and androgen, your adrenal glands try to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, your pituitary gland goes into overdrive, trying to get your ovaries back in the game. The hormonal fluctuations are what lead to many of these unpleasant symptoms women experience during perimenopause.
Fortunately, yoga is a great tool for helping navigate “the change.” Both asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathwork) can offer natural relief for whichever symptoms are bothering you.
A study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that as little as 20 minutes of yoga practice a day can reduce hot flashes and increase the quality of life. Another study in the Menopause Journal found that regular yoga practice dramatically increases sleep quality during menopause.
One of the best tools in your arsenal during the change is your breath. There are several breath practices that relieve menopause symptoms.
An easy one to learn is the “cooling breath” (sitali pranayama) which can help alleviate hot flashes, anxiety and focus the mind if you’re feeling “spacy.”
To practice the cooling breath, sit up, straight curl the sides of your tongue up and inward, like a straw. Gently suck air in across your folded tongue, breathing in for a count of five as you slowly lift your chin in the direction of the ceiling. Close your mouth, pause, then gently exhale through your nose to the count of five as you lower your chin to its starting position. Repeat 8–12 times.
Stretching your body with gentle yoga can also bring significant relief for your hormonal symptoms. Gentle yoga is different from the complicated yoga poses you may see on social media. There’s no twisting yourself into a pretzel, instead, you gently lengthen and stretch your muscles at a slow and easy pace. When practicing yoga, supportive poses are usually best for calming the body and restoring balance. Positions where you can relax into a bolster, cushion, or other support help quiet the mind as well as the adrenal glands. Restorative yoga and yin yoga are all great options for finding relief, and adding in a regular yoga Nidra or meditation practice can also provide great benefits.
In your home practice you can also incorporate the following poses to help ease a variety of menopause symptoms: · Supported bridge · Legs up the wall · Reclined bound angle · Supported inversions · Wide-legged poses · Supported forward bends
If you haven’t tried yoga and breathwork for your menopausal symptoms, I encourage you to give it a try. Find a good yoga teacher who can help you find the best poses for you and keep your eye out for specialized yoga workshops that will teach you more. For a more in-depth exploration of how yoga can help you navigate the change and which postures address specific symptoms, join me at my upcoming seminar “Yoga for Menopause” or visit my website.