October is Menopause Awareness Month and a wonderful opportunity to explore how Yoga and Ayurveda can support women transitioning through this stage of life.
Ayurveda and Menopause
According to Ayurveda, everything in life is made up of 3 doshas (or energies), including you, and that living with your dosha in balance will help you lead a happier and healthier life. Not only does every person have a dominant dosha, every season does, every period of life does, and many other things.
In relation to menopause, it’s very interesting to take into consideration the doshas as they inform several things that can help support this incredible phase of life.
As we move towards and into our 50s and towards perimenopause and menopause our bodies become more vata in nature. Vata is the element of air and space, and so we see a drying of the body (skin, hair, bones) and also increased irritability, sleepless nights and busy minds. Particularly tough in the Autumn (the vata season), which is maybe why Menopause Awareness Month is now.
All this means is that we need to slow down, take care to eat foods to help balance our vata, use exercise to strengthen our muscles and stimulate our hormones and use philosophy and reflection to complement this immense time of maturity.
Yoga and Menopause
While Ayurveda is helpful in addressing ways of balance through diet and understanding the shifting nature of the energies of our bodies, Yoga is helpful as it brings understanding through philosophy and the acceptance of change. If you don’t accept change, you will experience stagnation and it will become your enemy. If change is accepted and welcomed, then it will work in your favour.
Because change is new, it brings with it insecurities, worries and anxiety. In menopause the big change that occurs in a women’s body are the hormones, which brings about a lot of psychological change and maturity.
This new level of maturity is a magical time for a women, and if she can connect to it, it will bring about new life and new opportunities. The beauty that comes with changing age and changing hormones leads you to experience your body, learn from your body and master your body in ways that were not possible before. This is the beauty of aging, you are never stuck in one age zone, but as you age, different ages of the body bring new perspectives and opportunities.
Menopause is about discovering new things and opportunities. It is a time of great reflection and introspection. If you don’t hold onto the past, it helps you to reduce the baggage of anger and aggression and at this age, women have the maturity to understand life. But if you are holding onto anger, it’ll get worse. The challenge is to know how to let go and making changes in your diet, your exercise and movement routine and a few other things can really help.
During perimenopause and menopause a lot is happening in your body beneath the surface with your hormones which impact your skin, blood, bones and organs. Focusing on an alkaline diet, with lots of water and a heavy reduction of intoxicants like alcohol and caffeine can have a very positive affect on the physical and emotional state of the body and mind.
Juice fasting for a day or two every couple of weeks can also help the body to become more alkaline, cleanse and detoxify the blood and the liver, which can help with stress, anxiety, panic and hot flushes. These juices will help you to feel cooler and less stressed.
Why not try:
Green juices with lime, kale, celery and green apple
Carrot, celery and green apple juice
Yoga & Exercise
Doing a few yoga asana around 3 times a week can be extremely beneficial for the body during perimenopause and menopause. Focusing on postures that will help strengthen and tone your voluntary and also your involuntary muscles (e.g. stomach, liver, kidneys) and focusing on keeping them healthy are really important.
Bull pose - works on your pelvic region; try contracting your pelvic floor muscles to encourage strength and continence
Butterfly pose - exercises your deeper pelvic muscles and get be really relaxing!
Kneeling pose - helps to stimulate your adrenal glands, promotes hormonal balance and healthy digestion
Fish pose - helps to exercise and tone your whole pelvic region
Hams pose - helps in drainage of stagnant blood around pelvic region and helps with circulation problems and digestion
Inversions - legs up to wall or downward dog helps to promote feelings of surrender and emotional release
Cardio exercise around 3 times a week can also be really helpful. For example walking, cycling or swimming. Be sure to avoid over training and over exercise as yes, you’ll gain muscles, but it can cause other tissues to deplete. It is recommended to exercise without becoming exhausted, and to remain at a steady pace that allows your movement to stay aligned with your breath, and not to cause stress.
Rest, Relaxation & Meditation
In order to balance the increasing vata in the body, especially in Autumn and Winter, it’s essential to rest as much as possible. Whenever you notice your body and mind become tired, irritable, anxious and overwhelmed, it is a sign to rest. Practicing yoga nidra and meditation can be game changing here.
Reflective practices such as journaling can also be really beneficial and practicing vairagya, or surrender and release, where you don’t hold onto the past, helps you to reduce the baggage of anger and aggression.
Exposure to sun, water, air, earth (through gardening, moulding clay with your hands, walking on the sand barefoot) can be really beneficial too.
A 15 min yoga sequence for Perimenopause and Menopause
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Carrie is a co-founder of The Frog Project, yoga teacher, yoga teacher trainer and full time stay at home mum to two smalls. When she's not playing with the kids or practicing yoga, you'll likely find her in the middle of her veg patch, trowel in hand and covered in mud. She loves the outdoors, and would camp every night given the chance. She and her partner in crime, Martin, set up The Frog Project with the aim of bringing classical yoga to all, and deliver live online classes with a group of dedicated teachers, to students of all experiences, ages, shapes, sizes, jobs, lives, you name it, from all around the world. Join them now and get 15 days of free unlimited classes. It's just yoga.