Menopause is the stage in a woman’s life when the menstrual cycle either suddenly stops or becomes irregular. As the ovaries cease to function, other glands (such as the adrenal and thyroid) are also impacted. This causes a change in the hormonal balance leading to hot flashes, variation in blood pressure, heaviness in the breasts, headaches, insomnia, obesity, changes in the digestive patterns, acid reflux etc. This in turn disrupts regular life. Daily tasks become more challenging due to lack of sleep and there is a general feeling of heaviness permeating the body at all times. At this time women are more at risk of heart attacks and there is an increase in the cases of osteoporosis.
These changes also impact a woman psychologically because as the physical state experiences discomfort, so do the mental and emotional states. Many women report feeling extreme and unexplained anger and depression.
Unexplained jealousy and existentialist angst also predominate. Relationships become strained. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is still a reluctance to talk about menopause and there are few forums where women can find help and support.
This phase can last for up to a couple of years so being cognizant of these changes can help women modify their lifestyles to better manage the symptoms of menopause. Long term yoga practitioners find it easier to accept and manage the changes their bodies are going through than those who have led a largely sedentary life. Traditional yoga texts (such as Gheranda Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika & Patanjali Yoga Sutras) haven’t addressed the different stages of a woman’s life. However, BKS Iyengar and his daughter, Geeta S. Iyengar have worked extensively with women in different phases of life, and through their work we now have a comprehensive understanding of which yogasanas can help women tide over the challenging phase of menopause.
For yogasanas to impact us on a glandular (and consequently at a hormonal) level, we have to pay close attention to alignment.
When we overexert in an asana, our muscles, tissues, skin and even the nerves become hard and inflexible. Through the methodology of Iyengar yoga, all women can reap the benefits of aligned asanas.
Fortunately, practicing a few simple asanas daily can help to manage the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause.
Yogasanas for Menopause
Calms down the nervous system.
Lengthens the torso enabling better breathing.
Alleviates back pain.
Helps fire up a sluggish digestive system.
2. Janu Sirasana
Required: Chair, Bolster.
Eliminates mild depression.
Promotes a meditative state of mind.
Calms down frazzled nerves.
Helps stretch tight ankles and knees.
Required: Chair, Bolster
Relaxing pose for the entire body.
Soothes the mind and slows down the thoughts.
Relaxing stretch for the entire body.
Relaxes the shoulders and spine.
Promotes better posture.
Instills a sense of confidence.
Stimulates the digestive system.
5. Supta Baddha Konasana
Required: Bolster, Blanket, wall, blocks
Soothes the reproductive system.
Relaxes the hip and the lower back.
Rejuvenates the entire body.
Relaxes the thyroid gland.
Note: The poses are demonstrated using the typical Iyengar chair. However, you can use a dining chair without armrests as well.
About the Author:
Pragya Bhatt is a yoga teacher, practitioner and scholar based out of Bangalore, India. She is the author of two books. Her first book titled ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Asanas’ explores the origins of the asanas in the context of Indian mythology and history. The book is available here. Her second book ‘In the Womb of the Goddess’ is a collection of poetry inspired by her experiences and thoughts on the Divine Feminine. The book is available here.
You can find out more about her on www.yogawithpragya.com