Embracing Change: How Yoga Can Help Navigate Menopause

Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life, and every woman experiences it differently. While it is a normal and inevitable phase, its symptoms can be challenging to navigate. From hot flashes and mood swings to insomnia and joint pain, menopause can disrupt daily life and impact overall well-being. However, amidst these changes, yoga emerges as a gentle yet powerful ally, offering a holistic approach to manage the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of menopause.

Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Balancing Hormones: Yoga practices, such as gentle stretches, twists, and inversions, stimulate the endocrine system, helping to balance hormone levels during menopause. Poses like the supported bridge pose or legs-up-the-wall pose promote blood flow to the thyroid and adrenal glands, which play crucial roles in hormone regulation. This balance can alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings, fostering a sense of equilibrium.
  2. Stress Reduction: Menopause often coincides with increased stress levels due to hormonal fluctuations and life changes. Yoga’s emphasis on breathwork, meditation, and mindfulness provides valuable tools to manage stress. Practices like pranayama (breath control) and meditation activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. This can enhance mood, improve sleep quality, and alleviate anxiety commonly experienced during menopause. Restorative and yin yoga practices are wonderful classes to try to help ease stress levels and are accessible to all levels.
  3. Bone Health: Declining oestrogen levels during menopause can lead to a decrease in bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Weight-bearing yoga poses, such as standing postures and gentle backbends, help strengthen bones and improve overall bone health. Additionally, the mindful movement inherent in yoga reduces the risk of falls by enhancing balance and proprioception, crucial factors in maintaining bone integrity as women age. Building up strength to hold a plank pose for example is a wonderful weight bearing posture. Learning tree pose and other balancing postures not only help your balance but work those core stabilising muscles too.
  4. Enhanced Flexibility and Joint Health: Menopause can bring about stiffness and joint pain, impacting mobility and quality of life. Yoga’s focus on gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises improves flexibility and lubricates the joints, alleviating discomfort and promoting ease of movement. Poses like cat-cow, gentle twists, and seated forward bends target areas prone to tension, providing relief from common menopausal symptoms like back pain and stiffness. Starting or ending the day with a few cat-cow poses can make a real difference – especially if your job is desk based – your back will love you for it.
  5. Emotional Well-being: The emotional rollercoaster often associated with menopause can be challenging to navigate. Yoga offers a safe space to explore and release emotions, fostering mindfulness, self-awareness and acceptance. By using a more mindful approach to movement combined with breath awareness cultivates a sense of presence, which can help women connect with their inner selves and find peace amidst the fluctuations of menopause. Yoga classes or self-practice can become anchors of stability and support during this transformative phase of life.

Menopause is a significant life transition that brings both physical and emotional changes. While it can be a challenging time, incorporating yoga into daily life can offer numerous benefits in managing symptoms and promoting overall well-being. From hormone regulation and stress reduction to bone health and emotional balance, the holistic approach of yoga addresses the multifaceted aspects of menopause. By embracing yoga as a supportive practice, women can navigate this transition with grace, resilience, and a renewed sense of vitality.

Where and how? Yoga studios can feel like intimidating places to visit – so maybe start with a class at your local leisure centre or YMCA. At YMCA Brunel Group for example, we offer a great range of classes https://www.ymcabath.org.uk/classes/ in studio and on zoom. Many of our wonderful yoga teachers encourage a class coffee or drink after class to build that sense of community – which our members love. Finding an instructor you like can take a few classes – but it is worth the effort. If you are new to yoga and fitness generally – take it easy, start with a gently or restorative class. You do not have to be flexible to do yoga!  If you are already enjoying your yoga practice, maybe consider changing it up a bit and try a different style of class.

There are also many classes online – we often recommend https://yogawithadriene.com/ a delightful American instructor who has a wonderful offering.