My menopause journey started at 51, the same year I came back to the yoga mat. Most of my life I enjoyed endurance sports where I got the endorphin high that only running, dancing and swimming can provide. But as I started getting hot flashes, mood swings and crushing fatigue, amongst other symptoms, my body, mind and spirit craved something slower paced; something that would address all of me, and that was yoga.
That year, I swapped my running shoes for bare feet, and I´ve been practicing the eight limbs of yoga daily. The combination of types of asana yoga I practice (yin, yin yang, restorative, vinyasa, nidra, hatha, and aerial), have helped me realize in my own body and spirit what poses are good for women who, like me, may need relief from the baffling and often unexpected symptoms of menopause.
Here are just four of my favorites, and why I feel they can help during menopause:
Dolphin pose / Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
One of the most unpleasant symptoms of menopause for me was, and still is, “menopause brain.” It feels really similar to pregnancy or post-pregnancy brain. You can´t concentrate, you leave your car keys in the fridge; stuff like that. Any inversion that helps blood flow to the brain is going to help your brain feel sharper. It definitely works for me! Please know that it is best that you avoid or modify inversions if you have high blood pressure. I like dolphin because it helps stretch my hamstrings and strengthen my shoulders too. The core is also engaged, and this becomes increasingly important as we age, to keep our balance and a straight but flexible back. Make sure to read this step-by-step guide to get into dolphin pose.
Twisted or revolved downward dog / Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana
The reason I love revolved downward dog is that it has all the benefits of downward dog (and any other inversion) plus the detoxing effects of a twist. It also increases blood flow to the brain (again, avoid it entirely or hold for a very brief time if you have high blood pressure), and for that reason improves concentration and focus. Twists are like internal massages to your organs, that help eliminate toxins. My digestion took a hit during menopause and twists help the digestive system run more smoothly.
Check out this how-to to get into revolved downward dog.
Reclining pigeon pose / Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana
When my husband (also my photographer) took this photo, he asked me, “what is that, slug pose?” and I burst out laughing. As you can well imagine, he is no yogi, but he does have a sense of humor. So, the reason I love reclining pigeon pose (which you need to be careful with if you have any knee problems), is threefold. One, it´s my daily go-to to relieve tight hips after sitting at the computer all day. It also helped me improve a hip injury I sustained at 48 when I ran a half-marathon and pushed through pain that was telling me to stop! Lastly, it has helped me deal with stress, anxiety and mood swings that came back full force during menopause. Also, folding poses are calming and during menopause, I will take all the calming I can get!
See these alternatives to pigeon pose
Reclining twisted roots pose / Supta Parivrtta Garudasana
I absolutely love the standing equivalent of this pose (eagle pose or Garudasana) but for different reasons. While in the standing pose I feel powerful and strong, in the reclining version I feel like I´m unwinding (I know it does not look that way)!
This pose helps stimulate the gastric system, which may slow down during menopause, and done at the end of the day or after a yoga practice, twisting helps restore balance in the nervous system and release tension in the spine.
To get the most out of this pose, I like the yin approach, which involves easing into the pose and holding it for minutes at a time, focusing on the breath. This helps calm a racing mind and hear, not uncommon during this stage of our lives.
Don´t miss the step by step to get into this pose.