Does yoga help menopause symptoms?
Katie invited yoga instructor, author and founder of Menopause Yoga™ Petra Coveney to the podcast to talk about the benefits of practicing yoga and how we can incorporate it into our busy lives.
Petra also talked about the benefits of journaling as you form new, healthy habits and reframes menopause as the gateway to a woman’s second spring which breaks the cycle of negative imagery around midlife. She previously joined Katie for a session at last year's Midlife Festival and also a workshop in our private membership about preparing for sleep.
Listen to the full conversation in The Latte Lounge podcast episode above.
Some key advice from this episode:
Yoga is a holistic practice. It’s for your whole being, your mind, body, and emotions.
Hormonal changes don’t just affect your hair or your bones, your stomach or ovaries; they affect every single part of a woman's body, including her brain.
Women may feel a range of emotions as they enter perimenopause or pass into postmenopause. It can be a tumultuous time of life, and yoga is the only practice which supports a woman holistically.
Menopause Yoga™ is a specialized practice specifically designed to support women going through the different stages of the menopause, whether that's perimenopause, menopause or postmenopause.
There are different practices for different stages and different therapeutic practices for different symptoms.
There are practices for menopause rage and irritability designed to cool, soothe and calm, and we have different classes to relieve anxiety, overwhelmed brain fog, headaches, migraines and digestive issues.
Other classes help to calm the nervous system and avoid aggravating hot flushes by using grounding, breathing movements and meditation techniques.
There are specific practices for helping you to improve your sleep by preparing your body so that you can get a nourishing rest at night.
A recent study by Westminster University in London looked at menopause and yoga.
In addition to the actual yoga poses and breathing and meditation, the other thing people said that they benefited from was being in the company of other people.
This is an essential part of menopause yoga; when you are learning the techniques, you do so in a women's circle, in a room together and are simply sharing our stories and experiences just as we do in the Latte Lounge.
It helps women to share feelings and know that they're not alone. That's so important.
Petra has created a little toolkit of techniques designed so that you can learn them fairly easily, and when you feel like you are having a hot flush, are anxious, or you simply want to lift a low mood or boost your digestion, you can just do a 15, 20-minute practice on your own.
It doesn't have to be a whole 90-minute class.
Habits are easy to make and easy to break.
So it's all about getting back on board when something else gets in the way and not feeling that you've failed. It's all about positive reinforcement.
Try to do a little every day and make yourself accountable by writing down what you did and how you felt because that's also important. It's a very conscious practice.
Writing it down will also help your brain to reinforce the positivity of the practice.
Petra recommends that people do this every morning and every evening, but it's going to be dependent on your day.
If you have children, you've got to rush them to school in the morning, and maybe all you have time for is a five-minute stretch in bed, two minutes of breathing and setting a positive intention.
That takes a maximum of 10 minutes, and later in the day, you try to fit in a couple of the yoga poses.
Practising some of the gentle stretches on or next to your bed at night tells your body and your brain that you are preparing for a good night's sleep.
After a breathing technique and a stretch, your nervous system feels calm and relaxed.
Your brain will remember how you felt so that the next time you go into that pose or that stretch, it will reward you by helping you to go to sleep more quickly. It's incremental.
If your digestion is sluggish, you will be unable to metabolize and get nourishment from your food, and you need to do two things.
First of all, if you are feeling constipated and bloated, there's obviously a lot of tension in the body.
Laying on your back, raising your legs up onto a chair and resting your hands on your abdomen relaxes specific muscles in the body, which then help you to breathe more deeply.
And then, once your body is in a state of gentle rest, your digestive system can start to function.
What you might notice is peristalsis, which is the movement of food through the intestine as it's getting digested.
People lie down with their feet up on that sofa or chair and hear gurgling noises, and that is your digestion.
You can also do some gentle twists.
Stimulating the peristalsis, the movement of food through the body, through these gentle twists from left to right, releases tension in your lower back.
We can use pelvic floor exercises with our breathing techniques in order to both strengthen and tone around the pelvic floor area.
In terms of sexual pleasure, it enables you to feel the sensation of penetrative sex or orgasm because you are toning those muscles that become weaker and more slack as the oestrogen declines around the vaginal wall area. It also helps with bladder control.
Bladder control exercises help to ensure that you are not waking up at night because you have been able to empty your bladder completely.
But also, when we feel good in our bodies, we feel more sexually attractive and desirable.
It's about how you feel. Yoga can really help with that, helping to change your mindset and encouraging you to embrace yourself and love yourself.
Postmenopause, you can feel fitter, stronger and healthier by practising specific yoga poses, which are held for 60 seconds.
It’s scientifically proven that if you want to build bone strength and bone density at the joints, you need to stack the joints on top of each other in a line and then stay in the pose for 60 seconds.
If it feels too much, to begin with, you can build up.
You don't have to go to a HIIT class or run a marathon.
In holding these poses, you are building the muscle mass and tone that supports the whole of your skeletal structure, keeping you upright with good posture.
Balance poses, like the tree pose, not only build bone and muscle strength, they help you to retain your balance because one of the lesser-known symptoms of the menopause is vertigo and losing your sense of balance and spatial awareness.
You can use props or rest your fingers on a wall or a chair if it helps.
Stress can also deplete your bone density.
Some people who've had very stressful jobs may have been hugely healthy, done so much exercise, and eaten the right foods but have got osteopenia or even osteoporosis because of high levels of stress. Stress can turn your muscle into fat as well.
High cortisol and high adrenaline levels can add on weight.
Stress also makes it harder to sleep. So, even simple yoga that reduces stress is going to help.
Find a menopause specialist, download our symptom checker, tips on preparing for your GP visit and so much more.
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