Yoga and the Menopausal
By Stephanie Kristal, M.A., C.H.
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In modern industrialized patriarchal societies,
menopause or "the
change" is most often viewed as a medical problem. It is treated
as a disease with drugs, hormones and sometimes surgery prescribed.
In these youth-oriented cultures, women moving into this stage
of life are viewed as being over the hill - no longer vital, sensual,
sexual and productive members of society.
Other societies such as indigenous
cultures of Africa and the Americas embrace older women as healers
and sages. The expectation is that women remain active and grow
wiser with the years. In these societies, as well as in the wise
women tradition, the menopausal years are respected as part of
a natural cycle, a passage, and an initiation into becoming a
vital wise elder woman. In these traditions, women rely on their
intuition, their bodies' wisdom, and their deep connection to
Earth and Spirit to guide them on their journey. Women are looked
up to and revered as Susun Weed so beautifully writes, "She Who Holds The Wise Blood Inside." The
female energy emerges from Mother to Crone creative, juicy, active
Along with a healthy diet and herbal allies, yoga and meditation
are essential practices that can ease discomforts that arise in
menopausal years. It is proven that yoga has beneficial effects
on the endocrine system and assists in balancing the hormonal and
Inverted postures such as a restful supported pose with legs on
the wall or a more active shoulder stand have a cooling effect
on the body and are effective in counteracting and often eliminating
hot flashes and night sweats when practiced regularly. Forwards
bends are known for their calming effects on the mind and the nervous
system. They encourage relaxation and help to decrease mood swings
and irritability. Spinal twists and backbends stimulate the kidneys
and adrenals and provide alternate sources of estrogen in the body.
Pelvic floor exercises tone and increase circulation to the entire
pelvic floor. They can help prevent urinary problems and encourage
the health of vaginal and urethral tissue.
Stress has been proven to play a part in osteoporosis. Under stress
the blood becomes more acidic and leaches calcium from the bones
over time. Yoga's stress reducing benefits as well as weight-bearing
postures help to create strong bones and can help to prevent osteoporosis.
The emphasis in yoga on good postural alignment as well as poses
such as spinal twists that hydrate the spine (keeping the discs
of the spine supple) help to prevent the loss of height often associated
with both stress and osteoporosis.
Yoga helps to regulate and balance metabolism and lets your body's
natural wisdom determine your appropriate weight and contour. A
natural softening and rounding of the body with age helps protect
the bones and also provides a new vision of feminine beauty.
Yoga is an ancient science
and an Eastern perspective on health that honors all aspects
of our being. It is a practice that encourages us to go within
so that we may connect with our innate wisdom, our inner teacher.
As we journey inward, we access our inner resources for optimal
health and healing. Breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation,
visualization and deep relaxation are all tools that can be used
to help us to get comfortable with change which is inevitable
and constant in our lives but intensifies on all levels - physical,
psychological, emotional and energetic during the menopausal
years. They are all effective ways of learning to remain grounded
and centered amidst all of the changes. As Swami Satchidananda
said, "You can't control the waves, but you can learn to surf"!
Yoga and meditation teach us to accept the present moment as it
is and to accept and honor ourselves just as we are in each moment.
As we journey through the menopausal years, we can give ourselves
the permission and space to feel the fullness of each moment and
know that we are birthing a new aspect of our being.
Menopause offers us an opportunity to experience a newfound freedom,
power and creativity. Yoga is a powerful tool that can help us
accept and nourish this inevitable change of life. Through the
practice of yoga, we can expect to remain active and strong. We
can listen to and learn from the cycles of our bodies and embrace
the menopausal journey as women of wisdom.
SEE ALSO: STEPHANIE'S
SUGGESTED BOOKS AND VIDEOS LIST
Kristal is is a Hypnotherapist and Integrative Yoga
Therapist with a private practice working with individuals
and couples in Woodstock and Kingston, New York. Stephanie's
work is creating safe and sacred space in which she guides
people in accessing their own inner wisdom and insight for
healing and developing inner and outer resources for self-empowerment
and to support their journey. Stephanie has been a practitioner
of yoga and mindfulness for over 30 years and these disciplines
inform both her personal and professional life. She also
teaches workshops for girls and young women on developing
positive body image, self-esteem and taking a critical look
at the negative impact of media and advertising related to
these issues. Stephanie is also the author of numerous articles
and a contributor to the book Help Me To Heal by Bernie Siegel
and Yosaif August. Stephanie resides in upstate New York
with her soulmate John, two beautiful daughters and various
animal friends. You can e-mail Stephanie at [email protected].