Yoga reduced my menopause symptoms to nil!

I didn’t start yoga until 40. Before that, I had a very conventional, but busy life. I now know that this made me a prime candidate for premenopausal symptoms, and worse.

I started my career as an academic in Melbourne. I then put my knowledge to much better use when my partner and I built a chain of three successful businesses.

At the peak of it all, my mother died in her early 60s, and died quickly, of bowel cancer. I was hugely upset and traumatised by it all. One impact was that I could not sleep.

Yoga pose

Chris Lalor, Senior Yoga Teacher, in seated wide angle pose, on rocks at the entrance to Darwin Harbour, NT

I didn’t realise it then, but I was only a few years away from the end of years of difficult menstruations and the potential onset of early menopause.

Fortunately, my search for a sleep remedy led me to stumble into a very good quality yoga studio in the inner north west of Melbourne. Again, although I didn’t know it, I was strong from manual work lifting the heavy stock in the business, but as stiff as a board.

My point is that I had no alternative lifestyle background, or any flexibility. I found yoga, and found it late, just before menopause age, when my so-called change of life was about to descend on me.

Due almost certainly to my regular yoga, there were no signs of menopause, or hot flashes, or pre-menopause symptoms, or hot and cold flushes, or any of the other problems that so many have.

I also did not have to worry about hrt side effects, because menopause was just not an issue.

Many years later, I realised that the yoga and breath meditation that became part of my life, had in fact saved me from the horror that so many women endure.

I realise that I’m just one among billions. But my subsequent specialisation and teaching in this area of yoga for women has led me to the many studies that confirm what I found from my own experience.

I avoided menopause!

Of course, every woman who has been through menopause has their own unique story to tell…for better, for worse.

For some women, the transition through perimenopause and menopause has been like a roller coaster ride that seemed like it would never stop.

For other women, it’s a mildly dis-orientating phase of their life.  And then there are others whose experience sits somewhere in between.

Fortunately, I suffered no noticeable symptoms. I believe that my yoga and pranayama (breath meditation) practice prepared me well to transition to the next phase of my life. I’ll tell you how and why.

I also think that the success that yoga has in relieving menopause symptoms, is another reason for the fast and ever-growing adoption of yoga by women in developed countries, over the last 40 years.

For example, in 2017, Roy Morgan Research found that yoga is Australia’s preferred cardio, strength and flexibility exercise, with 2.18 million Australians participating in yoga (including 1,700,000 women doing yoga).

For all those women, whether they are pre-menopause, in menopause, or post menopause, yoga can be one of their major natural remedies for menopause.

That’s so long as they are doing enough yoga, and sufficiently good quality yoga. I’ll also talk about what’s needed to make yoga work best for you.

If you already want to try yoga

Yoga saved me from menopause, and I have seen it make a huge difference for many of my numerous students. Studies have confirmed our experiences.

I’ve written more about it below, including what I teach in Women Only yoga classes, and why.

But if you’ve already decided to give yoga a try, here some easy ways to start, or re-start.

  • Flametree’s beginner yoga deal, including a weekly Women Only class, and a free two-week trial, is here.
  • Flametree’s non-beginner deal, including twice weekly Women Only classes, for Flametree newcomers and lapsed students, gets you 14 days of unlimited yoga for a total of just $29.  Learn more here.

What is menopause? Why can it be hell?

Perimenopause and menopause are the terms used to describe the hormonal changes a woman`s body goes through to eventually settle down to no longer menstruating.

Menopause refers to when menstruation stops. There is a transition stage leading up to this time called perimenopause. During perimenopause, periods can be more frequent, heavy and or intermittent.

Most women start perimenopause somewhere in the late 40`s to early fifties. It can go on for anything from 5-10 years. (Post menopause symptoms is another issue I’ll write about in another post).

During perimenopause, major women’s hormones changes start happening which throw the hormonal system totally out of balance. At this time, the ovaries start to make less estrogen.

The pituitary gland (your major “controller” gland) takes time to accept this transition, and a whole variety of menopause symptoms develop as a woman`s body takes time to adjust to fluctuating hormone levels.

In particular, from a yoga point of view, when menopause ends, the adrenal glands take over the production of estrogen. Among other things, the work the adrenal glands do can be much improved by doing yoga.

Yoga poses compress or extend particular glands so as to release natural hormones into your system. But of course your body and its systems are still in charge, so you don’t get side-effects, or problems from having the wrong size dose of any particular hormone.

Fatigue is a major outcome of female roles

As an accredited Senior Yoga Teacher, who has taught a weekly Women’s Only yoga class for many years, the most common menopause and perimenopause symptoms that I see are related to perimenopause fatigue, and ongoing lack of energy.

By the time a woman reaches perimenopausal age she is often quite exhausted. She has often been working full time, and managing a family that may be young, or with teenage children.

She also often hasn`t been able to take much time out to relax. Her sympathetic nervous system is overloaded, and her hormonal system is already out of balance. She has greatly depleted her adrenal glands from trying to navigate so many commitments.

Her only exercise may involve all sympathetic nervous system stimulation. This is only one of your two nervous systems. It’s job is to rev you up.  It’s often called “fight or flight”. It’s stimulated particularly by exercise like gym, running, fast walking, CrossFit, and lifting weights.

The exhaustion is not her fault. The “two job load” of women… at home and in the workplace… is well documented.

The exhaustion is made worse by the fact that we are all told nothing about our two nervous systems.

It’s only in recent years that western medicine has started to pay more attention to your so-called second nervous system. I’ll say more about it below.

Other menopause symptoms

By this stage of life (say mid-40 onwards), a woman’s relationship may also have serious issues.

A stressful lifestyle may already have led her to feeling discomfort with her body.  This may have led to weight gain due to eating on the run, and comfort eating (via food with lots of sugar). Now she may also experience menopause weight gain.

So when she experiences hot flushes, which are a fact of perimenopause and menopausal

life, they add to her feeling increasingly anxious and distressed about her life.

Hot flushes in menopause can happen any time during the day and at night.  They can cause panic and be very embarrassing when in public. At night they result in sleep deprivation, fatigue and a feeling of edginess and overall irritability. Women can also experience chills, including so-called hot and cold flashes.

 Mood changes are also common. They can range from anxiety driven depression, through to a dull distressing lethargy. It’s also often brought on by weight gain and a slower metabolism.

Vaginal dryness, lowered sex drive, and pain during intercourse, can cause further anxiety and depression, plus a lowered feeling of self-esteem. Some women feel distress because they feel less feminine as their childbearing time comes to an end.

Yoga helps before and during menopause

Yoga helps on the mental and physical front.

Mentally, a yoga practice can help a woman find the inner reserves to shift her head space and approach. It can help a woman use this transition as a time to learn more about herself.

Yoga is a practice that makes one more mindful, more aware that every thought, and all our actions, have consequences.

For me, this mindset is an immensely powerful tool when it comes to living a healthy happy, meaningful life.

Having control over so many aspects of the way we live makes it possible to remain positive, accepting and calm, while trying to figure out what steps to take to minimise symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause.

Ideally, the yoga should also include particular postures that best address the various phases of a woman’s life transitions.

The yoga also needs to be good quality yoga that actually gets you into the postures in a way where your glands can release the hormones that you require.

Sadly, I see too many women who have done low quality yoga, including aerobic yogic moves, that don’t have the glandular impact that is required. I’ll talk about this by looking more at the type of exercise that is often done in the West.

Exercise for both your nervous systems

Exercise will also help with depression and lethargy. We feel better after exercise. But it needs to be exercise that doesn`t further exhaust the already over-stretched nervous system!

It needs also to be exercise that has sufficient emphasis on your OTHER nervous system. This is the parasympathetic nervous system, or so-called “rest and digest” system. Its role is to calm you down.

Sadly, most conventional exercise programs in the Western societies are almost totally focused on the “rev up” nervous system.

For “calming” your nervous system, and a suitable balance between the nervous systems, yoga ticks all the boxes.

Yoga is weight bearing so it helps with bone strength and fitness. Meanwhile, it balances your two nervous systems (often also called autonomic or automatic nervous systems).

It’s best to have exercise that also helps you de-stress. Among other things, that gives you the best chance to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep deprivation is likely to get worse with the onset of menopause. And of course, if a woman has had a family, sleep may have been a problem for decades! She is already fatigued, before any early menopause symptoms arrive.

Stress is said to play a huge part in bringing on hot flushes.  Women have also found that reducing stress can help moderate both the frequency and intensity of your periods during the perimenopausal phase.

Yoga is also especially good at de-stressing you.

Yoga postures for menopause

There are many yoga poses that cool, quieten and pacify the nervous system, including dealing with stress. They are also especially helpful for dealing with menopause symptoms.

Some poses include:

  • seated bound angle pose (baddha Konasana)
  • seated wide angle pose (like the one in the picture with this Post)
  • supported wide-angle standing pose
  • forward bends with head support
  • supine (lying) restorative poses, such as bridge pose
  • supported shoulderstand
  • niralamba (a shoulderstand variation)
  • supported plough pose sequences
  • simple inversions like downward facing dog pose, with or without head support
  • legs up the wall pose.

At Flametree, where women are maybe two-thirds of our students, it’s no accident that poses like the above are very popular.  The standard process for a yoga class is to include some of these poses towards the end of every class.

Some classes, such as Restorative Yoga, focus entirely on these poses. Slow Yoga, which is also known as Gentle Yoga, can also many of these types of poses (depending who is actually in that particular class on a week to week basis).

There are also a number of seated yoga poses which will help with estrogen production in the ovaries during the perimenopause phase. These include seated legs wide, and seated in cobbler pose.

There are also poses that will stimulate your adrenal glands. This will help with fatigue and help prepare for when estrogen will be produced in the adrenals. For this, use supported backbends, and forward bends like janu sirsasana.

Again, Flametree’s two Women Only classes each week (online, in-studio, and on-demand), have a particular focus on these types of poses, along with some of the restorative poses I mentioned.

There are also a number of breath meditation practices that are also especially helpful. These so-called pranayamas help lengthen the exhalation. This will further help soothe the nervous system, keep you “sane” (strengthening mental health), and supply you with energy.

Yoga props make the poses work even better

A yoga practice will help you accept that at times you just need to rest and recuperate.  At those times many asanas (postures) can be done with yoga props.

Props reduce the effort needed. They also help you get into the poses so you will definitely get maximum benefit of the pose.

A good teacher can demonstrate the pose, talk you through how to get into it, and give you feedback to adjust your posture to get even more from it (including via using the props).

If you have any particular health condition, a teacher (in both live online or in-studio classes) will also be able to advise if you should in fact do the pose, or if you should do a particular variation of it.

Using props also means that the poses can be held for a long time, so the yoga has time to work via your glands and hormones. Longer timings in the poses nourish the nervous system, and give you energy to help with hormonal imbalance.

The problem with conventional notions of exercise

I stress that the exercise that work best, including the yoga style that works best, is not about “jumping about” or being superwoman.

There is certainly a role for building and maintaining strength and aerobic fitness, but the exercise you need, at any stage of adult life, has to be much wider than just the conventional notion of gym exercises, aerobics or Pilates.

I regularly “treat” women who have led, and suffered from, a life of conventional exercise. I treat them with good quality yoga that addresses both of their nervous systems. Over months it leads to a remarkable and positive transformation in the type of menopause and other symptoms I mentioned.

I hasten to say that doing no exercise or movement is of course usually worse than doing unbalanced exercise. But it’s important to note that no exercise, or conventional unbalanced exercise, are both likely to give you issues in your change of life journey.

Food, plus chilling out

Certain foods and behaviour act to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (or rev you up).

Test what affect it has on your menopause symptoms if you cut down consuming spicy foods, fried foods, caffeine, and alcohol, as well as taking fewer hot baths and hot showers.

Take time to do the things you like.  Honour your right to look after yourself even though you have commitments to family and friends.

Take time to sit at night, watch the sunset, and unwind before going to bed. It’s all part of a menopause natural treatment regime.

Get a pass and reserve a class

By all means seek help from health care professionals when you need to, and try to find people who you can share your experience with.

But my top advice is to try yoga, or do more yoga… good quality yoga.

If you have not already, check out what I teach in our Flametree’s live online, in-studio, or on-demand Women Only yoga classes.

Yoga saved me from menopause, and I have seen it make a huge difference for many of my numerous students. Studies have confirmed our experiences.

I also recommend that you start yoga well before the onset of even perimenopause. The earlier you start, the better it will work. Among other things, you’ll also have a much easier life with your periods.

  • Flametree’s beginner yoga deal, including a weekly Women Only class, and a free two-week trial, is here.
  • Flametree’s non-beginner deal, including twice weekly Women Only classes, for Flametree newcomers and lapsed students, gets you 14 days of unlimited yoga for a total of just $29. Learn more here.
  • All other packages & deals are here.
  • There’s more about how to reserve a classhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *