Yoga stretches can benefit both the body and the mind, bringing energy and balance. This is particularly helpful to women who are currently in menopause or in menopause transition because their hormonal levels and body chemistry may be fluctuating rapidly. This can leave women feeling out of balance and truly victims of their changing bodies. Yoga exercises level out this physiological instability by relaxing and gently stretching every muscle in the body, promoting better blood circulation and oxygenation to all cells and tissues. This helps optimize the function of the endocrine glands and the organs of the female reproductive tract. Yoga exercises also improve the health and well-being of the digestive tract, nervous system, and all other organ systems.
The yoga exercises included in this chapter address many specific menopause related symptoms and issues, such as bone strength, cardiovascular and breast health, of concern to all women past midlife. You may want to begin by trying all the stretches, then practicing on a regular basis those exercises that bring you the most symptom relief and general health benefits. If you prefer, begin with the exercises that offer relief for the specific symptoms of greatest concern.
General Techniques for Yoga
When doing yoga exercises, it is important that you focus and concentrate on the positions. First, let your mind visualize how the exercise is to look, and then follow with the correct body placement in the pose. The exercises are done through slow, controlled stretching movements. This slowness allows you to have greater control over your body movements. You minimize the possibility of injury and maximize the benefit to the particular area of the body where your attention is being focused. Pay close attention to the initial instructions. Look at the placement of the body in the photographs. This is very important, for if the pose is practiced properly, you are much more likely to have relief from your symptoms. In summary, as you begin these exercises:
Practicing yoga stretches regularly in a slow, unhurried fashion will gradually loosen your muscles, ligaments and joints. You may be surprised at how supple you can become over time. If you experience any pain or discomfort, you have probably overreached your current ability and should immediately reduce the amount of the stretching until you can proceed without discomfort. Be careful, as muscular injuries take time to heal. If you do strain a muscle, immediately apply ice to the injured area for ten minutes. Use the ice pack two to three times a day for several days. If the pain persists, see your doctor. If you wish more background and information on yoga, refer to the books listed in the bibliography at the end of this book.
Stretch 1: The Locust
This exercise energizes the entire female reproductive tract, thyroid, liver, intestines and kidneys. It is helpful for premenopausal women with dysfunctional bleeding, as well as women with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, because it improves circulation and oxygenation to the pelvic region, thereby promoting healthier ovarian function. This exercise also strengthens the lower back, abdomen, buttocks, and legs, and prevents lower back pain and cramps.
Stretch 2: The Pump
This exercise improves blood circulation through the pelvis, thereby promoting healthier ovarian function. It helps relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and controls excessive bleeding in premenopausal women. The exercise helps calm anxiety and also strengthens the back and abdominal muscles.
Stretch 3: Wide Angle Pose
This exercise opens the entire pelvic region and energizes the female reproductive tract, improving ovarian function as well as normalizing excessive or irregular menstrual flow; diminution of menopausal symptoms may also occur. It is helpful for varicose veins and improves circulation in the legs.
Stretch 4: Spinal Flex
This exercise energizes and rejuvenates the female reproductive tract and tones the abdominal organs (pancreas, liver and adrenals). It emphasizes freer pelvic movement with controlled breathing.
Stretch 5: Pelvic Arch
This is an excellent exercise for stretching the abdominal and pelvic muscles. Menopause related vaginal and bladder symptoms are reduced by promoting better circulation and relaxation in the pelvic region. It is also helpful in reducing pelvic congestion.
Stretch 6: The Bow
This exercise helps relieve menopause-related fatigue and lack of vitality, elevating your mood and improving stamina. The exercise also stretches the entire spine and helps relieve lower back pain and cramps. It stretches the abdominal muscles and strengthens the back, hips and thighs. It also stimulates the digestive organs and endocrine glands.
Stretch 7: Child’s Pose
Excellent for calming anxiety and stress due to emotional causes, this exercise will also relieve menopause related anxiety and irritability. The exercise gently stretches the lower back and is one of the most effective exercises for relieving menstrual cramps and low back pain.
Stretch 8: The Sponge
This exercise relieves anxiety and stress due to emotional causes or menopause related anxiety and tension. It relieves menstrual cramps and low back pain as well as reducing eye tension and swelling in the face.
Stretch 9: Dollar Pose
This pose reduces anxiety and nervous tension and will help eliminate tension headaches and insomnia. It improves flexibility of the spine, reducing stiffness and back pain.
Stretch 10: Tree
If your goal is to strengthen bone mass by increasing weight bearing on the legs, hips and spine, this exercise will help you accomplish increasing bone mass. It also improves balance and posture.
Repeat 3 times.
Note: You may place one hand on the wall for support if needed.
Stretch 11: Chest Expander
This exercise increases circulation to the upper half of the body, energizing and stimulating the body. It also loosens and stretches tense muscles in the upper body, especially the shoulder and back, and expands the lungs.
Choosing the Right Yoga Technique
From among the many specific yoga poses in this chapter, you can choose the best exercises to provide relief for your personal menopausal symptoms by using the accompanying chart. Try all the poses that pertain to your specific symptoms to see which ones bring you the most relief and practice those poses on a regular basis along with your exercise program. The combination of yoga stretches plus a good aerobic and strength-building program should help relieve and delay menopause-related symptoms and improve your general state of health.
|Entire female reproductive tract||Locust, Pump, Wide Angle Pose|
Spinal Flex, Pelvic Arcg, Bow
|Excessive or irregular menstrual bleeding||Locust, Pump, Wide Angle Pose|
|Hot flashes||Locust, Pump, Wide Angle Pose|
Spinal Flex, Pelvic Arcg, Bow
|Insomnia||Child’s Pose, Sponge, Dollar Pose|
|Psychological symptoms- anxiety,|
|Bow, Child’s Pose, Sponge,|
|Vaginal atrophy and bladder|
|Locust, Pump, Wide Angle Pose|
Spinal Flex, Pelvic Arcg, Bow
|Cardiovascular health||Chest Expander|
|Breast health||Chest Expander|