Here are five poses that I recommend to help to improve sleep, increase energy reserves, lower blood pressure and balance your hormones. They can be done individually or as a series. Enjoy!
Yoga naturally helps to enhance mental clarity and emotional balance, two important factors that help you navigate the changes in the body after childbearing years. Yoga will help you see aging as not a loss but a gain of wisdom, strength, health and intuition.
Yoga reduces the effect of menopause hormonal changes by balancing the endocrine system, and helps to minimize the impact of symptoms that can be unsettling during this time. A regular practice of yoga poses with it’s variety of inversions, restoratives, twists, seated, standing, forward and backbends all help to stimulate and activate the glands, organs, cells and tissues of the body. Most important are inverted postures (going upside down) as these help to bathe the glands in the head and neck, having a powerful effect on the neuroendocrine system, and allows fresh, oxygenated blood to these areas. Restoratives are also powerful at this time to mitigate the impact of stress on the adrenal glands.
How does yoga help with weight gain and osteoporosis and other health risks?
Yoga helps women be more aware of their body’s needs. When we do yoga, we become present to the sensations of the body with an awareness that oftentimes brings about a change of habits that heretofore led to weight gain and fatigue. Yoga helps to balance the endocrine system, aiding in better sleep patterns, metabolism and an increase of lean muscle mass. Yoga is also a weight bearing exercise, since you are balancing and supporting your body weight through out the poses, this helps to combat osteoporosis. Yoga also helps to support overall health and well being by lowering stress and anxiety levels. A nice added benefit is that yoga can improve the aches and pains that sometimes accompany the aging process.
1. The Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This pose is named appropriately. It will mend a myriad of problems and return you to the goddess beneath the goblin that menopause makes you feel like at times. Deeply nourishing as blood is directed to the pelvis, this pose frees the abdomen, uterus, ovaries and vagina of the tightness and tension that inhibit balanced hormonal activity. The reproductive organs and glands are bathed and hormonal function is balanced. Calm yourself and be still while your hips and heart open. This helps with mood swings and depression. Here, we give the mind and body a chance to integrate and become present, releasing the past. The Goddess Pose is helpful in calming the nervous system to prepare for return you to sleep if you are restless.
The photo above is with one bolster- you may also use two blankets folded lengthwise to support the torso.
To get into this position sit at the end of your bolster or blankets, lay back until your torso and head are supported. You may use the end of the blanket rolled under as a pillow if your chin is in the air to lengthen the back of the neck and support the head. Pull both heels in toward your pubic bone, soles of the feet touching and release your knees toward the ground. Palms can be open to assist in opening the heart, or you can place a hand on the abdomen and a hand on your heart to connect your two centers of feeling. Melt into the support and relax your mind. If your shoulders or groins are tight, place a blanket or block beneath them for support, or wrap a strap around your low back and feet to secure the pose.
Rest for as long as you can, 15 minutes is ideal if you can afford it. When you come out of Supta Baddha Konasana you can turn and face the bolster and relax in Supported Child’s Pose.
2. Supported Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is for those moments when you are emotionally unable to face the world. When you feel like you want to dry up and disappear, try kneeling on the floor, hugging your bolster for a few minutes to retreat into Child’s Pose. (I recall a similar pose in the beginning of the best selling book Eat, Pray, Love that I’ve found myself in once or twice in my own lifetime.) It literally allows you to “assume the position” of surrender and supports you in facing what feels overwhelming and impossible. This pose will help to lower your blood pressure and increase your self-compassion.
1. To enjoy this retreat, sit on your heels with your knees on the floor, about hip-width apart, big toes touching.
2. Place a bolster or two folded blankets in front of your hips and lean forward until your torso and head are completely supported.
3. Turn your head to one side. Allow yourself to sink into the bolster, soften your belly, relax and let go. “Hug” the bolster to receive its support.
4. Change the direction of your head to keep your neck from getting stiff. Stay for 10 minutes if you can and let the layers of tension melt.
3. Supported Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
I love this pose. It has so many benefits! Because it places the head below the heart, it increases blood flow to the brain helping to counteract memory lapses caused by hormone fluctuations. As a bonus, this pose is helpful in easing hot flashes. Downward Facing Dog also inverts the internal organs and helps to lift and tone your uterus, improving circulation to your pelvis and strengthening the pelvic floor. To help prevent osteoporosis in the upper body, the bones of the shoulders, arms, wrists and hands are strengthened as they bear the weight of your body. To help calm the mind, rest your head on a bolster, folded blankets or block.
1. Come to your hands and knees or what we refer to as “all fours” in yoga. (Already we are in dog language). Place your knees back in line with your hips and your hands shoulder width (on either side of the front edge of the bolster).
2. Position your feet hip width apart, then curl your toes under.
3. On an exhale press your hands and lift your sit bones to the ceiling into an inverted “v” shape or the shape of a dog stretching. When you come down, separate your knees and come back to Supported Child’s Pose.
4. Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Because women are more prone to elevated blood pressure when the protective effect of estrogen is withdrawn, this pose is helpful because it places the head lower than the heart and the rest of the body which can help regulate and balance blood pressure and balance hormonal secretions. This pose has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps with hot flashes, tension headaches and mood swings. With the head lower than the rest of the body in this restorative, the effect is renewing and refreshing, uplifting those who are depressed.
As you practice this pose, notice the deep effect in the abdomen as the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes relax into the bowl of the pelvis, healing the lower elixir field. This helps to ease the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause.
There are many ways to do this pose. The simplest is to support your pelvis on a block.
The most luxurious, is to stack blankets or bolsters into a T shape, the horizontal bolster on the bottom, the vertical one on top.
Then place your hips where the bolsters join at the top of the T.
Slide down until your head and shoulders slide off the bolster and your torso and hips are still on. Keep your feet hip width on the horizontal bolster and soften your inner groins. This feels like you are on a ramp and you can really feel the impact of the increased blood circulation in the endocrine glands of the torso.
5. Viparita Karani- The Jewel for Women
If I was on a desert island and they said, “You are only allowed one yoga pose,” this would be it for me. It truly is my favorite. It is rejuvenating, the health benefits are profound and quite frankly it is as close to nirvana as most of us will get. It helps to boost the adrenal reserves, helps with varicose veins and edema and calms the fluctuating hormones during menopause by pooling the blood in the pelvis. It feels like a long nap even if you only stay for 15 minutes. It helps the skin and face look younger too because of the improved circulation and blood flow.
Find space at a wall. Place a bolster or two blankets a couple of inches from the wall. Sit on the cushion with your hip against the wall and start to swivel around so that your legs are up the wall, your pelvis on the bolster and your torso is on the floor. Be sure that the bowl of your pelvis is level, let your femur heads sink into your hip sockets and either place your right hand on your belly and left hand on your heart or the arms can lay open, creating space in the chest and heart. Bathe in the essence of the Divine Feminine as you restore your balance and sense of wellbeing.
For more on menopause, you may want to check out The Menopause Makeover. Thanks!