With an estimated 13 million women currently going through the menopause in the UK, we asked Petra Coveney – founder of 'Menopause Yoga' to share about her positive approach to the menopause and why what you wear can make a difference.
The Menopause (la Menopause) is a medical term for the 12 months since your last menstrual period, which has become a general catchall phrase to mean the gradual cessation of your fertility, usually beginning with the perimenopause in your mid 40s and lasting into your early or even late 50s.*(Premature Ovarian Insufficiency can occur earlier)
However, the menopause is so much more than a medical term. For the women going through this natural stage in life, it can be accompanied by a range of debilitating symptoms that affect their bodies, minds and emotional wellbeing. We’ve all heard of hot flushes and night sweats, but did you know that women can also experience weight gain, hair loss, joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue and insomnia? In fact, there are more than 24 symptoms that can include itchy and sensitive skin, hormonal depression, anxiety and panic attacks, low self-esteem and - depending on whether a woman has had or wanted children - the end of fertility can cause a deep sense of loss and grief. Longer term, post-menopausal women have an increased risk of life-threatening illnesses such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), cardio-vascular disease and breast cancer unless they receive the appropriate medical advice.
These symptoms are exacerbated by stress and unhealthy lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise. Unsurprisingly, menopause has a bad press and is not usually something that women look forward to. That’s why I created Menopause Yoga; to offer women an alternative approach that would Educate and Empower women to make their own informed choices about the medical and holistic care available and, as a result, come to Embrace menopause as an opportunity for self-growth.
What women need is to be nourished and nurtured through this stage of life. Women are often the main carers in families and, after decades of looking after other people at work and home, women in their 50s can feel depleted, as if the pot is empty and there just isn’t any more to give. This is when we need the support of other women and the encouragement to take time out of their often hectic lives for a little self-care.
We can nourish ourselves with healthy foods that include:
Plant based phystoestrogen and isoflavones, such as green vegetables
- Calcium and Vitamins B, C, A and D to strengthen bones
- Magnesium for joint and muscle pain (and sleep)
- Fish oils including Omega3 to boost cognitive function
We can Nurture ourselves by taking the time to pause – reflect and:
- Practice yoga, meditation and breathing to calm the mind and reduce stress
- See friends regularly so that you have dates in your diary and avoid social isolation
- Aromatherapy oils such as Geranium and Lavender to support hormone balance and sleep
- Wear clothing in the day that is smooth and comforting on the skin and wick-absorbent if you sweat at night. Menopausal skin itching is quite common and can be made worse by clothing that man-made chemicals and other non-breathable materials which is why I love Asquith's soft yoga clothing.
- Wearing clothes with high quality materials can lift your mood and make you feel calmer and happier as a result
- Wearing yoga exercise and relaxation clothes that have the flexibility you move with you
Here are a few restorative yoga poses that I personally practice to manage my own menopause symptoms and teach to other women in my workshops.
Left: Half Camel pose (Ustrasana): this is an opening stretch across the chest that lifts the spirits if you are experiencing low mood.
Right: Full Camel (Ustrasana) pose: this is a deeper chest lift and backbend that also stretches the front of the thighs and hip flexor muscles.
Supported Child’s Pose (Supta Balasana) can also be really great. As a restorative pose its calming for the nervous system and allows your spine to release any tension in the back and shoulders. You can raise the bolster if this is more comfortable, and drape a blanket over your back for a greater sense of nurturing.
Cobra pose (Bujangasana)is another chest and abdominal stretch to help release menstrual tension.
Reclined Hero’s Pose (Supta Virasana): this is a gentle backbend that opens the chest area and also stretches the abdomen, hip flexor muscles and quadricep thigh muscles. This can release pelvic tension during the menstrual cycle and also gently lift a low mood.
I love Asquith's super soft bamboo clothing. Here I'm wearing their black jumpsuit. What I love about this all in one jumpsuit is that it is flexible to wear on the yoga mat and stylish enough to walk from the studio to a restaurant or an evening out. Staying sociable is very important during menopause and feeling confident enough to go out is often helped by wearing clothes that make you feel amazing. You can check out more of Asquith's bamboo clothing here...
If you’d like to know more about Menopause Yoga workshops, classes or Teacher Training courses, you can email her: [email protected] or visit her website www.menopause-yoga.com Follow her on Instagram @Menopause_Yoga