Over the past 6 years I have truly come to appreciate how yoga is so good for me (and probably you) during our perimenopause and menopause transitions. Now I have to admit, I have always enjoyed practicing yoga. My first yoga class was probably about 30 years ago, and it has been one of my constants when I have been stressed, when my mind has been too busy with work projects and deadlines, and as a way to relax and be more present. And I have been very fortunate to experience some amazing teachers in some amazing locations, like the Gobi desert in Mongolia and in Wadi Rum in Jordan. I graduated from my first teacher training in 2013, in Thailand.
But my appreciation of what yoga, certain poses and the breath work can do to support my own mental health and wellbeing has definitely grown deeper over the past few years. Practicing yoga has supported me through some very dark feelings and thoughts during my perimenopause journey. Yoga has allowed me to practice how to be more present in my body and listen to what she is trying to tell me – what do I need more of, what do I need less of. But let me share with you the shift in my yoga practice and how a specific mixture of yin, restorative and supportive poses are my new ‘go-to’ favourites.
My perimenopause journey started around the age of 43 (I guestimate, it was at least becoming obvious to me at that age) and what came with it over the following years has been an overwhelming storm of messy, confusing physical and emotional symptoms. Sudden mood swings and sudden tears (over nothing really obvious to me); irregular heavy menstrual cycles; fatigue; anxiety; very low mood some days; difficulty concentrating, brain fogginess, and a really sore lower back. And don’t even get me started on how much my sleep has been disturbed! And I love my sleep!
As a mental health practitioner for over 25 years, and a yoga teacher, I have a very full toolkit of techniques that have supported me well to face life’s challenges. But moving into my perimenopause there were many days when I have genuinely failed to find emotional balance and struggled as my body and hormones ebbed and flowed in different, unmanageable ways. During the days where I felt most out of balance the very last thing I felt like doing is any form of exercise including yoga. I fully appreciate and understand how physical exercise supports our mental health and wellbeing. In fact I have been an early advocate for GPs ‘prescribing’ physical exercise to alleviate low mood and feelings of depression.
Prior to my early 40s my ‘go-to’ yoga would be pretty fast and strong but honestly found that type of practice now over-heated my body (I was already experiencing frequent hot flushes) and left me feeling depleted and exhausted rather than refreshed and full of energy. And I was already tired from disturbed sleep. I needed to re-educate myself. I didn’t want to stop my yoga practice altogether but needed to adapt and embrace a different way to practice, where I was supported and feel more balanced. So I started to learn more about the other different ‘schools’ of yoga. In 2017 I was working and living in Amman, Jordan and decided to join in yin yoga teacher training. And this slow practice was like a revelation for me! Going deeper, holding poses for longer, and giving myself and my body permission to use as many props, blankets, cushions that it needed.
Back in London in 2016, I found the only (at that time) menopause yoga workshop at Triyoga in Camden, and Petra Coveney the amazing and inspiring teacher. At that time she wasn’t delivering a menopause yoga teacher training, but mentioned she might. I decided to follow her and keep an eye out for her further offerings. And lucky me, in early 2020 just before the pandemic hit all of us, I got the opportunity of joining Petra’s menopause yoga™ teacher training.
This has been a journey, and continues to be one for me. It has been like re-training myself. Readjusting and fine tuning what are the things my mind and body needed in this time of my life. So let me come back to my initial question ‘why is yoga so good during perimenopause and menopause’? But to be more precise why is menopause yoga so good for us?
Menopause yoga™ is a style of yoga to help women manage the main menopausal symptoms, and it is a positive approach that views the menopause as an opportunity for self-insight and personal growth. Menopause yoga provides a vital safe and supportive space.
Let’s start with some practical examples of the benefits of yin yoga during perimenopause / menopause. Yin yoga (one type of yoga) invites us to experience the power of doing nothing. Yin invites us to open a new conversation with our bodies and to treat them as an old friend that we want to get to know again, in a deeper more meaningful way. Yin yoga is often referred to as a ‘back door’ to mindfulness and meditation. We don’t use our body to get into the pose, we use the pose to get into our bodies, to start that conversation with ourselves. Taking time to listen. Taking time to hear what is our body trying to tell us.
Yin is a very passive and still form of yoga where we deliberately switch off the muscles to access the deeper tissues of the body, influence collagen production and nourish our joints (to be blunt – we dry out as we age, so doing activities that nourish our joints is a definite must!) By holding gentle poses for maybe around 3 minutes we support the hydration of our tissues.
Still not convinced this is for you? Cooling and restorative yoga poses can help us with hot flushes and anxiety. Forward bends can help us turn inwards and soothe stress and irritability. Reclining, restorative poses can aid in fighting fatigue and insomnia. Simple small, supported inversions will increase circulation and stimulate hormonal glands, while gentle backbends and heart opening poses can help respiration and produce feelings of positivity and lightness.
Still not convinced? I hear from many friends and clients that “yoga is just not for them”, or they “don’t have enough time”. That they are “not flexible enough”. But think of it this way, menopause is a chance to rethink your life – quite literally it is a “pause” for us to reflect emotionally and spiritually what have we not dealt with in the first chapter of our life. What no longer serves us and does not allow us to flourish. It’s time to reboot! If we as women do not look after our own bodies and minds, who else will? We all deserve to feel amazing – throughout our lives. Finding new ways to listen to my body and mind during my perimenopause transition, embracing the subtle healing practices and witnessing how well they have created change has been a transformative experience for me. My wish and invite for you is to try. See for yourself, with a few simple poses, for a few minutes a day how you can support yourself to feel better.
**MY has been created after years of research by fully qualified and experienced yoga teacher Petra Coveney. I give my blessings and gratitude to Petra for sharing her knowledge and power, and all those teachers who came before her.
 Let me add in here that although menopause itself is simply the moment that menstruation stops, the transition generally takes several years. This phase is called perimenopause and typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55 (although mine begun earlier). During perimenopause, fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels can trigger a multitude of uncomfortable symptoms.