How Yoga can help us transition through the Menopause to our “Second Spring”
I love this idea of “Second Spring” this is what we step in to as women after the Menopause, this is how we embrace our “wisdom years” but first, how do we get there? How do we traverse the “Menopause Bridge” A Bridge that takes us from our fertile years to our wisdom years. How do we make this Bridge as strong as possible? how do we cross it? and can we be supported on this journey?
Firstly we can educate ourselves about this natural transition that every woman will go through in her mid life (or earlier for some women) that we know as the Menopause.
The Menopause refers to that time in every woman’s life when her periods stop and her ovaries lose their reproductive function marking the end of her fertility and the corresponding loss of oestrogen, The age at which women enter menopause varies however it usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In the UK the average age is 51. Every woman’s experience of the Menopause is unique to her however there are numerous symptoms associated with this transition which many women may share in common. These include, but are not limited to headaches, migraines, hot and cold flushes, anxiety, depression, insomnia irritability, meno-rage, brain fog, fatigue, lethargy, digestive issues, nausea, weight gain, painful breasts, aching muscles, UTIs, dry and itchy skin, dry and thinning hair
If we look at the stages of a woman’s life they can be understood in terms of the seasons, I love this analogy which I came across recently when I under took the Menopause Yoga (MY) teacher training course and so we have Spring as the Maiden, Summer represented as the Mother phase, Autumn as we transition in to Perimenopause, (when we first begin to notice fluctuations in our hormones and possibly associated symptoms) and Winter, the Menopause: the 12 month cessation of our periods. The Second Spring, corresponds to Post Menopause potentially a third of a woman’s life and also positively referred to as her “wisdom years”.
Before we arrive at this liberating post menopausal stage of the Second Spring we first need to tread the terrain of the Peri Menopause and Menopause. During this time many women may feel a loss of sense of self, and maybe a loss of identity as they move away from their fertile years. Women often feel confused, isolated and alone with all the physical, mental and emotional changes that are happening to them. To move more easily through the menopausal years women need to pause and reconnect with themselves and other menopausal women. Thankfully the taboo surrounding the Menopause is now beginning to slowly lift however for hundreds of years women have struggled to cope alone, unable to talk with other women and share their experiences and deprived of support and information about what is happening to them at this transitional time. It is vital for women to gather together during Menopause to share their experiences and knowledge and allow their voices to be heard. This is thankfully now beginning to become more common place. When women gather together in this way it is a powerful uplifting experience, that may help a woman view her menopausal years more positively. Oxytocin (the “feel good hormone”) is released when women gather together which calms the nervous system, and helps reduces stress.
Minimising Stress during the Menopause is essential as all menopause symptoms are exacerbated by stress. Yoga is renowned for helping to reduce stress levels through a variety of techniques from yoga postures(asanas) breath work (pranayama) meditation, mantras and mudras. Menopause yoga is a therapeutic style of yoga that skilfully combines these techniques in order to help address specific symptoms of the Menopause. It also helps educate women by providing a “tool kit” of techniques and resources so that rather than feeling diminished by the menopause a woman instead now feels more empowered. Good nutritional information, the use of self study, journaling and time to reflect, knowing how and where to seek the right medical guidance if needed, and positive psychology all help contribute to informing and educating women during their menopausal years and helping them to move through this time in their life more easily ,rather than feeling lost, alone and stuck.
Crossing the menopausal bridge with more ease is therefore possible as we let go of resisting this natural change in our life and learn to instead embrace it and flow with it. Nurturing ourselves and making lifestyle choices that support us, acknowledging that we do need to do things differently at this time. We need to take a “pause” from our life not only to give our changing bodies and minds the opportunity to rest but also to take stock of the life we have lived to date and move forwards in wisdom, with life lessons learnt, baggage released with renewed focus upon what we want to do and how be want to be as we enter in to the liberation of our post menopausal years, welcoming our “Second Spring”
Kath Turner Yoga February 2021