Why Yoga for Menopause, and not just Pilates, the gym or running?
Yoga offers much of what these things offer, but it also give you what you need to make sure they have the effect you expect them to…
Let’s look at some of the most difficult issues for women during perimenopause:
Anxiety, sleeplessness, weight gain, low mood, emotional rollercoaster, slowing metabolism, hot flushes, achy joints…
Then, here’s some of the health concerns that need extra care during perimenopause and beyond:
Heart health, brain health, osteoporosis, muscle loss, joint health…
Pilates can be good for muscles and thereby bone-health and metabolism. The gym may be good for muscle and bone too. Running can be good for bones and heart. They’re all good for a boost of serotonin, and can help with weight struggles (they may also hinder weight loss as we will see below).
Like all these combined, Yoga for Menopause can be good for:
- Bone density
- Muscle tone (and thereby metabolism)
- Heart health
- Weight struggles
BUT, it’s also good for:
- Calming the emotional rollercoaster
- Hot flushes
- Brain health
This is because, as well as targeting your physical health, Yoga for Menopause uses tools which have been clinically proven to help with things like sleeplessness and hot flushes. These are tools which are not there in the gym or on the running trail or in the pilates studio, and some of which (like CBT) are not in a normal Yoga class.
But most importantly, when you look into recommendations for minding our heart, brain muscle and bone health, you’ll notice two recommendations coming up again and again:
- easing stress.
What two things are available in a (menopause informed) yoga session?
Yep! Exercise and easing stress!
I’m not saying give up running. It’s a beautiful joy for many people, great for stamina and those are things we need more of! A weights programme is a great thing too, and pilates is really effective in delivering what it intends to. In fact, varying what we do is really valuable. But there’s something we all need to understand, and then learn how to counteract:
Did you know that the way you are exercising may be increasing the very thing you are trying to reduce?
Exercise is essentially a stress: it triggers a release of cortisol. If you exercise too intensely, or for too long, you may be raising your cortisol levels in a way that is damaging the very tissues you are trying to strengthen, and contributing to weight gain. In addition, our cortisol levels tend to rise for biochemical reasons from our 40s, and life stresses often amp up too. Many women notice they don’t recover as readily after exercise, and other stressors, as they used to before perimenopause.
So what needs to change?
After stress, any mammal will rest. Except us non-stop humans! And if women in peri/menopause don’t offer their bodies the extra rest they need after a run, or even an argument, cortisol can stay more elevated than it used to.
There’s a well-researched relationship of chronic stress/high cortisol (and of a sedentary lifestyle) to:
- low mood
- weight gain
- heart and brain health
We need to keep exercising: stressing our body to promote strength, mobility, brain health, heart health and emotional health.
But now, because so many other factors are contributing to excessive levels of stress, our body needs something else: it needs to learn how to come back from stress to Rest and Restore (parasympathetic nervous system). You can learn to make these things accessible, habitual and available in minutes, at home.
Yoga offers exercise and de-stressors (like breathing, meditation and conscious rest) in each practice.
But a menopause-trained teacher of Yoga for Menopause will also help you:
- Exercise in a way that targets the changing needs of your changing body
- Increase your awareness of what’s happening in your body at this time
- Help you to find the right kind/level of exercise for you
- Encourage more mobility and less pain in your joints (unfortunately, some yoga styles may damage joints in the long term)
- Build muscular strength (thereby also reviving your metabolism, which can help with unwelcome weight gain)
- Target re-building of bone tissue (with unique ways of using the body, as well as weights/resistance bands, to maximize this)
- Release your feel-good hormones which have wide-ranging health benefits
- Learn and use tools to help with sleep and hot flushes (menopause-specific, researched tools)
- Feel supported and understood, without judgement, whether you are on HRT or not
- Give you confidence in your body again, and a sense that you CAN navigate this often stormy time with more equilibrium.
The great news is the number of such teachers worldwide is growing! I recently launched a training in Teaching Yoga for the Stages of Menopause, one of only 2 of its kind in the world. Over 70 yoga teachers from Ireland, the UK and the USA have taken part this year alone. We are here, passionate about minding and empowering you.
You can contact me if you’d like to learn more about how I can help you understand your cahnging needds, and how the meet them.