Yoga for Hormonal Balance
Balancing the Benefits of Yoga
"If you practice yoga before menopause, then all the poses that are especially useful for coping with the uncomfortable symptoms are already familiar and you can reach for them to ease you through the transition," said James Kigar, yoga instructor for over 15 years and owner of Boca Raton-based Yoga South.
Kigar offers the following recommendations for taming the most common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
Hot flashes. Characterized by a sudden rise in core body temperature coupled with a rapid pulse rate, these "power surges" produce a blushing that begins in the face and spreads down the neck and arms. Kigar suggests incorporating cooling and restorative poses. Tension in the body can make hot flashes worse, so use props such as bolsters, blankets, and blocks to help support the whole body. Placing the head on a bolster or chair during forward bends, for example, helps calm the brain and relax the nerves. Supported reclining poses can also help promote complete relaxation. Ardha Halasana (Half Plow Pose) with the legs resting on a chair calms jittery nerves.
Anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Progesterone plummets as the adrenal glands are exhausted and overtaxed, and stress abounds. The body reacts with a combination of symptoms that may include bouts of anxiety, depression or insomnia. Kigar says forward bends, such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide- Legged Standing Forward Bend)?with the head resting on a bolster or blankets? can help reduce irritability and mental tension because bending forward and shutting out external distractions and stimuli can soothe the mind and reduce the effects of stress. For insomnia, inversions can sometimes help ground the body's energy and burn off excess anxiety. Follow with fatigue postures listed below.
Fatigue. Of all the symptoms women complain about during perimenopause, fatigue is second only to hot fl ashes. Plunging progesterone or depleted adrenal glands could be part of the problem. Either way, Kigar suggests gentle supported backbends because they encourage the chest and the heart to open and often bring renewed energy, determination, and joy. One of his favorites for this is Supta Baddha Konasana (lying down and reclining on your back. It also opens the chest, improves respiration and circulation, and helps lift the spirits while completely supporting the body.
Depression and mood swings. For many women, menopause is a time to mourn the end of their youth. Long periods of fatigue, coupled with a melancholy attitude, can trigger bouts of depression. Estrogen dominance caused by a drastic drop in progesterone can also contribute to everything from panic attacks to severe clinical depression. "A shift in posture can lighten a dark mood and specifi c poses create a mental state that positively affects the mind," says Kigar. "Backbends, especially if supported, allow a sense of lightness into the body. They stimulate the adrenals and massage them into action. Also, the heart and lungs open and take in more oxygen." Chestexpanding poses energize the body by improving respiration and circulation, and thus counter feelings of depression. Inversions, such as Sarvangasana, turn everything upside down and can help improve a depressed mood and influence your emotional being in a positive way.
Memory. During menopause, some women suddenly lose their train of thought or fi nd themselves unable to organize their thoughts. Many fi nd that yoga helps clear the cobwebs. The same postures that counter depression, such as backbends, chest openers, and inversions, can help collect fragmented thoughts, says Kigar. In addition, Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) sends blood to the brain and encourages deep, focused breathing, which can improve mental alertness. In addition, Savasana (Corpse Pose) soothes the nerves, calms the mind, and puts the body into a state of repose. These asanas, or poses, can be a tremendous aid when your body feels out of control on the journey through menopause?and beyond.