Get on your mat! Yoga to ease the symptoms of menopause

I came across this article about the benefits of yoga for peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women.  I just had to share!
The study was done by researchers in Germany,  and examined groups of women in the USA, India, Brazil, China, South Korea and Germany.  What is really interesting about the breadth of the study groups is that the women would have had vastly different lifestyle and diet habits.  So, the observed positive effect must come from something outside of existing diet and lifestyle.  In this case, the researchers conclude that yoga helps specifically with night sweats and hot flashes.
I worked for twelve years in rehabilitation of women who have had breast cancer.  As you may know, many breast cancers are sensitive to oestrogen, so one of the therapeutic strategies is to provoke a chemical menopause.  This may sound harsh, and it is, for the ladies.  Later, the woman may take a hormone disruptor (aromatase inhibitor or similar) like Tamoxifen for a period of five to ten years.  So, I have seen my share of ladies going through the menopause, believe me. The hot flashes and night sweats are very disruptive.
I myself have been crossing this particular juncture in the past two years and the night sweats thing comes and goes.  But, as a practising yogi, I will say that my transition has been smooth, and I am not overly bothered by the symptoms.  If anything, I feel lighter in my body and more stable in my mind.  I did not expect to have a relatively early menopause (I am only 45), but I did expect that my symptoms should be bearable.  And in fact, yes, they are.
It is worth noting that the positive effect of yoga might also lie in the way the women perceive the symptoms.  It is now known that the intensity of pain or physical discomfort is partly an issue of perception.  “A study from the University of Colorado at Boulder released on Jan. 12, 2015, reports that the ability to use your thoughts to modulate perceptions of pain utilizes a completely separate brain pathway than the pathway used to send the physical pain signal to your brain. This discovery is a breakthrough”
So, let’s just sum up, shall we?  Yoga seems to be effective at easing symptoms of menopause, even adjusting for diet and lifestyle difference.  Yoga is a safe and practical solution.  Viniyoga, which adapts the practice to the individual, not the individual to the practice, is a style that can help women who might have co-pathologies like osteoporosis/osteopenia, overweight/obesity, arthritis, and so on.
Have I convinced you yet?  Don’t worry, I will keep trying if not.  Why?  Because I care about your health, even if I don’t know you (yet).
Love, Rachel

A few links about yoga and breast cancer

I am out of town, so will just offer a brief Sunday update of a few links:

Poses for Breast Cancer Survivors
Happy reading!


Earlier, I published a description of the yoga pose dvipada-pitâm.  Here are the photos to accompany that post.  Please refer to the description.  Please note:  keep the chin tucked in, make sure hands and feet are firmly on the floor.  Don’t pull the feet in towards the buttocks with your hands.  Let the natural flexibility of your leg joints determine the distance between bum and heel.

(breathe out) dvipada-pitâm

(breathe in) dvipada-pitâm

Apanasana: A powerfully simple pose

Apanasana is a basic yoga pose that is very easy to learn and grants rapid, noticeable benefits.
Use a yoga mat or folded boiled-wool blanket to cushion your back.  Lying on the back on the floor, legs are bent, feet flat on the floor, parallel and hip-width apart, heels near the buttocks.  Extend the neck and lower the chin to make a double-chin.  Maintain this neck gesture throughout.
Breathe in.  Breathing out, lift the feet off the floor, bringing the knees to the chest.  Place the palms of the hands on the knees. Breathe in.  Breathing out, pull the knees gently in towards the chest.  Breathing in, move the knees back and away from the chest.  Breathe out and rock the knees back in.  Breathe in and rock them away. Repeat.  Take note:  the movement is small.  Don’t straighten the legs on the inhale.   The elbows flex and extend, but the knees mostly don’t.
Repeat this movement for 6-8 breaths, three times per day and you will almost certainly reduce lower back pain (LBP).
LBP is one of the main reasons people visit the Doctor’s office.  Although in some cases surgery might be the only option, for most people a good program of chiropractic care and yoga would keep them pain-free and mobile.
Most of us know that weak abdominal muscles contribute significantly to lower back pain. The internal organs protrude behind the weak muscles, hanging forward and rocking the pelvis forward with them.  With the pelvis tipped forward this way, the hip flexors shorten and pull on their opposing muscles, the piriformis and gluteals.  Muscle tensions accumulate over the years and the tissue becomes rigid and inflamed.
It is important to have your spine checked by a chiropractor or osteopath.  Ask friends for recommendations – it is always the best way to choose a therapist.  But, always trust your instinct about whose hands you place yourself in.
Hatha yoga is a very good ally in the struggle against LBP.  Stretching, freeing, loosening and unbinding muscles, ligaments and tendons, yoga gently eases the aches and pains, realigning our bodies and calming our minds.  The anatomy of this posture is a full spinal and gluteal stretch, a contraction of the abdomen and compression of the abdominal cavity.
In the subtle anatomy of yoga, there is a dominant downward running energy and a dominant upward rising energy.  Apana is the downward facing energy.  It runs from the navel down to the tips of the toes.  It governs elimination, reproduction and the rooting, terrestrial facets of life.  Apanasana derives its names from the energy apana.  It is the posture (asana) that actuates directly on the downward energy current (apana).  Combining this gentle movement with the precise breathing technique of lengthening and counting the breath changes the direction of the flow of apana, sending it upwards.
When it flows upwards, apana nourishes our nervous system, giving us vitality, vigour and zest for life.
Observe carefully any limitations you might have including herniated disks or difficulty rising from the floor. If this is the case, you may wish to try practising on your bed.  Do not undertake any physical activity without consulting a professional first.  But also, don’t worry. This is a very safe pose, reclining, head neutral, feet raised.
Practice 6-8 breaths in apanasana three times per day, for one month.  If you wish you keep a diary of your experiment, you may find it informative. I welcome any feedback on your practice.  Keep it up!