Menopause is the time of life when a woman stops ovulating. Although the age at which it occurs varies greatly, it commonly occurs around age 50. Yet menopause means much more to women than this simple biological definition. The thought of menopause is daunting to many, and it's no wonder! Our culture puts so much emphasis on youth and beauty, especially for women, that aging is difficult enough.
Because women are finally beginning to share their experiences of menopause, and more information is available, this transition from fertility to the next stage of life is easier to prepare for. Far from being the end of life, menopause signals a period of life during which spiritual growth can soar. Women who have passed through menopause often feel stronger, more in charge of their lives, and more intimately acquainted with their souls than ever before. Age brings wisdom, and once a woman is no longer a childbearer, her body can focus on its own journey. Increasing numbers of strong, vibrant, amazing older women have become important figures in our culture. Look to these women as examples for your own life. This next stage of your journey may be the most thrilling yet. It's certainly full of possibilities.
But first, you have to get through the menopause, and that isn't always pleasant. A hot flash is still a hot flash (you could call it a recharge!), whether or not it signals an exhilarating life transition. Menopause comes with lots of other physical complaints beyond the often-cited hot flashes. Dizziness, depression, heart palpitations, decreased sex drive, and shortness of breath are all symptoms of decreased estrogen levels.
Yoga balances the endocrine system and can ease the difficult transition by stabilizing hormone levels. Inverted postures are particularly helpful for hot flashes, because they cool the body and fill it with prana. Pranayama, too, is cooling to the body.
As you work through menopause, incorporate these postures into your yoga routine:
> The headstand and other inversions, like the shoulderstand and plough (all in Chapter 15). If you've never mastered the headstand, now's the time to try. The headstand may reduce your hot flashes. All the inversions will make you feel more vital, too, because they replenish and rejuvenate your body.
When we hear the word menopause, most of us think of hot flashes, but you can experience a range of other physical symptoms. Considering menopause can last for five years, you'll probably want to do everything you can to minimize the unpleasantness.
> Downward facing dog and other forward-bending postures, such as standing head to knees and yoga mudra (all in Chapter 18). These forward-bending poses help you focus inwardly, an important process right now. Instead of shunning your body or feeling that it has betrayed you, embrace it, get to know it all over again, and let it work for you, leading you to a higher spiritual plane.
> Sun salutation (Chapter 16). Celebrate how your body has moved beyond moonlike cycles and catapulted like a rocket on toward the sun. Make the sun your newest ally. If you're up to it, start rising at dawn to practice yoga. Notice how, although the earth moves and turns and changes, the sun burns steadily and luminously in the center of our solar system. Meditate on how your body has become sunlike and strong, glowing with newfound steadiness and bliss.
> Any weight-bearing postures and activities. A drop in your estrogen level can cause you to lose bone mass, but you can easily counter this by exercising your bones. Postures that put stress on your bones, such as inversions, standing postures, and downward facing dog, all increase bone mass. Light weight lifting is great for your bones, and so is walking. Take a walk in the fresh air every day to keep your bones strong, your lungs full, and your heart light.
> Place a folded blanket or pillows about nine inches high against a wall. Support your lower and midback on the blanket, stretch your legs up the wall, and let your shoulder blades and head rest on the floor. Rest in this pose for 10 minutes with your eyes closed; focus on your breathing. This pose is cooling and therapeutic for any pelvic or abdominal problems.
> Start regular meditation. You're in an excellent time of life to begin meditation. You have a better sense of yourself than ever before. Take advantage of your wisdom and experience, and reap the benefits of meditation.
Most important, know that your life is far from over. You're a strong, vibrant woman with much to offer the world. Cultivate your soul like a garden and find your place in the universe.
The Least You Need to Know
^ Beauty has nothing to do with your physical appearance. If you care for your body and radiate inner bliss, you'll be beautiful.
^ Yoga can help reduce symptoms of PMS and menstruation.
^ Yoga can be tailored to accommodate pregnancy and new motherhood.
^ Yoga can ease the transition of menopause.
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