Author Carole Baker | BSc BWY Dip | Yoga Teacher ~ Wellness Advisor
A blog looking at the joys of Menopause and what women can do to ride the journey a little more smoothly.
Menopause is the process in a woman’s body in which the ovaries stop processing the hormone oestrogen. It is officially the day after the final menstrual flow, looking back from 12 months on and marks the end of reproductive life!
In the UK the average age is 52. But who is average?
The period up to this is called Peri Menopause as the body then reacts to the loss of oestrogen through several varying symptoms and it can last up to 10 years!
My partner often remarks: “You’re not STILL going through it, are you?!
These symptoms can be broken down into two main categories, Mental and Physical.
Mental symptoms include:
- Loss of memory or concentration – those menopausal moments!
- Increased stress and anxiety, depression or a low mood
- Change in Libido
- Poor coping/More emotional over the silliest of things
- Physical symptoms include:
- Irregular bleeding
- Bone density changes
- Hormonal imbalances
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Vaginal lining changes
- Weight gain
- Weak bladder
- Heart Palpitations
- Connective tissue changes (skin, hair, joint aches)
- Fibrocystic breast lumps and pain
Often these symptoms start when Oestrogen levels drop, especially when things like mucous membranes lose their elasticity. Some women have very mild symptoms for only a few weeks or months; in others, they may be severe and/or last for considerably longer!
Psychological symptoms may be exacerbated by life changes happening at around the same time: children growing up/leaving home, job changes, retirement, redundancy and long-term relationship stress or marriage breakdown. We also are living longer in Menopause: In 1850 life expectancy was 45 and menopause happened around 45. Nowadays it’s 82 and 51 so we have a third of our life to enjoy being post-menopausal!
It is suggested that in our modern plastic, contraceptive pill and intensive farming world, there are more Oestrogen mimicking compounds in our water, food, and environment and this may be one reason why our generation seems to be suffering many more symptoms than our mothers and grandmothers did.
One of the first things you can do is drink well-filtered water! (Reverse Osmosis filters are best)
There are several body systems we need to optimise for a healthy menopause:
- Sex hormone balance
- Antioxidant status
- Thyroid function
- Adrenal gland function
- Blood sugar regulation
- Optimal digestion and absorption
These systems control all the following functions – Temperature control (Hypothalamus); good mood; pain-free; glowing skin; sound sleep; strong muscles; bones & collagenous structures; healthy sex drive; managing stress well and optimum weight; low risk of age-related chronic disease; good sleep; pain-free joints; tendons and ligaments; comfortable digestion; steady good energy levels; normal blood fats; cholesterol; poor digestion/liver function causes reabsorption of deconjugated oestrogens.
Lifestyle and Attitude Change
It is likely that our expectations of menopause, our attitudes towards our own ageing bodies, our levels of self-esteem and body awareness, together with the degree of contentment with life before menopause, can very much influence the degree to which we experience negative symptoms. Japanese and ancient Celtic cultures have/had very different views.
Menopause is likely to be easier if a woman has a high level of self-awareness and is in tune with her body’s needs. We need to love ourselves and love our bodies, even though they are changing without our consent! Perhaps we need to give consent for this change to happen and try not to fight it (very hard I know!) Many of us have spent our lives raising children and giving much to others and are not very good at receiving or giving self-care. Self-care can take on many forms and is about spending time on us. Is this now the time to try homemade wellness and beauty products, candles, and a bit of “me time“ every day, maybe enjoy occasional treats such as massage and explore the range of complementary therapies available and the benefits they offer.
Perhaps now is also a good time to explore new hobbies, and spiritual paths and attend workshops and talks. There is evidence that people with a rich spiritual and active life tend to age more happily and live longer. (See THE BLUE ZONES PROJECT).
Building self-esteem and enjoying life will help to promote a positive approach to ageing, seeing ourselves as the mature rose hip of mother nature. In the West, there is an emphasis on youth culture and therefore, sometimes the focus of menopause is on loss – of sexuality, vitality, children leaving home etc.
We can learn much from other societies where later life is seen as a time of wisdom, maturity, and valuable experience. Post-menopause can be a wonderful time to explore new freedom, develop as an individual, tear down old boundaries, redefine our roles and goals, and celebrate new achievements. Konenki is a Japanese word corresponding to, but not identical to, ‘menopause’ (Lock, 1993). Konenki is not viewed exclusively as a loss of menses. It is regarded as the turn of life, a natural stage & part of growing old, not generally associated with just symptoms. Perhaps our culture needs to recognise that this is a time of transition where self-care is non-negotiable, just like the Japanese do!
In Celtic cultures, a young woman was seen as the young bud of the rose, the mother the rose in full bloom and the elder woman the rose hip or seed which stores all the energy and knowledge and potential for the future of the plant. (Northrup, 1998).
In some native cultures, menopausal women were felt to retain their ‘wise blood’ rather than shed it cyclically and that made them respected as the “wise women” for the younger generations to turn to for advice.
Yoga has been shown to benefit those transitioning through menopause – studies have indicated it can help with hot flushes and night sweats and reduce stress and anxiety. In my view, it helps you develop an innate wisdom about your body and teaches you to observe the changes of this powerful transition, helping us understand that the symptoms we experience are never permanent and it’s how we approach the symptoms mentally that makes a big difference!
A short daily practice of key poses to open up the pelvic area, stimulate the circulation and lymphatic system, calm the adrenals and regulate the thyroid gland together with some breathing and relaxation exercises is ideal. A regular class practice under the guidance of a suitably qualified and experienced teacher would supplement this.
Other exercises such as 30 minutes per day of brisk walking, swimming, or dancing can be a wonderful anti-depressant encouraging the brain to release endorphins (‘feel-good’ hormones).
Here at The Self Centre, we have a brand-new Autumn Timetable of Yoga classes and those that would be specifically beneficial to Menopausal women are:
Yoga for The Beginner – Tuesday 19:30-21:00
Slow Flow Core to Yin Restorative – Wednesday 18:00-19:15
Yin Yoga Prepare for Sleep – Wednesday 19:30-20:45
Yin Yoga – Thursdays 17:00-18:00
Yoga to Assist the Menopause – Thursdays 19:30-20:45
We are also launching our Marvellous Autumn Masterclasses and Winter Wellness Workshops in the next couple of weeks with a whole range of subjects, including menopause, sleep solutions, stress & anxiety, breathwork and more.
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