Women officially enter menopause when a full year has passed since their last period.1
But perimenopause, or the time leading up to menopause, is equally significant in women’s lives. In fact, it’s crucial to a comfortable transition into menopause.1
Perimenopause is also a good time to start practicing yoga. Many women over 50 enjoy the relief yoga brings to several of their menopausal symptoms.2
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Women today spend a third of their lives in the time period after menopause.3 As such, researchers are spending more time than ever exploring remedies to common symptoms of this condition.3
The symptoms of menopause may be physically and emotionally destabilizing. They typically include:3,4
- Aches and pains
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sexual issues
- Weight gain
The symptoms of menopause may vary in duration and severity.3 They are generally linked to declining levels of estrogen, and other hormones, that signal the onset of perimenopause and menopause.3
A popular strategy for treating these symptoms is often hormone replacement therapy (HRT).3 However, HRT has been linked to an increased risk for certain health conditions.3
Given the potential side effects of HRT, healthcare practitioners have begun searching for alternative ways to help better support the transition through menopause.3 The latest nonhormonal recommendations include the following:3
- Lifestyle changes
- A healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Therapeutic activities including massage and yoga
This article will focus specifically on yoga, including describing ways it can alleviate certain menopausal symptoms.
How can yoga provide relief during menopause?
While there’s no cure-all for each and every symptom of menopause, research has shown practicing yoga consistently may provide ample relief for several symptoms.2,3
Here are seven reasons to practice yoga during perimenopause and menopause:2,3,5
1. Unlike HRT, it’s a natural remedy.
A consistently regular yoga practice will help quiet the mind and body and may help reduce the discomfort commonly associated with perimenopause and menopause.2,3
Rather than relying on a hormonal approach to menopausal management, yoga is a natural, comprehensive remedy.
2. Yoga relieves stress.
A key component of yoga is pranayama, or the Sanskrit word for “controlled breathing.” This breathwork may help lessen anxiety, quiet the mind, and help women achieve a calm mental state during yoga and outside its practice. Pranayama can even improve sleep quality.6
Similarly, yoga can also help women better manage and support overall mood.6 Savasana, or corpse pose, is a great way to reduce long-term stress and focus on the present moment.6
3. A consistent practice may reduce blood pressure.
Some research shows blood pressure may increase after menopause due in great part to the hormonal changes that take place in the body.2 Fortunately, yoga is a traditionally utilized antidote. A consistent practice may help promote better oxygenation and blood circulation throughout the body.2
4. Yoga promotes good joint health.
Research shows a frequent, and consistent, yoga practice may help relieve joint pain.2,3 Not all menopausal women have arthritis, but the condition does increase with age.2 As such, yoga will help to improve the way menopausal women live and work by strengthening joints and increasing flexibility.2,3
Yoga can also target other common symptoms of perimenopause such as fatigue, making women who consistently practice it feel more energized as a result.2,3
5. Yoga may help lead to fewer hot flashes.
Some say hot flashes are linked to an excess of pitta (or “fire”) in the body that must be released.2 Yoga is considered an effective way to release that fire, or energy—and slow, rhythmic, weight-bearing movements may help.2
Variations on the lotus pose are well-suited to combating hot flashes that many perimenopausal and menopausal women report.2 Asanas, or postures, including Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, or Seated Half-Bound Lotus Pose, and Supta Padmasana, or Reclined Lotus Pose, are specifically recommended.2
6. Yogis may experience relief from physical pain and discomfort.
Those who practice yoga regularly have been shown to develop an increased tolerance for pain over time.2,3 The specific aches and pains linked to menopause—think neck and back pain, as well as joint pain and overall chronic pain—may benefit from utilizing a natural option such as the regular and consistent practice of yoga.2,3
To kick off your yoga practice, consider completing 5 to 10 rounds of Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations. Here are the steps involved in the series:
Sun Salutation series
- Start by standing. Then inhale while lifting your arms overhead.
- Exhale and swan-dive into a forward bend.
- Jump or walk your feet back into a plank position. Hold this position for five breaths.
- Gently drop your knees down and lower your body to the mat.
- Extend your legs, place the tops of your feet to the mat, and position your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
- Inhale to lift the arms partway (or all the way) into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, or Upward-Facing Dog.
- Exhale to drop back down before pushing up into Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward-Facing Dog. Hold this position for five breaths.
- Exhale as you jump or walk your feet to the top of the mat. Come to a standing posture in a forward bend.
- Inhale and lift your arms overhead, and while exhaling, lower them back down to the sides of your body.
- Repeat the series as desired.
If you are new to yoga, a beginner’s flow class (or a short video) can help you get acquainted with the Sun Salutation series. The above steps will be muscle memory in no time.
7. Yoga is linked to better weight management.
The hormonal changes associated with menopause may also lead to weight gain.5 Yoga, however, is a great way to counter this. Aim to practice at least three times a week, for an hour each time, to help support weight management.5
To maximize results across the board, yoga can be paired with other nonhormonal therapies.2 Aromatherapy has been reported to support detoxification, for instance, while meditation is commonly known to improve mental focus and clarity.2,3
What type of yoga should you do during menopause?
If you aren’t sure which form of yoga will best target your menopausal symptoms, talk to your instructor. Click here for more information on the different types of yoga.
Be sure to discuss adding yoga, or any other type of exercise, with your healthcare practitioner before starting it.