by Marion ThornleY

Yoga to boost the brain
A few of my yoga students have recently asked me for advice on the subject of menopausal symptoms.

These symptoms can begin years before menstruation ends and can last for some time afterwards.

As with all transitions in the stage of life, menopause is governed by hormonal changes. These changes affect women physically and psychologically, with common symptoms being insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, depression, hot flashes and reduced libido.

About 20% of women will suffer severe symptoms, and it is estimated that about 55-60% of women will experience some discomfort and disruption to their lives as a result of menopausal changes.

But we must remember, the menopause is not a disease, it is a natural state, that we as women can learn to incorporate into our lives rather than fighting it with drugs.

Having an established yoga practice before menopause begins can bestow a great advantage in dealing with these symptoms. For example, insomnia can be tackled using some simple breathing practices, in which one works to elongate the exhalation.

Stress, arising from worry about what is happening to the body, or stresses from work or family, can exacerbate the symptoms. The very common symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats are the result of an inexplicable rise in core body temperature and speeded up pulse.

With the caveat that yoga practices should be administered by a qualified person on an individual basis, we can say that this overheating of the body can be counteracted by cooling yoga poses.

Positions that involve a forward bend, coupled with conscious, long exhalation, will act to cool the body and mind.

Using static poses, especially when combined with supporting props, such as pillows or cushions, will help a tired body and mind to relax, easing tensions and helping to calm these particular menopausal symptoms.

Of course, yoga positions and breath work are only a fraction of what yoga can offer us.

Dietary advice during the menopause might include limiting the consumption of alcohol, and recommending a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I myself have found that by cutting out alcohol, my hot flushes have completely disappeared, and this has also had the happy result (for me) of some weight loss.

Chanting and meditation can also play a vital part for the menopausal woman in stabilising the mind and emotions, which can tend to fluctuate wildly at this time, as the body reacts to lower levels of oestrogen or spikes of progesterone.

Psychologically, the menopause can be a time of sadness for the end of a woman’s childbearing years, the end of youth, and worry about the years to come. In stabilising both body and mind, yoga can help bring about an acceptance of a new stage of life.

Seeing this new stage as a fresh start and an opportunity to experience new things, can be liberating, if we allow it to be.

Marian teaches yoga and chanting in the tradition of Desikachar in both England and France. Yoga classes are free of charge and any donations made are given to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. For more information contact Marian on 


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