The aging process in women tends to accelerate once they hit their 40s. During this stage their body goes through dramatic changes largely due to menopause. Menopause has become a concern for most women in this age group because of the physical, emotional, and psychosocial changes. Even when menopausal symptoms do not manifest, the transition can be overwhelming and uncomfortable. Knowing this, doctors suggest that women going through this transition try yoga. Here is everything you should know about yoga for menopause, including the best asanas.
Understanding The Link Between Menopause And Yoga
Menopause refers to the time that begins at the end of a menstrual cycles. Experts define it as beginning after the first 12 months without a menstrual period (4). Typically, women experience menopause in their 40s or 50s.
In the months or years leading up to menopause, you may experience certain signs and symptoms, which are often uncomfortable for most. These effects include sleep problems, night sweats, chills, hot flashes, weight gain, slowed metabolism, dry skin, thinning hair, irregular periods, and vaginal dryness (4).
Some of these changes, such as weight gain and a slowed metabolism, may be uncomfortable, resulting in individuals seeking help. With this in mind, most doctors recommend women going through this transition eat right and exercise more. One of the best exercises they suggest is yoga.
Yoga For Menopause
Yoga can help you manage menopausal symptoms like weight gain, pain relief, stress, depression, and sleeping problems. Additionally, it can also reduce the effects of changes associated with aging, such as muscle loss and degenerating joints (4).
Your emotional well-being can also receive a boost from the reduction of the emotional symptoms of menopause. That said, you need to understand that there are several different types of yoga exercises. Some help with weight loss, others with fighting muscle tightness, and still others with improving flexibility.
Again, these exercises have countless modifications, meaning that there are adaptations for every fitness level. Accounting for these factors can be overwhelming, which is why we are here. We want you to use yoga to relieve menopausal pain and discomfort if your doctor has given the ok.
We have compiled a list of the best yoga exercises for menopause here. We will discuss the menopausal discomfort or pain that each pose counteracts. Here are the exercises:
The lunge pose is known as Banarasana in Sanskrit. It is one of the best stretching exercises for your hip flexors and psoas muscle (3). Two of the symptoms of menopause are shortness of breath and declined lung function.
This pose helps manage these symptoms by stretching your psoas muscle, which frees up your breath and tension in the body. Below is a look at the steps on how to perform the lunge pose:
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Step your left foot in front and in between your hands so that your foot’s heel aligns with the heels of both hands.
- Position your torso in an upright position and place your hands on your hips. Double-check to see that your knee is directly above your ankle and in a stacked position.
- Relax your shoulders, look straight ahead, and hold the move for a few seconds.
- Deepen the bend in your knee until you feel the hip flexor of your right leg stretch.
- Open your chest, take deep breaths and alternate legs.
Most women gain weight in perimenopause and early postmenopause due to a drop in estrogen levels. Unfortunately, most of the weight settles in the belly and waistline. Belly fat is one of the weight issues most women face, regardless of whether they are in menopause or not.
Luckily, there are exercises you can perform to shed this unwanted fat. For menopausal women, one of the best moves in yoga for menopause belly is the boat pose. It targets your core muscles while strengthening your hip flexors and adductor muscles (3).
This also fights tightness in the hamstrings, associated with injury risk. Here are the steps to follow to perform the boat pose (3):
- Sit on the floor and stretch your legs in front of you.
- Press your hands on the floor and slightly behind your hips and lift through the top of the sternum. Be sure to lean back slightly and not arch your back. Similarly, make sure the weight of your body is felt on your sitting bones and tailbone.
- Breathe out, bend your knees, and lift your thighs off the floor to a 45-degree angle with your knees still bent.
- Slowly straighten your knees if you can and raise your toes slightly above your eye level. Keep your knees bent, and shins parallel to the floor if you cannot do this.
- Keep your chest open, spine long, shoulders back, and both arms in front and alongside your legs but parallel to the floor. Make sure your palms are facing in and that you keep your lower belly flat and firm.
- Flex your toes through your heels and take deep breaths. Hold this pose for 10 to 20 seconds and slowly increase the timeline, if you can.
- Slowly lower your legs to the starting position and repeat two to three times.
You can also perform this movement using a yoga ball. If you choose to follow this technique, then here are the steps to follow (3):
- Start in a sitting position, with a yoga ball in front of your body.
- Bring your knees close to your chest.
- Breathe in and engage your abdominal muscles.
- Lean back onto the sacrum and start lifting your arms with the ball in your hands.
- Slowly stretch your legs to a 45-degree angle with the floor.
- Pause and hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Breathe in, roll forward, lower your arms, and press your feet on the mat.
- Repeat two to three times.
The chair pose is also referred to as the Utkatasana pose in Sanskrit. It is a powerful and strengthening pose that brings all your body muscles together to work cohesively and as a whole. However, primarily it strengthens your thighs, ankles, and core.
The move also improves your balance and enhances your resilience. Here is a guide on how to perform this move (2):
- Start in a standing position with your feet slightly wider than a hip-width distance and arms by your sides.
- Breathe in and raise your arms overhead so that your biceps are slightly in front of your ears. You can keep your arms parallel and your palms facing inward or clasp. Keep your shoulders down and back straight.
- Breathe out and bend your knees, keeping your thighs parallel to the floor. It will make your trunk lean slightly forward and over your thighs to create a 90-degree angle with the tops of your thighs.
- Align your neck and head with your arms and torso and hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Return to the standing position by straightening your knees with an inhalation and repeat two to three times.
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The Cat-Cow pose, also known as Chakravakasana yoga stretch, is an essential move in menopausal women and for a good reason. It targets your spine and abdominals and involves moving your spine in a rounded position and then to an arched one.
Experts reveal that this pose massages the tissues and joints around your spine that dry out with aging (2). This exercise keeps them soft and provides comfort to achy joints during menopause. It also improves balance and is an excellent supporting pose if you feel overwhelmed. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform this pose:
- Start on your hands and feet and position your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees beneath your hips.
- Keep your back straight from the crown of your head to your tailbone. Similarly, keep your neck long by looking down and out.
The Cow Pose
You will start by performing the cow pose, and here are the steps to follow to nail this pose (2):
- Press down firmly on the mat using your hands.
- Breathe in and arch your back slowly by lowering your belly. Simultaneously, lift your chin and sternum and broaden your collarbones.
- Keep the back of your neck long and abdominal muscles slightly toned to obtain more movement in your mid and upper back.
- Hold for a few seconds before releasing the pose by maintaining a neutral spine.
The Cat Pose
You will end with the cat pose, which you will achieve using these steps (2):
- Curl your toes under and press down by firmly resting your hands on the floor.
- Breathe out and round your spine as if lifting it towards the ceiling. Make sure you drop the crown of your head and tailbone and lower your belly in and up. However, be sure to keep your core muscles hugging your spine and your navel drawn in.
- Push the floor using your hands to extend the distance across your shoulder blades.
- Position your hips over your knees and arms straight to maintain the movement in your spine.
- Release the pose by returning your spine to a neutral position.
Downward Facing Dog
The downward-facing dog pose, also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, targets your hamstrings and calves (1). It can be performed as a transitional pose or a resting stance. It is considered an excellent pose for menopausal women because it alleviates menopause symptoms.
For example, it stretches your leg muscles and upper back, fights fatigue, and strengthens your arm muscles, preventing osteoporosis risk. Similarly, it allows for blood circulation to the brain, which enhances a state of calm. Here are steps to follow to attain this pose (1):
- Start in a standing position, but then come to your hands and knees by positioning your wrists beneath your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Curl your toes under and push back through your hands to slowly lift your hips and stretch your legs.
- Spread your fingers on the floor and rotate your upper arms outward to extend your collarbones.
- Let your head hang and position your shoulder blades away from your ears towards your hips.
- Take the weight off your arms by engaging your quads, which brings you to a resting pose.
- Rotate your thighs inward, keep your tailbone high, and sink your heels towards the floor.
- Make sure that the distance between your hands and feet is the same through both poses and that you do not lift your heels off the floor during the stretch.
- Breathe out and bend your knees to release and return to your hands and knees.
- Return and perform the move at least three times.
The Child’s Pose
The Child’s pose is recommended for women going through menopause due to its soothing effects. It reduces tension by stretching your spine and hips and calms your mind when you feel overwhelmed. It also promotes better sleep, which is hard to come by for menopausal women, especially those battling hot flashes and night sweats (2). You can try it by following these steps (2):
- Start by kneeling on your mat and open your knees to the sides. Make sure that your big toes touch each other.
- Position a bolster, such as a cushion or a pillow, between your legs and gently fold forward. Rest the front part of your body on the cushion or pillow and relax your arms on the floor. Breathe deeply and generally as you turn your head to one side.
- Alternatively, you can place the pillow on your back and shoulders or over your head for a few minutes. Stay in that position for 5 to 10 minutes, during which you are required to breathe normally and turn your head to the other side halfway through the movie.
- To release the stretch, press your hands into the floor and lift your chest so that you sit upright.
Warrior II Pose
The other excellent yoga move for menopausal women is the warrior II pose. It stretches your back, hips, ankles, and legs and improves balance and stability. In addition, the pose effectively fights fatigue that is often tied with menopause by increasing blood circulation. Here is a detailed guide on how to achieve this pose (1):
- Start in a standing position and face the direction of the long side of your mat. Stretch your arms to the sides and keep your feet parallel to each other and slightly wider than your hip-width distance. Similarly, be sure to keep your feet at least beneath your hands.
- Turn your right foot and knee towards the front part of the mat.
- Position your left toes slightly toward your right foot and align your right heel with the left inner arch.
- Bend your right knee and stack it over its ankle.
- Press your left thigh bone back and release your tailbone down.
- Make sure you have kept the crown of your head over your pelvis and shoulders over your hips.
- Stretch both arms fully in front and at the back of the mat and turn and look past your right fingers.
- Stay in this position for a few breaths or minutes.
- To release the stretch, press firmly down through your feet and exhale, followed by inhalation as you straighten your legs and position the legs in the initial position, which is parallel to the left long side of the mat.
- Do the same on the other side.
How To Practice Yoga For Menopause Safely
Whether you are doing yoga in the menopause or perimenopause phase, the idea is to perform it safely and minimize injury risk. Here are expert-recommended tips to help you practice yoga safely (2):
Learn The Correct Form
It is always best to learn the correct technique of a pose, and if possible, with the help of a licensed instructor or yogi. Remember that wrong form is one of the risk factors of injuries.
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Listen To Your Body
It would be best to listen to your body and abide by its signals. If you experience pain, extreme fatigue, or discomfort, stop doing the pose. You do not have to complete all the reps or sets for the routine. Instead of such an approach, focus on quality over quantity.
Unfortunately, most people forget to warm up before performing a yoga regime. A warm-up session is vital as it prepares your body for the upcoming routine by fighting muscle stiffness. With this in mind, try to perform gentle warm-up exercises such as shoulder rolls or neck stretches.
It would be best if you seek support when you need it. For example, if a move requires you to use a chair for extra stability, please use it. It makes the stretch more manageable to achieve and takes away tension and strain from your body.
With time, you are urged to challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of several exercises. Once your instructor or yogi agrees, you can accomplish this by increasing either the reps or sets of the activities. However, remember that the idea is to challenge yourself without strain.
Yoga is one of the most fun activities to perform. Let loose and enjoy the moment. Experts reveal that you can increase the fun meter when doing yoga by not seeing it as a punishment or competition. Instead, let loose and view it as a fun activity.
Similarly, listen to some music if possible. There is a saying that music is the cure to the soul, and true to its word, music does have calming effects. These help you forget fatigue and keep you relaxed through your regime.
Don’t Skip The Basics
It would be best to start with the beginner modifications – before progressing to those of advanced and intermediate levels. The approach minimizes injury risk.
Other Lifestyle Tips On Dealing With Menopause
- Performing relaxation and deep breathing exercises for stress relief, such as belly breathing.
- Limiting or quitting smoking and secondhand smoke.
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol entirely.
- Consuming a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Creating and sustaining good sleeping habits allows you to get plenty and quality rest.
- Performing kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Talk things out with your family or friends, especially those who have experienced or are experiencing menopause.
- Taking up a new hobby, doing volunteer work, or joining a club that keeps you busy and on your toes.
- Exploring new ways of sparking flames in your sexual relationship with your partner.
Yoga For Menopause: The Bottom Line
Yoga can be used to manage menopausal symptoms, including pain, stress, and fatigue. You can also perform some yoga poses to fight the belly fat that forms in menopause. Some of the recommended yoga asanas for menopause are the chair pose, cat and cow, warrior II, boat, lunge, and downward-facing dog.
It would be best to seek the guidance of a yogi or instructor to learn the correct technique and minimize injury risk. Similarly, listen to your body and start with the basics. These expert-approved tricks should make this transition more manageable.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A 31-day yoga routine to help you reduce stress (2019, nbcnews.com)
- Beat Stress With Yoga (2021, webmd.com)
- How does yoga affect the body, and how can someone start practicing yoga? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Menopause (2022, mayoclinic.org)