Hot flushes, bloating, cramps, irregular bleeding, tender breasts, joint aches, mood swings, sleep changes and brain fog
Hot flushes, bloating, cramps, irregular bleeding, tender breasts, joint aches, mood swings, sleep changes and brain fog. Sound familiar?
These symptoms of both PMS and perimenopause are caused by out-of-balance hormones. Instead of reaching for a pain reliever or conventional hormone replacement therapy, get out your yoga mat.
When Judy, 53, began experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, she not only felt the regular transitional symptoms, but also experienced an overall lack of contentment and fulfillment. She felt the productive stage of her life was ending and she felt betrayed by her hormones and her body.
It wasn’t until her 13-year-old granddaughter, Trina, visited that Judy noticed they suffered many of the same symptoms. She realised that just as Trina was not a victim of her changing body, neither was she. Judy made the choice not only to help herself through her transition but also to share this knowledge and wisdom with her granddaughter.
Restore hormonal balance
Yoga, unlike other forms of exercise which may strain muscles and bones, is designed to rejuvenate the body. Yoga asanas, or poses, practised during life changes can restore hormonal balance, alleviating or diminishing many symptoms caused by erratic female hormones.
Many yoga postures positively impact the endocrine glands, the female reproductive organs and the digestive tract. Poses, such as the Pump, improve blood circulation through the pelvis, promoting healthier ovarian function.
Yoga supports the body by
- increasing circulation and oxygenation of all cells and tissues
- decreasing muscle tension
- reducing stress
By reducing stress we lower cortisol levels and calm the entire nervous system, thereby strengthening the immune system.
PMS and perimenopausal emotions are triggered by hormones. Yoga’s slow, controlled stretches help to bring energy and balance, uniting body, mind and spirit. Breathing techniques, or pranayama, are important for relieving stress whether or not we’re experiencing symptoms and can be incorporated into every woman’s daily routine.
Strengthen bones and muscles
It is never too early to start the prevention of osteoporosis with yoga’s weight-bearing postures, which strengthen the bones whether we are 13 or 53.
Some female symptoms such as frequent urination and constipation are made worse by loss of muscle tone, which is often due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Yoga strengthens this and other muscles in the body by tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups.
Through regular practice yoga can help to improve not only physical and emotional states but also our self-image, something both Judy and Trina needed to boost. >
Which poses help?
Yoga and fitness instructor Tracy Pike reminds us that both menopause and menstruation are natural processes and not disorders. There are a number of poses that can help with female complaints.
These are often the most helpful. (Supported means using blocks, bolsters, blankets, cushions and even chairs to help relax into the poses.)
Pike suggests performing restful poses to ease pain and strain. Avoid vigorous and intense poses during periods of discomfort.
Inversion poses, according to ancient belief, were discouraged for women in hormonal flux because the inversion allowed blood to flow back into the fallopian tubes. We now know that does not happen, but unquestioned teachings have been passed down through the ages and are often difficult to change. Pike feels that inversions are fine as long as they are supported and make you feel comfortable.
She says there are many contradictions in yoga, but ultimately, if the pose is uncomfortable, don’t do it. It is best, she says, to find a qualified and certified instructor to help safely obtain maximum benefit.
Judy and her granddaughter have developed a healthy, strong connection through the discovery of yoga, nutrition and lifestyle changes to help with their common symptoms. They schedule time together for partner poses such as Intense Forward Stretch, Seated Half Crescent Moon and Seated Wide Angle.
They no longer feel that their bodies are betraying them or that hormonal changes are a curse, an inconvenience or something to be endured or ignored. They now embrace their life changes as a powerful beginning, not an ending.
Don’t cramp your style
To reduce the severity of menstrual cramps and perimenopausal symptoms, try the following tips:
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
- Eat a balanced diet of wholefoods with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, linseeds and sunflower seeds.
- Eat antioxidant-containing foods such as blueberries, tomatoes, squash and capsicum.
- Eat calcium-rich dark green leafy vegetables such as cavolo nero and spinach, as well as almonds and beans.
- Eat cold water fish, tofu, legumes and lean meats for protein.
- Eliminate trans fatty acids found in processed foods.
- Avoid white breads, pastas and sugar.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
- Drink soy milk—it may help reduce menstrual pain.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods—they can trigger hot flushes.
Many PMS and perimenopausal symptoms are similar. Use yoga poses to relieve
- mood swings
- breast tenderness
- excessive or irregular menstrual flow
- gas and bloating
- achy, tired legs
- memory and fuzzy thinking
- hot flushes
Many herbs and supplements relieve PMS symptoms and perimenopausal symptoms. Consult your health care practitioner for dosage and contraindication information before taking herbs and supplements.
|chaste tree or chasteberry||menstrual cramps||?|
|black cohosh||menstrual cramps||?|
|evening primrose oil||breast tenderness||?|
|dong quai||hormonal imbalance||?|
|St John’s wort||mood swings||?|
|omega-3 fatty acids||menstrual pain||?|
|vitamin E||menstrual pain||?|
Find a yoga class
Learn which poses can relieve PMS and perimenopausal symptoms by checking out your local community centre, yoga studio or continuing education offerings. Find Yoga (findyoga.com.au) can help you find yoga teachers, studios and retreats across Australia.