This month we speak to Petra Coveney, founder of Menopause Yoga™ – the world’s first yoga program designed to help women to manage their symptoms as part of a holistic package of selfcare. She is also the author of a new book ‘Menopause Yoga – A Holistic Guide To Supporting Women On Their Menopause Journey’ and runs public workshops, and training courses for yoga teachers worldwide. Here, Petra explains how a regular yoga practice can help ease your symptoms, support your long-term health – and can feel empowering.
Your menopause may feel like a list of symptoms, but we can also view it as an opportunity for better self-care and longer-term health and happiness. In this sense, it’s a kind of wake-up call to prioritise our health and wellbeing. What we bring into the menopause becomes amplified. So, if you are leading a stressful, over busy life, which is negatively affecting what you eat, your sleep, and whether you exercise, then this may show up in more frequent hot flushes, irritability, broken sleep, anxiety, difficulty focussing on work, which can affect your relationships and general wellbeing. Learning how to support ourselves holistically is the key to managing it, because a combination of nutrition, vitamin supplements, natural remedies and exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms – and make us feel fitter. Yoga is an important part of that holistic care – but how does it help?
In Menopause Yoga, I offer specific yoga poses (yin, restorative, vinyasa flow and dynamic Hatha), breathing techniques and mindful meditation practices that can help cool your body (hot flushes), soothe irritability (menorage), calm anxiety (panic attacks), restore lost energy (fatigue), improve sleep (insomnia), build bone and muscle strength (to prevent osteoporosis and sarcopenia), lift a low mood and lethargy (boost heart health). What type you need changes depending on your symptoms and the stage of your menopause.
Your perimenopause usually comes between 40-50 when a confluence of life circumstances can tip us over the edge of stress. You may be juggling multiple responsibilities at home and work as well as emotional challenges such as caring for elderly parents or experiencing bereavement. The hormone fluctuations cause symptoms that are in themselves stressful. Stress exacerbates most of the common symptoms and can even causes your bones to weaken and heart health. So, it’s a vicious circle. You need to get off the cycle of stress. Practicing hip stretches yin yoga and restorative poses designed for releasing heat and letting go of stress is incredibly cooling and calming.
In your menopause, the 12 months without a menstrual cycle, your body is adjusting to lower oestrogen levels which can cause extreme fatigue unless you take time to rest. This is where gentle flowing yoga and somatic movement with inverted poses (forward folds and raising your legs up a wall) can feel meditative, and mind calming. Somatic movement helps to alleviate joint and muscle pain. We also have some simple mindfulness practices that can be instantly effective.
In your post menopause, depending on whether you took care of yourself earlier in your menopause or not, you may feel lethargic, and stuck in a low mood, sluggish digestion and with little energy. This is where we need to reenergise your metabolism, put some zest back in your body and build your bones, muscles and heart health. At this stage, women want to feel strong and empowered. In traditional Chinese medicine, this stage is called Second Spring – a time when a woman’s body finally becomes her own, where she psychologically and spiritually steps in ‘Wholeness.’ In Menopause Yoga we work with this beautiful concept of Second Spring so that our menopause isn’t the end, it’s an awakening.
It starts now – by looking after your health.