Petra Coveney is the Founder of Menopause Yoga™, a member of the British Menopause Society and a senior teacher and trainer for the British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance Professionals.
Q: How Can Yoga Help You Manage Your Menopause? Let’s be clear, yoga can not increase the production of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone that decline in the menopause. Only Hormone replacement Therapy can actually replace those hormones. A yoga teacher who claims to do this needs to provide you with independently verified evidenced-based research. There is however, ample research evidence* of yoga helping women to ‘manage' many of the common physical and psychological symptoms that 90% of women in the UK experience during the transition from perimenopause to menopause.** Symptom management means finding methods that you can use effectively to reduce the sensation of many symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, sluggish digestion, lethargy and low mood. Being able to manage your symptoms can feel empowering and take away the fear factor of feeling out of control, as well as leading to the long-term health benefits listed below. In post menopause, women may start to notice long-term physical and mental health symptoms related to low oestrogen and testosterone that can lead to osteopenia (weakening bone density) and osteoporosis (brittle bones), sarcopenia (muscles loss), cardio vascular disease and low mood (anhedonia) or depression. There is some emerging research linking low oestrogen to dementia in women, although this is not conclusive.***
When should you start yoga for menopause? As women are now living longer, we want to thrive not just survive in our older age. And starting earlier in your 30’s and 40’s means that you are getting a head start that will make your menopause smoother and may potentially reduce symptoms. Yoga can help boost bone density****, retain muscle mass, flexibility, general mobility and balance which we need to avoid potentially dangerous falls and bone fractures that can be fatal. Yoga meditation and breathing techniques can also help reduce stress and anxiety and long-term insomnia which all affect your bones, brain and heart health. However, the greatest benefits of yoga will be experienced if you include a daily practice as part of a holistic approach to health and wellbeing that includes nutrition, lifestyle and medical advice from your doctor and other health professionals. What style of yoga is most beneficial? There are so many different styles of yoga and one size does not fit all. When using yoga therapeutically in the menopause, it is important to be clear what you want the outcomes to be. If you want to cool hot flushes then hot yoga is not the best option; a dynamic yoga practice may not suit a woman who is experiencing anxiety, panic attacks or fatigue, and a restorative yoga practice will not directly build bone density or muscle mass. Menopause Yoga The benefit of attending Menopause Yoga classes with a professionally trained and accredited teacher is that they offer different styles of classes for different symptoms and stages of perimenopause to post menopause. Each class has been carefully tailored to meet women’s needs and help to alleviate the sensations of symptoms such as hot flushes, menorage, anxiety, insomnia, brain fog and overwhelm, low mood and lethargy and practices that boost bones, brain and heart health.
Menopause Yoga takes the western medical definition of the menopause and reframes it positively as her Second Spring Awakening - a concept drawn from traditional Chinese medicine.
In addition, you will be be practising in a room with other menopausal women of all ages and the women’s circle discussions at the start of each class are designed to create safe and supportive spaces for you to socialise and normalise your experiences. In my experience of teaching menopausal women for more than a decade, feeling connected to others and breaking the taboo by talking about the menopause makes us feel less lost and alone. Educate, Empower, Embrace Menopause Yoga teachers are trained to share factual information about the menopause with the aim to Educate, Empower women so that they can Embrace their menopause as a positive opportunity for self care and better health and wellbeing.
MY practices use breath initiated movement and meditation to encourages interception, the mind body connection that enables us to sense into our body, which can helps us to listen to what we need on any given day.
In this way, Menopause Yoga can support women on their own personal, menopause journey, deepening and enriching a woman’s self knowledge and spiritual growth. I designed the classes, language and content to be applicable and accessible to most women (although you may need modifications and one-to-one teacher support if you have physical injuries or conditions that restrict mobility). Women are given a toolkit of techniques that are suitable to practice at home and some of the breathing and meditation techniques can be used out shopping, at work or whenever symptoms arise.
I really hope you enjoy my specialist classes and workshops. And if you want to ;learn in person, there are classes in Brighton with me, workshops, CPD courses and teacher training in London - and a Directory of Menopause Yoga teachers across the UK, and the rest of there world.
*At 12 weeks, yoga practitioners showed statistically lower scores for menopausal symptoms, stress levels and depression symptoms, as well as significantly higher scores in quality of life….These results suggest that yoga promotes positive psychophysiological changes in post-menopausal women and may be applied as a complementary therapy. (Elsevier: Science Direct: ) **The Menopause Charity. ***Dr Lisa Mosconi ’The XX Brain.’ **** Dr Loren Fishman M.D