7-page feature in SPECTRUM for Menopause Month 2022.
To mark the start of Menopause Awareness Month, I was delighted to be invited to write a 7-page feature on Menopause Yoga for SPECTRUM - the British Wheel of Yoga's quarterly magazine for members. The BWY is the UK's largest yoga membership organisation, which is recognised as the governing body for yoga. You can download a pdf copy of the magazine article below, which also includes an article by Tarik Dervish on the Moon Pause as it is known in Indian Ayurveda.
The article features some simple yoga poses, breathing techniques and meditation practices to help cool your body and calm your mind as a way to alleviate hot flushes. Hot flushes and night sweats are common symptoms start can start in perimenopause and continue long into your post menopause. Below is some brief information about what hot flushes and night sweats are, what causes them and how to alleviate or reduce their frequency and intensity.
What are hot flushes?
In medical terms they are called vasomotor symptoms because the flush of heat is usually the result of your veins dilating, causing a surge of blood. The root cause of this 'flush' is believed to be the loss of oestrogen in perimenopause that affects the functioning of your hypothalamus gland in the brain - your central temperature gauge. It becomes hyper sensitive to small fluctuations in temperature and can swing too hot or too cold. Some women complain not of hot flushes but of cold chills.
If the flushes take place at night, they are called Night sweats and you often don't notice that you've had one until you wake with your colds drenched in sweat or if you become so hot, you have to fling off your bedding
Hormone Replacement Therapy can tackle the root cause of the hot flushes by replacing oestrogen, however, there are other lifestyle factors that may also affecting your flushes.
STRESS is the number one trigger for a hot flush. If you feel anxious, angry, or frustrated, it can cause your heart to race and this may cause a rush of blood that can trigger a hot flush. If you then become embarrassed by feeling red in the face or sweaty, this social embarrassment can make your flush more intense and last longer. learning how to reduce your stress can significantly help you manage your symptoms, as well as taking HRT.
FOODs & DRINKs: Hot and spicy foods and hot drinks can trigger hot flushes in some women, as well as hot showers, as the body attempts to cool down by sending blood to the surface of your skin. Some women experience this as a prickly sensation. Alcohol and Caffeine are also well known triggers for hot flushes because they are stimulants that also cause your heart to beat faster, causing a rush of blood. As we age, our metabolism and digestive system slows down, and it is believed that it takes longer for our kidneys and liver to process 'toxic' substances. So if you drink a cup of coffee in at lunchtime, it can take 12 hours to be processed through your body, which may be when you are asleep at night. There may also be an insulin rush in the middle of the night, depending on what you ate and at what time?
SMOKING CIGARETTE: The nicotine cigarettes is also a stimulant and can cause hot flushes for the same reasons.
EXERCISE: this is a tricky one. Women are encouraged to exercise for long term health and also for reducing stress and healthy weight management. However, over exertion with exercise that causes overheating or stress is not advisable, especially in the transition from perimenopause to menopause when you body really needs to rest to allow the hormone changes to take place in your body. After the menopause 9post menopause) is when women really do need to do more aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, balance and weight bearing exercise to build bone, muscle and heart health.
Hormone Replacement Therapy will replace the lost oestrogen and has been shown to help reduce vasomotor symptoms.
Nutrition: eating a diet that is low on salt, sugar, white carbohydrates, and high in plant-based oestrogen (phytoestrogens/Isoflavones), can help reduce there occurrence of hot flushes, as well as obviously limiting or eliminating alcohol and coffee.
Hydration: Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water at this stage of life. It will help to cool you down, and may help prevent headaches and brain fog.
Natural Remedies & Supplements: taking a Vitamins and Mineral supplement that includes vitamin B, C, D, magnesium, zinc and K can all help with general health and wellbeing during the menopause transition. Red Clover and Black Cohosh have been shown to reduce hot flushes in some women for a limited period of time, but these herbal remedies can also interfere with other medicines and it is always advisable to inform your doctor before taking them.
Ayurvedic remedies: Ashwaganda and Shatavari are two of the most commonly taken remedies for general endocrine balance. However, the quality of these preparations (derived from a mushroom fungus) will vary and it is always advisable to seek advice from a reputable herbalist.
Yoga: Hot Yoga is not advisable if you are having hot flushes, and dynamic Hatha yoga or any yoga class where you are compelled to push yourself through a sequence without rest is not in your best interests. Choose a cooling, calming yoga class such as yin yoga, a slow vinyasa flow, and restorative yoga which give you the space and time to release muscular tension, let go of tightly held emotions, and the space to rest and restore your energy. Menopause Yoga includes classes specially tailored to perimenopause, menopause and post menopause, with specific classes to help you to cool, calm, rest - and also to reenergise and strengthen when you emerge into your post menopause, which we call Second Spring.
Please Note: Yoga can significantly help some women during the menopause, but not every woman will feel its immediate benefits. Yoga cannot replace your hormones, and is best practised as part of a holistic care package.