Yoga stretches can benefit both the body and the mind, bringing energy and balance. This is particularly helpful to women who are currently in menopause or in menopause transition because their hormonal levels and body chemistry may be fluctuating rapidly. This can leave women feeling out of balance and truly victims of their changing bodies. Yoga exercises level out this physiological instability by relaxing and gently stretching every muscle in the body, promoting better blood circulation and oxygenation to all cells and tissues. This helps optimize the function of the endocrine glands and the organs of the female reproductive tract. Yoga exercises also improve the health and well-being of the digestive tract, nervous system, and all other organ systems.
The yoga exercises included in this chapter address many specific menopause related symptoms and issues, such as bone strength, cardiovascular and breast health, of concern to all women past midlife. You may want to begin by trying all the stretches, then practicing on a regular basis those exercises that bring you the most symptom relief and general health benefits. If you prefer, begin with the exercises that offer relief for the specific symptoms of greatest concern.
General Techniques for Yoga
When doing yoga exercises, it is important that you focus and concentrate on the positions. First, let your mind visualize how the exercise is to look, and then follow with the correct body placement in the pose. The exercises are done through slow, controlled stretching movements. This slowness allows you to have greater control over your body movements. You minimize the possibility of injury and maximize the benefit to the particular area of the body where your attention is being focused. Pay close attention to the initial instructions. Look at the placement of the body in the photographs. This is very important, for if the pose is practiced properly, you are much more likely to have relief from your symptoms. In summary, as you begin these exercises:
Visualize the pose in your mind, then follow with proper placement of the body.
Move slowly through the pose. This will help promote flexibility of the muscles and prevent injury.
Follow the breathing instructions provided in the exercise. Most important, do not hold your breath. Allow your breath to flow in and out easily and effortlessly.
Practicing yoga stretches regularly in a slow, unhurried fashion will gradually loosen your muscles, ligaments and joints. You may be surprised at how supple you can become over time. If you experience any pain or discomfort, you have probably overreached your current ability and should immediately reduce the amount of the stretching until you can proceed without discomfort. Be careful, as muscular injuries take time to heal. If you do strain a muscle, immediately apply ice to the injured area for ten minutes. Use the ice pack two to three times a day for several days. If the pain persists, see your doctor. If you wish more background and information on yoga, refer to the books listed in the bibliography at the end of this book.
Stretch 1: The Locust
This exercise energizes the entire female reproductive tract, thyroid, liver, intestines and kidneys. It is helpful for premenopausal women with dysfunctional bleeding, as well as women with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, because it improves circulation and oxygenation to the pelvic region, thereby promoting healthier ovarian function. This exercise also strengthens the lower back, abdomen, buttocks, and legs, and prevents lower back pain and cramps.