I have found that combining the Western evidence based, scientific approach to personalised nutritional therapy alongside Eastern yoga, pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation can be a powerful toolkit when it comes to managing women's hormone health, especially around perimenopause and menopause.
Menopause is a natural, transitionary stage when a woman moves away from the child-bearing years towards a stage that, according to Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine perspectives, is for ‘soul development’. There is a natural shift from being fertile to have children to being creatively fertile to carve something out for ourselves that is of benefit to us and those around us. However, when dominated by unwanted symptoms, the experience of the menopause can be less than positive.
Medical studies have shown that some of the most common menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, joint pain, anxiety, low mood and fatigue can be improved by practicing yoga, pranayama and meditation for a period of just 8 weeks.
Restorative yoga postures and relaxation techniques can be the perfect antidote to stress which can have a large part to play in hormonal imbalance and the severity of symptoms, especially hot flushes, anxiety and sleep issues. The moving meditation in yoga postures as well as mindfulness in pranayama and meditation practices can help to alleviate the negative impact of stress by moving from the "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system to the "rest and digest" parasympathetic nervous system.
Postures such as supported backbends and specific breathing techniques are helpful to increase energy and to lift the mood - two other benefits that can support women through perimenopause and beyond. Post-menopausal women are also more at risk of osteoporosis or osteopenia (the stage before osteoporosis). Weight bearing exercises such as yoga have been found to help build bone density as well as increase muscle mass.
Being part of a group or "sangha"in a women's circle or workshop can help women to share experiences and feel less alone and isolated. I have found that supporting and empowering women at this time to become more attuned to what their bodies need and reflecting on what no longer nourishes them can be invaluable in helping them to accept the hormonal changes and embrace this next stage of life.