Yoga and the Menopausal Woman
When the yoga class started the teacher asked if anyone had any issues or problems. I felt you shrink. You looked uncomfortable in your black leggings in the sweltering heat, dark against the rows of exotically dressed yogis. Your wobble and effort catches my eye.
Then those bonkers sit-ups you struggled with? You know what they do to your pelvic floor? The increase in pressure in the abdomen pushes it down and out. If you keep doing these, in the future you may look back with nostalgia at the days when you only peed a little when you sneezed.
The teacher instructs…
“Go a little lower!”
“Hold for longer!”
“Don’t give up!”
Does this help you to feel empowered? Truly? Does this fit with your needs right now? Surely the push to ‘Go lower!’ only serves to over-stretch your surprised muscles and to confirm your fear that you’re past it. After trying to find your mojo at hot yoga, back outside in the cold, your body starts to ache from being pushed.
Yes. OK. That woman is me.
But maybe, this isn’t the only way to do yoga. Maybe, there’s another way that would suit me in my menopause? A way that is kinder.
Learning to be kind to myself is a long-term inquiry. It requires that I pay close attention to the sensation in my body. Do I need to rest here or stretch a little further? Does this compromise the weaknesses in my body or support them? Am I present to what is respectful for my body right now? Can I be grateful for the range of movement that I have been gifted with today? Or must I endlessly yearn to be bendier, better?
And in this radical transformation that is menopause, I need to rest. Stop. Go within and become the mistress of my own body. The part of me that is generally acknowledged as womanly; the fertile, oestrogenic generosity is dying and it is time to negotiate a new way of being. That is the menopausal challenge.
So instead of taking on the teacher’s instructions I have my own script.
“Challenge yourself” becomes “Be kind to yourself”
“Go a little lower” becomes “Be a little kinder”
“Hold for longer” becomes “Stay present to what is happening"
“Push harder” becomes “Slow down”
“Don’t give up” becomes “Even when the class is doing something different, stay true to your body requires to feel good”
And at the end of the class? I did not feel shrunken, uncomfortable or over-stretched. I was pleased to be able to call my body my best friend; kindness works.
How would you do yoga if you were kind to yourself today?