Yoga for the menopause – stretches to soothe your symptoms

Hot flushes, insomnia and forgetfulness: yoga to help menopause symptoms

Hot flushes, fatigue and insomnia are just some of the issues that can blight your life if you’re going through the menopause.

Yoga isn’t a miracle cure, but more and more of us are giving it a go for its positive impact on menopausal symptoms.

Menopause yoga expert Petra Coveney has three stretches for you that can help and explains how yoga can make a difference.

A group of women practising yoga, which can help the menopauseCredit: Petra Coveney
Many women find yoga can help with their menopause symptoms

If you are struggling with menopausal symptoms, the first step is always to get support from your doctor or other medical professional.

They can give you more advice on what you need to know about the menopause; how to stay positive; and how to deal with many of the symptoms – including fatigue and sleeplessness.

However, scientific studies have found that yoga does have a positive impact on the quality of life of women going through the menopause. More and more of us are turning to yoga to help with many of the symptoms.

The best forms of yoga for menopause

Coveney recommends starting with a beginners’ yoga or level one hatha yoga class. Once you gain confidence you can try other types of yoga.

But she cautions: “Avoid hot yoga if you are experiencing hot flushes, headaches, ‘meno-rage’ or fatigue. Restorative yoga is good for stress, insomnia and fatigue. Yin yoga is helpful for releasing emotional and muscle tension.

“You can also look for a specific menopause yoga class, so you can combine different types of yoga to alleviate your symptoms. Being in a class with other menopausal women reminds us we are normal and we are not alone.”

A close up of a smiling woman, yoga teacher Petra CoveneyCredit: Petra Coveney
Petra Coveney says practising yoga can really help during the menopause

Yoga meditation to help menopause symptoms

Coveney says that as yoga is naturally meditative, it can help with many menopausal symptoms.

“Lower levels of oestrogen in menopause affect our brains, not just our bodies,” she says.

“Some of us experience more psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed, or cognitive symptoms such as brain fog and short-term memory loss.

“Stress also exacerbates these symptoms, so learning simple breathing and meditation practices can reduce stress, improve concentration and help lift your mood.”

Is yoga safe during the menopause?

Coveney says that yoga is safe to practise during the menopause.

“Yoga cannot rebalance the hormones that decline in menopause, but it is a valuable part of a holistic approach that can include nutrition, exercise, mental health and medication, such as HRT,” she says.

“Always check with your doctor first if you are taking any medication, but yoga is a very safe practice for most people, and oestrogen in HRT can improve flexibility by reducing muscle inflammation and joint pain.”

Find the right teacher for you

“Everyone can practise yoga,” says Coveney. “But it is important to find a teacher and a style of practice that suits your needs. If you have physical injuries or any concerns, speak to your doctor first. Then find a teacher who is trained to modify poses to support your body.”

Women in a yoga lying down with their legs raised against a wallCredit: Petra Coveney
Yoga can be helpful as part of a holistic approach to the menopause

Are inverted postures safe if I am having hot flushes?

Coveney says sometimes its better to adapt your yoga practise.

She says: “Standing forward-fold poses, where the head is lower than your heart, can cause a rush of blood to your head. This may trigger a hot flush or headache, so try to avoid these if those are issues for you.

“There are other restorative inverted poses you can try instead. For example, you can lie on your back with your legs raised up against a chair or a wall. This is perfect for calming your nervous system, helps restore energy if you are feeling fatigued and can aid in preparing your body for sleep.”

Women in a yoga with their arms above their headsCredit: Petra Coveney
Joining a yoga class can be helpful – and fun

How often should I practise yoga?

Coveney recommends building up by practising little and often, at the start and end of your day.

“A 15-minute yoga stretch in the morning will help lubricate and mobilise stiff joints and muscles,” she says. “You can add a simple breathing technique to feel energised and stimulate digestion, and then finish with a gratitude meditation or an affirmation to create a positive mindset for the day ahead.

“In the evening, before bedtime, practise 10-15 minutes of stretches that release physical and emotional tension stored in your body, add a calming breathing technique to soothe your nervous system, and finish with either an affirmation or write three positive things you did today in your journal.”

Three soothing yoga stretches for menopause symptoms

Wear comfortable clothing to practise these postures and use a yoga mat for cushioning and grip.

Fatigue and anxiety: wide-kneed child’s pose

You can use a bolster or several pillows if you aren’t able to fold down to the ground. It is an easy, calming pose if you feel anxious, overwhelmed or fatigued. Cover your back and shoulders with a blanket for comfort.

a group of women in a yoga in child's poseCredit: Petra Coveney
Wide-kneed child’s pose is an easy, calming pose for when you’re feeling anxious

How to do the stretch

Come down on to your hands and knees on the yoga mat. Spread your knees as wide as your mat, keeping the tops of your feet on the floor with the big toes touching.

Bring your belly to rest between your thighs and root your forehead to the floor. Relax the shoulders, jaw and eyes.

If it is not comfortable to place the forehead on the floor, rest it on a block or on your fists. Finding a comfortable place to rest the forehead is key to gaining the soothing benefit of this pose.

Unless you’re resting your head on your firsts, you can stretch your arms in front of you with the palms facing the floor, or bring your arms back alongside your thighs with the palms facing upwards.

Feeling overwhelmed: raised legs on a chair

This is a perfect pose for fatigue or a feeling of being overwhelmed. It can help prepare you for sleep and is soothing for the nervous system.

A woman lying on her back with her legs raised during a yoga practiceCredit: Petra Coveney
Lying on your back with your legs raised is soothing

How to do the stretch

Place a blanket just in front of a chair, sofa or coffee table. Sit down on the floor and then bring your legs on to the chair, low table or cushions.

Place a small cushion or folded blanket under your pelvis. Elevate your hips slightly and wrap a blanket around your head – tuck it in around your neck and ears to cut out external sounds.

Feeling flat: reclined butterfly pose

Do this with your spine elevated at an angle on a raised bolster and hips supported on pillows. It is perfect for hot flushes because it helps to release physical heat from your hips and chest, while restoring energy.

A woman lying on her back in reclined butterfly yoga poseCredit: Petra Coveney
Reclined butterfly posture can help with hot flushes

How to do the stretch

Begin sitting on the floor, legs extended. Bring the soles of your feet together with the knees out to the side, so that your legs make a diamond shape.

Lie back, either on the floor or a bolster. Place your hands on your belly or out to the sides. Use cushions under your knees too, to help your legs to relax without overstretching the inner thighs.

Make it your 'meno-pause'

Try to build up to being able to stay in each of these poses for at least 10 minutes if you can. Set a timer and take a “meno-pause”  – a break in your day to alleviate these symptoms and reset your nervous system. Your body will thank you.

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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