Aging gracefully isn’t always easy, especially when the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause set in. Between nightly hot flashes, heightened anxiety and moodiness, and painful menstruation and intercourse, menopause can be a nearly universal source of stress for post-50 women.
If you’re looking for natural ways to treat menopause symptoms, consider starting a yoga practice. You don’t even have to go to classes to experience the benefits of yoga: In addition to relieving stress, practicing targeted postures in your home can help relieve many symptoms of menopause, including anxiety, irritability, insomnia, hot flashes.
The following five yoga poses are my favorite ways to meet menopause with grace and acceptance. Breathe and hold each pose for 4-8 breaths.
1. Forward-Facing Hero Pose
This is my absolute favorite pose for menopause, and probably the only pose I would do if I had to choose just one. It stretches the inner thighs, stimulates the front of the thighs, stretches the spine, and, because the head is lower than the heart, calms and cools the nervous system. It also directly rejuvenates the pelvic region. If your thighs are tight or you have knee problems, make sure to place a rolled-up blanket behind your knees.
Place your knees mat-width apart and touch your big toes together with your heels apart. Sit on your heels.
Lengthen your tailbone down toward the floor, keeping your spine long.
Walk your hands forward until your spine is fully extended, and draw your shoulder blades onto your back.
Keep your arms and hands shoulder-width apart.
Relax your forehead onto the floor, keeping your neck long.
2. Cat / Cow Pose
During menopause, your joints start to dry out. By fluidly moving your spine through the range of motion between these two positions, you massage the joints and tissues around the spine, keeping them soft, supple, and young.
Start on your hands and knees.
Line up your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Line up your knees directly beneath your hips, and spread them apart a distance equal to your inner hip width.
When you inhale, tuck your toes under and expand your upper chest forward, keeping your lower abdominals engaged and your lower spine in neutral.
When you exhale, relax onto the tops of your feet, round your back through the lower spine, and completely relax your head.
Work at an individual pace, coordinating your movements with your breaths.
3. Lunge Pose
Menopause and its shifting symptoms can cause shallow breathing. Stretching the hip flexors and the psoas muscles, the muscles connecting the lower back to the upper thighs, frees up your breath and releases pent-up tension.
Start on your hands and knees.
Step your right foot forward, in between your hands, so that the heel of your foot is lined up with the heels of both hands.
Bring your torso into an upright position, and lift your arms above your head or place on the mat next to your right foot.
Check to make sure your knee is directly over your ankle in a stacked position.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and gaze straight ahead.
Deepen the bend in your knee to feel the stretch in the hip flexor of your left leg.
Open your chest and breathe deeply.
Repeat on the other side.
4. Fan Posture
As you get older, your muscles shorten and tighten. The two muscle groups that are most affected are the hamstrings and inner thighs. Fan posture targets them both. Also, because this pose is an inversion, when the head is lower than the heart, receptors are triggered that lower blood pressure, heart rate, and mental activity. This is a safe and cooling variation to other inversions like handstand or headstand.
Stand with your legs a distance of one leg’s-length apart with toes facing forward.
Line up your heels behind the wide parts of your feet.
Fold forward at the hip crease, keeping your spine long, and hold on behind your ankles, keeping your head and neck long.
Balance your weight through all four corners of your feet.
Open through the chest and relax your shoulder blades onto the back.
5. Sphinx Pose
Chest-opening postures stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and counteract sluggishness and depression. Stimulating poses like sphinx are both energizing and rejuvenating. Sphinx pose is an easy alternative to more challenging back bends.
Lying on your belly, extend your legs directly behind you with your front thighs on the floor and all 10 toes pressing into the floor.
Place your elbows slightly forward of your shoulders, shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, forearms parallel, and fingers spread wide.
Open through the front of your chest, lengthening and extending your spine.
Activate your inner thighs and lift them toward the ceiling while relaxing your buttocks.
Keep your neck in line with your spine and your gaze out in front on the floor.