It seems for the majority of women, the menopausal phase of our life’s journey is an arduos one. I am in the midst of perimenopausal symptoms myself, which led me to write this blog, which includes five of my favourite exercises to ease menopausal symptoms.
Many of my students at the somayoga classes (a fusion of somatics and yoga movement therapy) I teach are menopausal women with aches, pains and symptoms associated with the change of life. During our classes I can see how beneficial these sessions are becoming, it’s a wonderful thing to observe how so many women are really enjoying their new-found sense of connecting with their bodies. They realise they can unlock pain and bring a deep sense of relaxation and joy from these gentle therapeutic movement sessions.
So, somayoga seems to be a perfect remedy for the menopause. We learn how to move with ease, unlock pain and deeply relax, which in turn allows us to feel empowered, nurtured and connected with our internal well being.
A series of unfortunate symptoms
The generally annoying physiological symptoms of the menopause (the body) such as gastrointestinal problems, headaches, muscle tension, joint pain, irregular heartbeat and hot flushes ( I’ve listed only a few!) can be reduced by slow gentle movements known as a process called pandiculation (yawning). We learn how to tense, hold, then let go of muscular tension and pinpoint specific areas of the body with healing awareness. This process helps us to reduce stress, banish painful muscles and improve sleep patterns.
The unfortunate psychological symptoms of menopause (the mind) can be depression, anxiety, irritability, sleep problems, fatigue and panic attacks. The way we train our brains in somatics enables our parasympathetic nervous system (our endorphins) to’ kick in’, enabling us to remove all the inner turmoil and worries and enjoy a wonderful sense of calm and wellbeing. The more we slow down and connect with the ‘letting go’ phase of each movement sequence the more our brain learns how to deeply relax the muscles. This has a soporific effect on the mind (you feel sleepy).
Five exercises to ease menopausal symptoms.
Here are my 3 favourite somatics exercise routines and 2 yoga poses to ease you through the menopause. There’s one here for you (The Flower). For the rest you’ll need to click the links from my site to see a step-by-step guide to each exercise routine.
Lets go ladies. Embrace your body and its ever changing state of being…
1.Arch and flatten
Arch and flatten limbers up and releases tightness in the back and the pelvis. Not only is it an excellent way to connect into your muscles, it will increase the range of movement in the hips, tighten the abdominals and gently strengthen the pelvic floor effortlessly. This exercise also improves IBS symptoms by relaxing and massaging the core muscles.See the exercise step-by-step here.
2.Bridge with straps
Have a go at this 90-second video tutorial (Soul Somatics Facebook page). It’s a tried-and-tested Somayoga exercise to strengthen and unlock tension in the lower back muscles. This video has also had over 1,000 hits. Yipee!
3.The Flower (rolling bound angle)
The flower exercise sequence takes a while to master. It’s a whole body movement that needs patience, persistance and practice. It is well worth the focus and effort though, as once mastered you’ll feel tension dissolving from your neck, upper back, shoulders, chest, core muscles and improve flexibility in your pelvis. The sequence improves rounded shoulders, tight hip flexors and your posture.
Starting Position:Lie on your back, knees bent, the feet pelvic width apart with the arms down by your sides. Inhale, arch your back.
The tightening phase: As you exhale and flatten your back (like the arch and flatten exercise), roll your arms and hands inward. Let your shoulders roll forward as your chin lifts up, look backwards, this feels weird at first as the movement is counter-intuative. Check your back is imprinting into the mat, your arms are twisting forwards with your thumbs rolling in, lifting the shoulders up off the mat and bring the wrists close to the thighs. Rest the feet on the mat with the hips pelvic width apart.
The opening phase: Inhale and arch your back, move your head and look down towards your chest (tuck your chin inwards) as you do this roll out and open your arms, palms facing upwards, floating the arms wide away from the torso, create space for the chest and shoulder muscles. Simultaneously open the knees out wide whilst the soles of the feet come together.
Inhale, slowly flatten your back bringing your knees back together.
To start the sequence again, press the back down into the mat and start the tightening phase once more, then move into the opening phase. Repeat the full movement sequence smoothly 6 times. Remember to do these movements slowly, carefully and gently.
Walking One releases tightness in the hip and neck muscles. Not only is it an excellent way to connect into your lower back , it will increase the range of movement in the hips, unlocks the lower back and gently stretches the neck and mid back muscles with ease. This exercise improves your posture and co-ordination whilst walking, it is done at a leisuerly pace to soothe the whole body. See the step-by-step exercise here
When a friendly face looks concerned and says, ‘It looks like you need to go home and put your feet up, dear,’ this is what you should do. It’s the ultimate tonic pose for time-out relaxation. This yogic pose, Viparita Karini (sounds lush and lovely, it is) involves putting your legs as vertically up the wall as you can, with your bottom against the wall (if possible). Pop a folded blanket or block under your hips for support. To get into this pose, sit sideways into the wall, then (gracefully) flip the legs upwards. This may take a little practice, but it’s well worth the effort, I can assure you. Once your legs are up, take a well earned rest, close your eyes for around 5 minutes. You could pop an eye pillow on for extra comfort. The best time of day to practice this pose is after lunch (siesta time) or before you go to bed to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. This is a fantastic way to improve the circulation, remove tension and improve the immune system. This is my favourite way to combat menopausal fatigue. I love you Viparita Karini…enjoy!
Daily gentle exercise removes fatigue, clears brain fog and removes aches and pains. Move into menopause with ease, embrace the changes within and get on with enjoying an active life..
To enjoy more somatics sequences like these, you can download my one-hour ‘Manage back Pain Through Movement therapy’ Soul Somatics video. It includes some of the exercises from this blog, plus more sequences, as well as a bonus 10-minute relaxation technique. Click this link for the download.
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