Ten Yoga poses effective for menopause symptoms
Before beginning the sequence below, it is recommended to start in a seated comfortable pose with the eyes closed, to center the mind and create grounding. This includes aligning the spine and paying attention to the breath and any physical sensations. Practice this for one to five minutes.
The poses described below are best performed in the sequence presented to facilitate gradual warm up and stretching. Each pose should be practiced by moving slowly and steadily with breath awareness from the starting position to the final posture and then back to start.
Finally, relaxation should be the most important element during each pose. This can be achieved by gradually prolonging the exhalation.
1. Tadasana (Mountain pose)
In this pose, start standing upright with the feet together or hip width apart, and the arms by the sides. The weight of the body is equally distributed on both feet. Next, the arms are raised over the head and the fingers interlocked with the palms turned upward. The eyes are fixed on a point above the level of the head.
With the inhalation, stretch the arms, shoulders and chest, reaching upwards as the heels are raised, coming up onto the toes. Try not to lose your balance as you stretch the body from top to bottom. Hold the breath and position for a few seconds before lowering the heels with the exhalation. Repeat 5 times.
To stretch the rib cage so as to increase breathing capacity, stand with the feet a little wider than hip width, extend the arms forwards and interlace the fingers keeping roundness in the arms like you are hugging a tree. Lift the arms above the head with the fingers interlaced keeping roundness.
Sway the arms sideways to the right as you exhale while stretching the left side of the body. Inhale and bring the arms back to center and exhale to the opposite side. You are swinging side to side with the breath like a pendulum. Repeat on each side for 5 rounds.
The benefits of this pose include improved physical and mental balance. The pose also stretches the whole spine clearing up any congestion in the spinal nerves. Additionally, it stretches the abdominal muscles and intestines.
There are no contraindications for this pose.
2. Pada hastasana (Forward bending pose)
Stand in an upright position with a straight spine and feet together with both hands next to the body. You may also choose to stand with the buttocks leaning against a wall for support. Relax the body as much as possible. The weight of the body is evenly distributed on both feet.
Bend forward slowly with the exhalation and bring the chin to the chest, bending the upper body and relaxing the shoulders allowing the arms to hang down. With the inhalation lift the body up and come back into an upright position. Flow back and forth with the breath for about 5 rounds.
You may eventually choose to stay in the forward fold for a little longer while breathing deeply in and out. Relax the upper body, neck and shoulders as you stay in the pose for as long as it feels comfortable. Do not strain or force the body.
In this posture, all the spinal nerves are stimulated and toned. Hanging upside down increases blood flow to the brain, improving blood circulation to the pituitary and thyroid glands. This posture also massages and tones the digestive organs, reduces gas, and relieves constipation and indigestion. It also increases vitality and concentration, improves metabolism and reduces excess weight.
This posture is contraindicated for those with back problems. Bending from the hips and keeping the spine straight until the back forms a 90-degree angle with the legs is advised. In case of any back conditions, it is recommended not to bend forward fully and only bend as far as comfortable.
3. Nataraj asana (Dancer’s pose)
This is a balancing pose. If you find it challenging to balance on one leg, you can stand about an arms length away from the wall, so that you are able to place your hand on the wall for support as you move into the pose.
Standing with the feet together, focus on a fixed point at eye level. Bend the right knee and grab on to your right ankle behind the body with the right hand. Making sure to keep both knees together with the right knee pointing down to the floor.
Find your balance and slowly stretch the right leg backwards, as high as possible. Reaching forward with the left arm, bring the tip of the index finger and the thumb of the left hand together to form jnana mudra. Focus the gaze on the left hand and hold the position for as long as possible while breathing comfortably.
To come out of the pose, lower the left arm to the side of the body. Release the right arm, lower the right leg bringing the knees together and then lower the foot to the floor. Relax the body for a few breaths in upright position and them repeat the same with the left leg.
There are no contraindications for this pose. This posture balances the nervous system and improves control of the body. It also improves balance and mental concentration.
4. Marjariasana (Cat pose)
Come on to the floor, on the hands and knees. Placing the palms flat on the floor about shoulder width apart with the wrists directly beneath the shoulders and the fingers facing forwards.
The hands are in line with the knees and the arms and thighs are perpendicular to the floor. The knees are hip width apart. This is the starting position. As you inhale, raise your head, lift the chest, roll the shoulders backwards as the belly comes down towards the floor and the tailbone goes up to the ceiling, concave in the spine.
Expand the abdomen fully with the inhalation and fill the lungs holding the breath for as long as comfortable. With the exhale, lower the head with the chin to the chest round the spine upward and stretch the shoulder blades apart tucking the tummy in.
At the end of the exhalation, contract the abdomen and lower the tailbone down towards the floor, arching the spine. Hold the breath for as long as comfortable before starting the next round. Perform 5 rounds flowing back and forth with the breath and breathing as slowly as possible. The arms should not bend at the elbows and the arms and thighs should always be vertical.
Women further than 3 months of pregnancy should not perform this posture. This pose tones the female reproductive system. It also improves the flexibility of the neck, shoulders and spine.
5. Dhanurasana (Bow pose)
Lay flat on the stomach with the legs and feet together and the arms beside the body. Bend the knees and bring the heels close to the buttocks. Bring the hands around the ankles keeping the knees as close together as possible. The chin is on the floor. This is the starting point.
Contract the leg muscles and push the feet away from the body. As you inhale, arch the back while lifting the thighs, the chest and the head together. The arms should be kept straight. At the end of the inhalation the abdomen supports the entire body on the floor. The arms stay relaxed with most of the tension in the legs.
For a simpler version of this pose, lift only the head and the chest. Tense the legs and try to push the feet backwards while lifting the head and the chest as high as possible from the floor. Use the legs pushing back to raise the body allowing the back muscles to be passive. Stay in the final position, with the lifted, head, chest or thighs for as long as possible, while breathing comfortably.
Slowly release the pose with the exhalation, relaxing the leg muscles, and lowering the legs, chest and head to the starting point. Repeat for 5 rounds. After completing all rounds relax the body.
The liver, abdominal organs and muscles are massaged in this pose. It is beneficial for those with diabetes and excess weight around the abdominal area. It balances and tones the pancreas and adrenal glands. This results in improved functioning of the digestive and reproductive organs. It relieves gastrointestinal disorders, dyspepsia, chronic constipation and a sluggish liver. It also improves blood circulation, realigns the spinal column and stretches the nerves to remove the stiffness. It helps to correct hunching of the chest.
This posture is contraindicated for those who suffer from a weak heart, high blood pressure, hernia, colitis, and peptic or duodenal ulcers. This posture should also not be practiced right before going to bed as it stimulated the adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system.
6. Balasana Bhujangasana (Striking cobra pose)
The starting position is the cat pose with the palms on the floor about shoulder width apart and the wrists beneath the shoulders. With the exhale move into balasana (child’s pose) with the arms fully stretched out in front of the body.
Without moving the position of the hands, inhale and slowly move the chest forward, sliding just above the floor until the chest comes all the way forward, the arms are straight, the back is arched and the head is raised in the cobra pose (as in the first picture above). As you slide from balasana to cobra pose, the chest should be close to the surface of the floor like the movement of a snake.
Try not to strain the body, using the strength in the arms and the core to move. In cobra pose the hips are on the floor but the navel does not touch the floor. Stay for a few breaths in cobra pose and with the next exhale move back into the child’s pose. When moving back into balasana raise the buttocks slowly and move backwards keeping the arms straight. Stay in child’s pose for a few breaths or move immediately into cobra with the next inhale. Practice 5 rounds.
If sliding back and forth is too challenging, you may also practice cobra pose first holding for a few breaths and then move into balasana as a counter pose.
This posture tones the female reproductive organs and relieves menstrual disorders. It is also considered to be very useful for postnatal period as it strengthens and tightens the abdominal and pelvic area. It tones and improves the function of the liver, kidneys and other organs. It is also useful for relieving back pain and improving general stiffness of the spine.
7. Janu Shirshasana (head- to-knee pose)
Sitting on the floor with the legs outstretched in front. Bend the left leg and place the sole of the foot against the right thigh as close as you can to the groin. If there is any pain in the knee you can place the foot a little lower along the right leg.
As you inhale raise both arms upwards next to the ears and as you exhale fold forwards reaching for the right thigh with your chest. Arms may be extended as far forwards as it feels comfortable. Try to keep your spine straight as much as possible. Flow back and forth with the breath for 5 rounds. Then switch legs and do the same with the right leg bent and left leg straight.
Making this a dynamic practice helps to increase circulation and speed up metabolic processes. It also makes the whole body more flexible. It stretches the hamstrings muscles and improves flexibility of the hip joints. It also tones the abdominal and pelvic region as well as the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and adrenal glands.
Therapeutically, it is used to manage prolapse, menstrual disorder, diabetes, colitis and sluggish liver. Those that suffer from slipped disc or sciatica should not practice this posture.
9. Ardha Matsyendrasana (half spinal twist)
Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out in front of the body. Sit up as straight as possible. Bend the right leg and place the right foot flat on the floor on the outside of the left knee. Ideally the toes of the right foot are facing forward. Bend the left leg and place the left foot next to the right buttock, with the outer edge of the foot in contact with the floor.
If the right buttock comes off the floor after you bend the left leg, you may straighten the left and keep it straight and stretched out forward on the floor. Place the left arm against the outside of the right knee, hugging the knee.
Wrap the right arm behind the waist with the back of the palm against the back, reaching for the left side. This helps to straighten the spine. As you inhale lengthen the spine and as you exhale twist the body and the head to the right side.
Use the left arm on the right leg as lever to twist as far a possible without straining the back muscles. Stay in the posture, using the breath to straighten and twist for about 10 rounds. Release the posture and repeat the same on the other side.
This posture stretches the muscles on one side of the back and abdomen while contracting the muscles on the other side. It massages the abdominal organs and regulates the secretion of adrenaline and bile. It improves digestion and is beneficial for constipation, menstrual disorders, and urinary tract disorders. It is also recommended for the treatment of diabetes.
Women should not perform this posture during menstruation or when more than two months pregnant. Also those suffering from sciatica, slipped disc, ulcer, hernia or hyperthyroidism should only practice this pose with guidance from a qualified yoga therapist.
10. Druta Halasana (Dynamic plough pose)
Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out in front (starting position). Lay flat on the back with the legs and the feet close together. Place the arms next to the body with the palms facing down. Relax the body and press down on the arms raising the legs over the head as quickly as possible, reaching with your toes towards the floor with the legs straight. This is halasana pose. Never turn your neck sideways when in this posture, always look up.
Halasana can be held for a few breaths or you can choose to immediately roll the body back to the starting position and then bend the upper body into pachimottasana (seated forward bend). In the final position in pachimottasana, the upper body is bent forward with the legs straight. Reach with the forehead towards the knees without straining.
This can be performed with an even flowing movement from halasana to pachimottasana and then back to halasana and so on. Inhaling as you lift the legs up into halasana and exhaling as you bring the legs over the head into the full position of halasana. Inhale as you release halasana and some into an upright-seated pose and exhale as you fold forwards into pachimottasana. Practice 5 rounds.
If the dynamic plough pose is somewhat challenging, a simpler variation poorwa halasana can be practiced. Start by laying on the back with the feet and the legs together. The palms can be placed underneath the buttocks facing down or make a fists with the hands and place under the buttocks. With the inhale raise both legs up vertically and bring the feet as close as you can towards the head. With the exhale release the legs back down to the floor keeping them straight. Repeat for 5 rounds.
The movement of diaphragm during halasana massages of the internal organs. The benefits include better production of insulin, improved digestion, liver and kidney function. It also improves blood circulation, strengthens the spinal nerves and relieves spasms in the back muscles. It regulates the thyroid gland, balancing the metabolic rate and thus improving the immune system. It tones and stretches the entire pelvic area and alleviates urogenital conditions. It is also used for the management of prolapse and menstrual disorders.
People with high blood pressure, sciatica or other back or neck conditions should not practice this posture.
11. Savasana (Final relaxation)
After completing the sequence of poses above, the final relaxation or savasana should be practiced for at least 5 to 10 minutes. This gives the body the time to relax and integrate the effects of the postures.
Lie on the back flat with the legs as wide as the mat and the toes point out to the sides. Extend the arms above the head to lengthen the spine and slowly slide the arms across the floor bringing them closer to the body. The palms may face up or down.
Try to bring most of the lower back in contact with the floor by raising the pelvis and lengthening the tailbone. Lengthen the back of the neck by drawing the chin to the chest while keeping the head on the floor. Allow the chin to be lower than the forehead.
The eyes are closed and the gaze is gentle focused to the middle of the forehead. The tip of the tongue is placed against the back of the gums of the top teeth and the tongue is held as still as possible. Focus the attention on the exhalation, allowing it to be longer than the inhalation.
Breathe out as much as you can and relax the body with each exhalation. Focus the attention on the breath while trying to relax as many parts of the body as you can. Whenever the mind wanders off in thought, return to focusing on the breath.
Keep the body totally still (except the movement in abdomen due to breathing) and try not to drift into sleep.
Shavasana can be modified for non-pregnant women (pregnant women should lay on the left side) by placing folded blankets or a bolster under the knees and/or lower legs. Also rolled up blankets may be placed under the neck.
If there is tension in the shoulders, a rolled up blanket can be placed under the arms. An eye bag can be placed on the eyes. The hands can be placed on the chest instead of on the floor next to the body.
Also, the lower legs may be placed on a chair with the lower back on the floor to facilitate deeper relaxation.
A gentle form of asana is in general great for all women in all stages of their life cycle. A regular yoga practice that includes asana, pranayama, yoga nidra, meditation, mantra, and mudra is advised for women at any age. A lifetime of daily practice may help alleviate symptoms of menopause, and other reproductive issues that women face.
Apart from yoga, stress reduction in daily life activities is highly recommended. This includes consciously making lifestyle choices that will minimize stress in the body and mind.
Additionally, exposure to (environmental) toxins should be minimized. This includes smoking, air pollution, alcohol, the use of non-natural personal care products applied directly on the skin, non-natural perfumes, as well as home cleaning products.
Of course a healthy well balanced diet according to one’s Ayurvedic constitution is highly valuable in maintaining balance in the body and mind.
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