Menopause is a powerful transition in a woman’s life and a lot of women are seeking natural support as they undergo this physical and spiritual transformation.
The average age of menopause – defined as not having a period for at least 12 months – is 51. Perimenopausal symptoms often begin in the 40s or even earlier. It is a personal journey so experiences and timings may differ and it is for each woman to explore in their own way.
Menopause is a natural shift in hormonal status. The symptoms are seen when there is a drop in oestrogen production in the ovaries, the adrenal glands will compensate for this drop in oestrogen and any adrenal exhaustion is best addressed to ease this transition. Oestrogen contributes to the female menstrual cycle by building endometrial tissue, sustaining bone density and the nervous system, maintaining the quality of the skin, sustaining libido and for the regulation of the female reproductive system.
This is a time of deep questioning about your life, relationships, job, home, what you are doing with your life and the calling you receive in terms of what you wish to accomplish as you move into the next phase of your life. This is a time of death and rebirth. You are releasing what no longer serves you and birthing the new YOU. You may be called to spend time alone, you may sense your power rising and no longer wish to accept what others say, you may experience heightened sensitivity.
This is a time of deep healing, healing your body and past traumas. You will be called to develop self acceptance, to de-clutter your life and to develop strong self care practices.
There is no right or wrong way to transition through your menopause. Here are a few holistic tools that may support your journey.
Simply eating more plant foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can offer some relief, as they contain hormone-balancing plant chemicals known as phytoestrogens. Ground flaxseeds also contain phytoestrogens and have been shown in studies to reduce hot flashes. In one study, women had hot flash relief when they consumed 40 grams of ground flaxseeds daily. Fermented soy foods such as tofu, miso, and tempeh can also help reduce hot flashes.
Increasing your antioxidant intake greatly helps the entire body and brain. Unprocessed brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, high quality proteins, grains and oils help to maintain healthy levels of antioxidants. The benefits are wide spread and positively impact on memory, mood, heart health, blood pressure, detoxification, sleep, stress tolerance, thyroid, cancer risk, osteoporosis and more.
Studies have shown that menopausal women were found lacking in Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Healthy choice PUFAs are found in fatty fish like salmon, herring, trout, mackerel and tuna. It is also found in walnuts, flax, chia and sunflower seeds.
Take time to review your mineral intake and possible deficiencies. Deficient nutrients may be iron, copper, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, D, and K. Magnesium is critical for energy production, bone structure, sleep, mood, and brain health. Review your sodium and phosphorus intake which may be too high particularly if consumed via processed foods.
Ensure proper hydration as there is a chance of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration when experiencing heat symptoms. You may wish to review, reduce or stop your caffeine and alcohol intake.
Dr Wilhelm Schuessler, a great nineteenth-century German physician, concluded that there are 12 minerals that must be present in the body to maintain perfect health. Through his research Schuessler developed tissue salts which offer a natural system of nutritional medicine. Tissue salts enable the cells of the body to both eliminate toxins and assimilate nutrition. Tissue salts are completely safe and can be used safely with other forms of medicine and treatments.
Tissue salts help with the physical, emotional and mental journey through the menopausal years. Calc Phos, Kali Phos and Nat Mur smooth the emotional path, balance the hormones and strengthen the heart muscle. Calc Phos and Kali Phos will also minimise the discomfort of hot flushes and night sweats. Silica is a general tonic with Calc Fluor rejuvenating the skin and helping to prevent prolapsed and excessive relaxation of blood vessels that can lead to varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Tissue salts to clear stagnation and cool the body are Silica and Nat Phos.
Purchase Tissue Salts for Menopause or consult with a homeopathic doctor for suitable Tissue Salt remedies.
Herbs can also alleviate menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh has been shown in numerous studies to relieve a multitude of menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and depression.
Maca root has a rich history of use in Peru to help women through the menopausal transition. Several double blind, placebo controlled studies show that it can indeed help hot flashes and a variety of other menopausal symptoms.
Another unique herbal extract is red clover. According to research, this effective alternative treatment for menopause works to relieve hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and anxiety.
Sage is a traditional remedy to cool the blood and reduce heat in the body. Try sage tea. Chamomile tea also has a cooling effect on the body.
Hormone modulating herbs to address the decline in estrogen are Ashwaganda, Black Cohosh, Kudzu, Anemarrhena, Horny Goat Weed, Morinda, Dong Quai, Chaste Tree, Paeonia and Curculigo.
It is recommended to find a naturopath or herbalist to advise on herbs for your particular symptoms and situation.
Homeopathy is a useful remedy to reduce menopausal symptoms and consulting a homeopathic practitioner is highly recommended.
One of the most common remedies is Sepia. Symptoms that suggest this remedy include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, low libido, and exhaustion. Another common remedy to consider is Pulsatilla. Women who may benefit from this homeopathic medicine feel worse in warm weather and desire fresh air. They may have mood swings and weepiness and feel better with company.
Answer the call to spend more time alone in a process of withdrawal. This is a time to deeply listen to your inner knowing. Solitude allows you to truly listen to your inner wisdom. In this process you may wish to spend more time in nature, journal writing, meditating or doing whatever feeds your soul. This is a time to say NO and to put your needs first.
Review and implement an exercise plan to support your self-care programme. Do the things that you enjoy and that you are encouraged to make exercise a central part of your life perhaps even revisiting things that you enjoyed as a child such as swimming, cycling, walking, dancing, yoga, pilates. Yoga & meditation helps to reduce nervous system stimulations which can aggravate hot flushes. Select whatever exercise brings you joy.
Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
Breath work is an effective way to cool, calm or invigorate during the experience of hot flashes or anxiety. Yogic breathing is a way to bring extra energy into the body or bring in a sense of relaxation. Breathing exercises help to de-stress the body and mind acting to soothe the whole system.
Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing) helps to calm the body & mind, soothes the system and assists if you are suffering from disturbed sleep. Try 10-15 minutes per day.
This breathing technique consists of breathing through alternate nostrils and retaining the breath. Anuloma Viloma harmonises the nervous system and balances both hemispheres of the brain. Every two hours the activity of the brain shifts from one hemisphere to the other. The same occurs with the lungs and this technique helps to balance the lungs. This practice stimulates the nadis or energy channels that run throughout the body like electrical wires. It is performed with a breathing sequence of 1:4:2.
The breath retention gives more time for the exchange of gases which means you will get more oxygen in the blood and increased expulsion of carbon dioxide.
At different times of the day and also dependant on our health, we will breathe more effectively through one nostril versus the other. Observations during this practice help us to tune into our body and mind with greater awareness.
Anuloma Viloma is a more advanced breathing technique and controls your prana (energy) through the control of the breath. This technique can be practiced every day.
This technique is for 4:16:8. Always start and end on the left side.
Come into an easy, comfortable seated position. You may wish to sit on a cushion or yoga block. With your spine tall and your shoulders relaxed, begin by focusing on your breath. Taking full deep breaths in and out of your nose.
Place your left hand in chin mudra (thumb and index finger touching) and rest on your left knee. Bring your right hand into Vishnu mudra (curl your index and middle finger into the palm and leave your thumb, third and fourth fingers free).
Close your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths in and out. Place your right thumb up to right nostril and close this nostril. Breathe in through the left nostril for the count of 4. Close both nostrils using the thumb on the right nostril and third/fourth fingers on left nostril. Maintain a constant pressure on the nostrils and hold the breath for the count of 16.
Release the thumb to open your right nostril and exhale slowly until the lungs are empty to a count of 8. Inhale on the right (same side) for the count of 4. Close both nostrils and hold for the count of 16.
Open the left nostril by releasing the fingers and exhale for a slow count of 8 until you have completely emptied the lungs.
Repeat for up to 8 rounds remembering that a round always starts and end on the left. Keep the practice smooth and effortless.
Precautions: The retentions should not be performed by those with high blood pressure, cardiac patients or pregnant women.
If the 4:16:8 count is too much to start with, try 3:12:6.
As you develop this practice you can increase the counts from 4 to 5, 5 to 6. Remember to take time to develop your practice and make sure that you feel comfortable at all times.
You may wish to make this into a mantra meditation by mentally saying Om with each count. Silently repeating “Om one, Om two, Om three, Om four. Hold one, Om two, Om three…..”
Sithali Breath is a useful technique to manage hot flushes and rebalance the body. Also supportive when you are feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.
To practice Sithali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait so an alternative is given below.
Sit in a comfortable position, either on the floor or in a chair, with your shoulders relaxed and the spine tall. Stick the tongue out, curl the edges of the tongue inward to make a straw-like shape. Inhale through the tongue, close the mouth and retain the breath for as long as feels comfortable. Exhale through the nose. Repeat for a minimum of 10 breaths. Make sure you feel fully comfortable at all times and your breath flows easily.
Another technique if you cannot curl your tongue, extend your tongue out flat and sip the air across the upper surface of your tongue.
Bhramari Breath (Honey Bee Breath) is a simple technique to instantly calm the mind and help with concentration. It is one of the best ways to free the mind of agitation, frustration, anger and anxiety. The exhalation of this technique resembles the humming sound of a bee. Bhramari breath is very healing and relaxing and is a useful tool to relieve sleep issues, headaches, migraines and stress. The sound vibrations calm your nerves and have a particular soothing effect on the brain and forehead. Use Bhramari breath if you are feeling a little hot or experiencing a hot flush.
This technique can be used at any time. Use as an instant way to de-stress yourself. You can practice 3-4 times a day and also you can include it in your asana practice or as you prepare to settle the mind for meditation. If you are having trouble sleeping, practice this technique a few times in bed as you settle.
Come into a comfortable seated position or lie on your back, close your eyes. Connect in with your breath, notice the sensations in your body and check in with your mind. Take a deep inhalation and as you exhale make a loud humming sound like a bee. You can vary the pitch of your humming sound and when you do connect in with the body to sense the vibration within the body. Inhale again and repeat this 3-4 times.
Menopause is a physical, spiritual and emotional transformation. Meditation can be a source of relief and a supportive tool during this time of great change. Meditation calms the mind, brings clarity and focus, restores inner peace and balances mental focus. Irritability and depression can be greatly eased by a regular meditation practice.
Guided chakra meditations can support shifts experienced within the energy body during the menopause. Meditation can be used as a way to explore your inner depths, find greater meaning and process the changes occurring during the menopausal years. You will emerge wiser, more intuitive and in your full power.
Regular short naps can help you reduce stress, boost your alertness and energise you. There are a few tips to successful napping to ensure that you do not wake up in a groggy state. A 20 minute snooze is a great way to power nap and enhances your motor skills and attention. A 60-90 minute nap brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which helps make new connections in the brain and boosts creative problem solving.
Regular short naps help to lower tension which decreases your risk of heart disease. Stick to a regular napping schedule, set your alarm so that you do not over-nap and optimal times are between 1-3pm, nap is a dark room to make sleeping easier. Napping is a natural way to revive your energy and may prevent you using caffeine in the afternoon or evening which can affect your night-time sleep patterns.
Naps can help avoid burnout and reverses information overload. Snoozing during the day helps to make up for any lack of sleep experienced at night.
Sleep and Yoga Nidra (Yoga Sleep)
Sleep is the most effective approach to high adrenaline levels. Many women require eight to ten hours of sleep to function optimally. Try getting to sleep on the earlier side of midnight as it is much more restorative to your adrenals than sleep that begins later in the night.
Try Yoga Nidra to support your sleeping needs. Yoga Nidra is an ancient tantric method where the mind and body is in deep relaxation. A single hour of Yoga Nidra is as restful as four hours of conventional sleep. This practice is fully guided so perfect for complete beginners or more experienced practitioners.
The practice of Yoga Nidra releases all types of muscular, emotional and mental tension. You not only enjoy complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, but also get to explore the tremendous powers hidden in the deeper layers of subconscious mind.
On a physical level Yoga Nidra improves the quality and the amount of sleep and soothes the nervous system. This is beneficial if you are experiencing exhaustion, night sweats, disturbed sleep, insomnia or are generally feeling tired.
For details of my Yoga Sleep, Yoga Sleep for Children and Meditation Mix CDs and downloads please visit my online shop. Downloads also available via iTunes, Amazon and on streaming sites such as Spotify. Weekly guided meditations are now uploaded to my YouTube Channel.