Yoga Therapy for Perimenopause

Yoga Therapy for Perimenopause

Just as women enter menarche, the transition to our child-bearing years, we eventually transition out of this stage of life.  For many, it can be a relief to no longer worry about the possibility of becoming pregnant or to be rid of menstruation for good. For many others, this “natural” process can be long and miserable.  Unlike entering puberty, women are only recently being educated and supported in the journey toward menopause. 

Even the word “menopause” has long seemed like a dirty one. Playing on the fear of aging, the topic hasn’t been at the forefront of women's health or even our private conversations with friends. Women often suffer in silence. As estrogen declines and our follicles slowly stop releasing eggs as part of our typical cycle, the changes to our bodies can be drastic. 

Some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause (the time period leading up to the full cessation of menstruation) include physical manifestations like hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness, headaches and muscle or joint pain. The fun doesn’t stop there.  On the psychosocial front, women often experience increased anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, trouble regulating their emotions, cognitive decline and decreased libido (a common measure of these symptoms is the Greene Climacteric Scale that can be found here). With a list like that, aging does sound scary.

Fortunately, as women make their way on to more medical boards and gain equity in medical studies, more data is becoming available and leading to treatments, both behavioral and pharmaceutical.  A resurgence in Hormone Replacement Therapy is taking place as greater clarity surrounds misinformation spread in the early 2000s.

Behavioral changes are readily available and proven to decrease symptom severity and improve quality of life. Many studies provide examples of introducing exercise, from walking to body weight movements, for women suffering from perimenopausal symptoms. These participants saw statistically significant improvements to measures like blood pressure, hot flashes, perceived stress, memory and attention. 

While exercise alone has been shown to help perimenopausal women, study after study has compared exercise to yoga for effect. Yoga therapy for reduced symptoms and improved quality of life has proven to be better across all metrics, every time.  Not only do researchers see the benefits conferred with exercise, those benefits are magnified and reach into more categories. Women who practice yoga see their sexual health and satisfaction improved and cortisol levels reduced. They are often able to experience better quality sleep and manage the symptoms associated with perimenopause more easily than their peers. Conclusions from these studies point to better vagal tone and parasympathetic response, helping to regulate the nervous system and the hormones related to it. Those “relaxation response” skills might come in handy the next time a doctor says “it’s natural” without offering a remedy.

More women are seeking to optimize their health and happiness by leveraging the tools available to them at every stage of life.  For most, that should begin with behavioral changes. Yoga therapy is a leading, effective option to navigate this transitional period. And the benefits of a yoga practice will carry on for years beyond it. For those that continue to suffer unmanageable symptoms, more medical options are becoming available.  By educating ourselves about our bodies and understanding how we can remain at home within them, women are empowered to live their best lives. 

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