Management of Menopause
History may look at this era and say it was the age when human beings challenged the inevitable. Aging and old age is one such certainty which the world today is doing everything in its power to overcome or at least postpone. One look at the booming market of products and even medical means such as surgery which is being resorted to cover-up the ravages of age is a pointer to the desperate means being adopted. Such is the pressure on men and women to keep looking young and attractive that it is resulting in psychological disorders.
For women one such milestone signaling the onset of the penultimate stage of their life is menopause. After puberty this is the second time when a woman’s body undergoes dramatic but natural hormonal changes. The unfortunate part of women’s association with this natural happening is fear of onset of old age. Most educated women know that withdrawal of certain hormones from the body like estrogen and progesterone triggers changes in the bone, skin and circulatory system.
The sexual drive is another human instinct which the market place in today’s world uses to sell products. Menopause, it is feared triggers changes in the sexual drive. Both fears, aging and decrease in sexual drive, though not completely unfounded, are, however, uncalled for because along with bodily, chemical and physical changes, complementary mental, emotional changes make it easy to slip into this new phase in one’s life. In fact, earlier it was a welcome change for most women when the monthly bore of menstruation and its problems came to an end. Also, it heralded a new phase in men and women’s lives, when they stopped “becoming” and started “being”. In this elevated state of mind, superficial drives of younger age like looks, pressure of achieving and proving oneself are passé. Moreover, it mostly coincides with couples becoming free of parental responsibilities and signals personal growth of a different kind.
However, if one unnecessarily resists this natural phenomenon and dreads the outcome it will only add to making this transitory phase difficult.
Management of menopause through yoga is definitely not an attempt to pamper such “desperate” attempts to foil aging process, but a simple, sure shot way of managing the effects of changes to remain healthy in body and spirit. Besides a whole set of yogic exercises to help out bodies in going over this biological hump, there is also a bit of life style which must be blended in for maximum benefits.
A healthy diet in fresh vegetables, fruits, with lots of greens, and avoiding fats, processed sugar, stale or canned food, alcohol and tobacco along with ample sleep is a must.
To understand the various yogic exercises which beautifully aid and assist during menopause it is essential to understand and be aware of the changes taking place in a woman’s body.
Hormonal changes is the biggest factor in menopause. The endocrine system is made up of organs and tissues that produce hormones which is secreted into the blood stream to be used by other organs and systems in the body. The hypothalamus located in the brain produces hormones. The pituitary gland also located in the brain reaches its maximum size in middle age and gradually becomes smaller in two parts. The front part stores hormones produced in the hypothalamus and the back part produces hormones that affect the thyroid gland, adrenal cortex, ovaries, and the breasts.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces hormones that help control metabolism. With aging, the thyroid often becomes lumpy (nodular). Metabolism gradually declines.
The para thyroids are four tiny glands located around the thyroid. Parathyroid hormone affects calcium and phosphate levels. This, in turn, affects the strength of the bones. Changes in the level of parathyroid hormones may contribute to osteoporosis.
Now we will see how some yogic exercises directly affect the various hormonal glands mentioned above.
Inverted asanas are the best for healthy functioning of the endocrinal system, especially the thyroid and pituitary . One of the best inverted asanas is the Sarvangasana ( sarva=whole, ang=body, asana).
The foremost and most important effect of any inverted pose is that it increases the blood supply to the brain. The heart under normal conditions has to throw up blood to higher level than itself against the pull of gravity. An inverted pose cancels out the pull of gravity and helps flood the brain with fresh supply of blood.
This directly affects the master controller of the endocrinal system, the pituitary glands which lie in the brain. This helps in improving the efficiency of the glands leading to harmony and balance in the entire hormonal system.
It’s most stunning effects are also on the thyroid and para thyroid glands which get compressed, exercised. As mentioned earlier the thyroid and para thyroid glands affect the metabolism and production of calcium and phosphate. Therefore, when their efficiency is assisted they help off set damages set in with age.
To maximize the effects of inverted pose on the thyroid glands, the sarvangasana is usually followed by the matsyasana, in which the thyroid glands which were compressed in the sarvangasana are expanded thus massaging and exercising them further.
Similarly Surya namaskar is a highly potent exercise and tackles many problems.
Asanas should be followed by Pranayam. If one is inclined to prayer and worship then it is good to incorporate it in one’s routine. For others merely listening to soothing music or any relaxing activity is advised.
Following set of exercises makes a good package for management of menopause:
Begin with Pawanmuktasana series.
BHRAMARI( TACKLES DEPRESSION)