I have written about how in Ayurveda, menopause isn’t referred to as a disorder or an indication of pathology—instead, it is considered a natural transition in a woman’s life. In Sanskrit, menopause is known as Rajonivrutti, which means “the end of menstruation.” Absence of menstruation for 12 consecutive months is confirmation of menopause.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, menopause is a transformative journey in a woman’s life, from the Pitta stage of life to the Vata stage. Hormonal fluctuations generally accompany a woman’s passage into each new biological stage of life. It’s important to know that in this process of transition, ojas—the body’s subtle energy that builds immunity and protects the body and mind from diseases—can be greatly compromised.
Menopause depends mainly on a woman’s constitution (prakruti), as well as the state of her general health up to the onset of menopause. Every woman’s menopausal experience is unique.
The Three Kinds of Menopause, According to Ayurveda
Vata-type menopause: The signs and symptoms of this type of menopause include nervousness, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, bloating, gas, constipation, palpitations, vaginal dryness, loss of skin tone, feeling of coldness, irregular periods, insomnia, mild or variable hot flashes, and joints, aches, and pains. In some cases, there is the problem of memory lapse.
Pitta-type menopause: Pitta is fiery, and the signs and symptoms of a Pitta-type menopause highlight those fiery qualities—think irrational temper, rage, irritability, constantly feeling warm, hot flashes, night sweats, heavy menses, urinary tract infections, skin rashes, and acne.
Kapha-type menopause: The earth and water elements show up in Kapha-type menopause as weight gain, lethargy, fluid retention, yeast infection, lack of motivation, depression, slow metabolism, and poor digestion.
How Yoga Can Support You During Menopause
Sure, the symptoms of menopause vary markedly from woman to woman. But overall, menopause impacts women’s digestion, mood, and sleep. Regardless of their doshic imbalance, a large majority of my clients who have undergone menopause talk about a persistent mental fog. Women can use yoga to manage these menopausal symptoms and release their stress.
Yoga is good for joint and back pain. It increases flexibility and strength. It can reinvigorate a sluggish metabolism, tone and strengthen muscles, build bone density, improve digestion, and boost heart health. It can help with sleep issues, as well as digestive discomfort. Yoga is nourishing for the nervous system and can lower anxiety. Yoga can help you just feel good about yourself. And we can make wholesome decisions about our diet, lifestyle, and relationships when we feel good.
The Best Yoga Poses for Menopause
Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
With a yoga mat underneath you, sit up on your shins with your feet tucked to the sides of your hips and your bottom against a bolster or cushion. Then start to lower yourself down onto the bolster. Press your elbows to the floor, exhale, and start leaning back. Slowly lower the rest of your body and back onto a supportive prop of your choice. Keep breathing, and stay in this pose for 30-60 seconds. Keep your knees close together. To come out, raise yourself onto your forearms first. Then press into your hands to return yourself to a sitting position. This pose improves digestion.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
This pose helps to increase energy and fight brain fog. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor hip-width apart. If you need, place a folded blanket under your shoulders and neck. With palms down, extend your arms long to each side of your body. Place your heels as close to the buttocks as possible so your fingertips touch the back of your heels. Your hands are flat on the mat. Press down through your feet and hands, and lift your hips off the ground without squeezing your glutes.
Underneath your lifted body, bring your hands as close as you can and interlace them together behind your back. Tuck your chin slightly towards the chest. Lift your pelvic area as high as possible. Keep this pose for 30-60 seconds. Then slowly disentangle your hands and release your spine (starting with the shoulders) one vertebra at a time. Roll down with an exhale. The restorative version is less active—place a foam or cork yoga block directly under your sacrum at its lowest level with your hands resting comfortably at your sides. This restorative version is great for reducing insomnia, and you come out of it by lifting your hips, removing your block, and returning your hips to the floor.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
This pose is simple and great for reducing the mind chatter, relieving anxiety, and lowering stress. Stand on a yoga mat with your feet hip-width apart. As you exhale, bend forward from your hips. Reach your palms or fingertips towards the floor—they can be beside your feet or in front of them. You can also place your hands on blocks to make the pose more restorative. Feel free to gently bend your knees if you need to. With each inhale, lengthen the front torso further, and with each exhale, release more into the forward bend. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, or less if you start to feel dizzy. To come out of the pose, bend your knees until your torso touches your thighs. Then press your heels into the floor and gently roll your spine upward. Your shoulders and head should come up last.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
Start with your hands and feet on the mat. Your hips and knees are lined up directly under your shoulders. Curl your toes, lift your buttocks to the ceiling, and straighten your legs as much as you can. This pose looks like an inverted V. If your heels don’t rest flat on the ground, that’s okay. You can bend your knees slightly or try to position your heels as close to the floor as you can. Drop your head and let go. Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds as you slowly inhale and exhale. To come out of this pose, slowly lower your knees, body, and arms. This pose calms the brain, creates focus, and helps prevent osteoporosis. It also helps relieve headaches and menopausal symptoms.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Resting in this pose can help soothe and reduce hot flashes and night sweats by cooling down the body and reducing stress. Start by kneeling on your mat and open your knees to the sides—slightly wider than your hips. Make sure that your big toes touch each other. Position a bolster between your legs and gently fold forward. Arms can be either out in front of you or by your side. Stay in this position for several minutes. To release the stretch, press your hands into the floor and lift your chest so that you sit upright.
The poses above are good examples of simple yet effective backbends, inversions, and forward bends that can help lower symptoms of menopause. There are several other postures that you can do: Lunge Pose, Cat-Cow Pose, Boat Pose, Chair Pose, Warrior II Pose, Shoulder Stand, Sage Twist Pose, Head-to-Knee Forward Bend, Reclining Bound Angle Pose, and Wide-Legged Forward Bend.
That said, I recommend you speak with a qualified yoga instructor or your healthcare professional before trying any new exercises. Work with an expert to determine what asanas would work best for you based on your menopausal symptoms and levels of discomfort. A good yoga sequence can keep the practice safe and minimize any chances of yoga injury.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your healthcare practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic practitioner, contact Sweta here.