It seems to me that Perimenopause is one of those grey areas, which up until fairly recently was rarely spoken about.
There’s also a distinct lack of information or advice to support women and menstruating people through what can be a turbulent time both physically and mentally.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the phase of a woman’s life before menopause – the point at which she stops bleeding. See our blog Perimenopause: Transitioning into your Second Spring for more information.
The hormone progesterone begins to decrease from about age 35 – yes, that’s right, 35 years old! This period is known as perimenopause, and it generally lasts around 15 years before the next important hormonal change (which happens around 50).
What happens during this phase?
The job of progesterone is to balance or curb the activities of oestrogen. Whilst progesterone levels are steadily going down, women may experience symptoms such as headaches, hot flushes, night sweats, irregular periods, irritability, digestive changes, anxiety, mood swings, depression, loss of libido….the list goes on!
I believe this time can be a pivotal moment for a woman, physically, mentally AND spiritually. It’s like nature is saying: you’ve got to deal with this stuff that has been overlooked and throw out anything you don’t need for the next phase, so you can really know yourself and live with integrity.
Having an awareness of this life phase and the changes it can bring are key. We can then find ways to help re-establish balance by adapting our lifestyle to accommodate these changes.
Certain yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation techniques can be helpful during this time. This is because yoga affects all the systems of the body, including the endocrine and nervous systems.
Listed below are some asana and breathing techniques recommended for perimenopause:
Supported Adho Mukha Svanasana
Place a bolster, brick or a couple of blocks on your mat and kneel on all fours facing your props with your hands either side. Walk your hands forwards a few inches, then tuck your toes under, lift your knees and your hips up and back into downward facing dog (adho muka svanasana). Rest your head (just above the hairline) on your props; you may need to walk your feet back or your hands forward so that your arms can be straight and the head and neck relaxed. Stay here for 1 – 2 minutes.
Kneel down with your knees apart and your big toes together facing your bolster. Lie the front of your body along the bolster, turning your head to one side and resting your forearms on the ground to either side of you. Make sure the elbows are slightly in front of your shoulders so your shoulders can relax. After 2 minutes, turn your head to face the other direction and stay here for 2 more minutes.
Kneel down with your buttocks between your feet, making sure you rest the tops of your feet on the floor, with your heels nestled close to the side of your hips. You can sit on a block if you need to. Lift your pelvis slightly and scoop the buttocks under to lengthen your tailbone, then lower your pelvis back down as you lay back over the bolster (if you are sitting on a block, you will need to raise the bolster with either blocks or another bolster on top). Support your head with a folded blanket or cushion. Now sweep your arms alongside your ears, catch your elbows and draw your elbows down towards the ground behind you. After 1 minute, change the clasp of the elbows and stay here for another minute. If you feel comfortable, you could stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes.
Supta Baddha Konasana
Sit on your mat with your bolster behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the sides. Place some blocks or cushions under your outer shins. Your legs should not be open to their full capacity. Scoot the buttocks under and lie back over your bolster, supporting your head with a folded blanket or cushion. Rest your arms out to the sides with the palms facing up
Nadi shodana breathing
Sit in a comfortable cross legged or kneeling position on a block or cushion with your back upright. Prepare your left hand in jnana mudra (tip of the thumb and index finger touch with the palm facing up) and your right hand in shanka mudra (index and middle finger rest in the palm). You will be using the tip of the thumb and ring fingers of the right hand to alternately block off the nostrils. Establish a slow deep breath. Block off the right nostril and inhale through the left, block off the left nostril and exhale through the right, inhale right, exhale left. That completes one round. Continue for between 5 and 15 minutes.
Lucinda Pimlott is a Senior Yoga Alliance Professionals Teacher, director of Lucinda Yoga and co-director of the Lime House Yoga Teacher Training Programme. She runs a programme called Moon Yoga, specialising in women’s wellbeing and including courses, workshops and retreats in both online and in her home county of Cornwall in the UK. You can also find Lucinda on Facebook
To learn more about Yoga for Menopause and Perimenopause, read Moving with the Moon – Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond by Ana Davis. This complete guide to Yoga for your Menstrual Cycle and Menopause includes a chapter on ‘Embracing Menopause’, filled with information and practices to support this life phase. Available now in print and E-book, plus accompanying audio tracks.