Yoga has been a lifelong companion for Catherine de los Santos. She’s loved movement since she was a child, and she started attending formal yoga classes at the University of Idaho at age 17. After learning more about the spiritual aspects of yoga in B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, she committed herself to a daily practice. At the time she had no idea that yoga would help her weather so many physical and emotional challenges. In her energetic 20s, when de los Santos started teaching yoga, asana practice helped her to calm herself. During her 30s, it boosted her confidence. When hot flashes hit in her 40s, various yogic practices helped her manage them. Now 66, de los Santos says that yoga helped her get through menopause and the emotional upheavals that came when her parents died.
“I think the key is to not stop practicing. That’s what I tell my students,” says de los Santos, who teaches private lessons in Menlo Park, California. “Weaving your poses around your life is a good idea.” In the pages that follow, four women in the midst of life’s very different stages—adolescence, the childbearing years, perimenopause, and postmenopause—give examples of how to do just that.
“Yoga has important elements for all phases of a woman’s life,” says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist who founded the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. “During times of radical hormonal changes, women feel least inclined to practice yoga, but that’s when we need it the most.” Those changes in body chemistry can wreak havoc on your mood. But according to Brizendine, who wrote The Female Brain, there is good evidence that during a practice like yoga, your body releases chemicals into the bloodstream that bring you a sense of well-being and contentment.
A consistent yoga practice supports women physically, emotionally, and spiritually—but adapting your practice to meet your needs at each juncture is vital. While you can enjoy a challenging yoga regimen at any age, you’ll get the most from a practice tailored to the present—in other words, customized for your stage in life and how you’re feeling on any given day. Taking time to be aware of what’s happening in your life, in your body, and with your emotions is the key to getting the most from what yoga can offer you, all through your life.
About the Author
Nora Isaacs, a former editor at Yoga Journal, is the author of Women in Overdrive: Find Balance and Overcome Burnout at Any Age. Learn more about her writing and editing work at noraisaacs.com.