Between your early 20s and around 35, PMS peaks and complex life issues (settling on a career, finding a life partner, creating a home) add pressures and emotional twists and turns. On a daily basis, you have to adapt to a new mix of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The upside is that you’re more flexible and accommodating, says Sara Gottfried, MD, a physician who specializes in integrative women’s medicine, a yoga teacher, and the author of The Hormone Cure. The downside is increased emotional sensitivity, anxiety, and moodiness. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol peak around this time, too. Women who have children experience other dramatic changes. “Pregnancy and postpartum are the largest fluctuations of hormones in a woman’s entire life, which can bring about changes in the body, breast and fat tissues, and muscles,” Brizendine says. Then there’s the emotional result of hormonal changes that happen during this time regardless of whether you have kids: Revved-up oxytocin (the bonding love hormone) can elicit your inner nurturer, but increased testosterone can make you feel aggressive or upset.
Adapting Your Practice for Your 20s
Gottfried finds that ovulation—when estrogen and luteinizing hormone levels surge—is a time of great creativity and power. She recommends Sun Salutations, energizing backbends, and inversions during ovulation. Around menses, restorative poses can ease cramps and stabilize mood swings. Self-care throughout this time is vital, she says. San Francisco yoga teacher Jane Austin says her practice helps her manage the stress of this busy phase of life. “It’s not just about poses; it makes me a better mother,” says Austin, who finds yoga so vital to her well-being that she’ll unroll her mat at 9 p.m. if she hasn’t had a chance to practice earlier in the day. “Sure, I can put both feet behind my head, but does that really matter if I yell at my kids?” And now’s the time to take up meditation. “Studies show that 20 minutes of meditation twice a day lowers blood pressure, decreases anxiety, improves sleep and memory—things you need in your 30s because you tend to be climbing up the ladder, building a home, and often taking care of others,” says Northrup.
Ute Kirchgaessner (shown here when she was 32) says she loved yoga when she first started practicing at age 26. But before long, she found her body was tired and her back aching. “I was doing too much,” she says, not just in her practice, but in her life. Kirchegaessner cut back a bit on her yoga and all her rushing around. “I kept practicing but went slower, with more attention to my breath, thoughts, and sensations. My back pain disappeared and I felt grounded.” When she found herself four months pregnant at the start of an Ashtanga teacher training she had signed up for months earlier, she had to opt for a gentler practice than she’d originally envisioned. It was a great preparation for the demands of motherhood: “I step back even more now, choosing a home practice to stretch and relax. But it’s yoga!”
3 Yoga Poses to Help You Survive Your 20s
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.