Technically, menopause lasts only 24 hours—it’s the day 12 months after your final period, Brizendine says. But the transition leading up to that significant day can last 10 years. The perimenopause passage usually happens sometime between the ages of 42 and 55, when you go from normal menses to none at all. During this stage, you experience an erratic cycling of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that can lead to insomnia, hot flashes, fatigue, PMS, depression, irritability, anxiety, and low libido. “You’d gotten used to your menstrual cycle, and all of a sudden your hormone chemistry changes dramatically,” Brizendine explains.
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Adapting Your Practice for Perimenopause
Studies show that conscious breathing is a great option for managing perimenopausal symptoms. Simple pranayama with a five-second inhalation and five-second exhalation for 15 minutes twice a day can cut hot flashes by 44 percent, according to a study in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society. And this is a time to pay close attention to your physical and emotional states and see how your practice affects them. Inversions can relieve stress and insomnia; twists can relieve fatigue and depression; forward bends help ease irritability and anxiety. Many women find that their practice, once aggressive and fast-paced, mellows into one of longer-held, sustained poses.
“Perimenopause can take you into physical and emotional upheaval,” says physician and yoga teacher Sara Gottfried, our model here. Her perimenopause started after the birth of her second child, at age 38. “I have mood swings, and my night sweats worsen with my Ashtanga practice, so I do a more Ana-Forrest-meets-Angela-Farmer style of yoga.” Her center of gravity has changed, and she enjoys arm balances and inversions more now. “My practice is informed by my hormones and emotional context. In my 20s and most of my 30s, I was flexible and on task. Now I focus on survival and regulating my mood, so that I don’t rage at my family. I prevent rage with forward bends and inversions. I prevent depression with backbends and pranayama.”
3 Yoga Poses for Perimenopausal Women
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.