The Older You Get, The Hotter You Get
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | January 20, 2023
Once, when I was complaining about having a hot flash, my husband made me feel better. He slid up next to me on the couch, started fanning me with a piece of paper, grinned and said, “It’s okay sweetie, the older you get, the hotter you get.”
About 80 percent of women will experience hot flashes while going through the menopause transition (perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause), but sometimes, we don’t feel so hot about it. Fortunately, there are many ways to address hot flashes, including some yoga tools.
But there’s a larger issue here.
Menopause is still often framed as the hot, exhausting, death-of-the-ovaries, downward spiral of femininity into oblivion. But that’s ridiculous. And sexist. While every woman experiences the menopause transition differently, one possibility exists for all of us – the possibility of finding magnificence in menopause.
Menopause is a time of great possibilities for our strength, self-knowledge, wisdom, love, sexuality, and for further honing our already well-developed skills – which for yoga teachers means that you are probably just getting rolling.
Women going through the menopause transition have many options – you can change your diet, work on getting more exercise, and/or more rest, take bio-identical hormones, do yoga, develop new interests, and much, much more. There are many ways to approach this incredible stage of life, reclaim your zest, and find the magnificence in it.
Each year 1.3 million American women enter menopause so if you teach women, you are most likely working with folks who are going through the transition. It can be helpful to understand a few principles of yoga practice:
- Cool it Down
Every female human has a different response or reaction to menopause – not just biologically, but also psychologically, socially, and spiritually. But, hot flashes (or hot flushes) are very common. For some, reframing them as “power surges” and ignoring the annoyance is helpful. Other people choose to use supplements, diet, or pharmaceuticals to address them.
In any case, yoga has many practices to offer the hot older woman including slower breathing, restorative poses, meditation, and Śītalī (which involves breathing in through a curled tongue) or Sītkārī (which involves breathing in through teeth) prāṇāyāma practices.
Many years ago an older yoga teacher friend said to me, “I don’t know how I would’ve survived menopause without Śītalī!” and indeed many women find it incredibly helpful. But one thing to keep in mind is that although breathing in through a curled tongue and/or through the teeth can be helpful for addressing hot flashes, when you understand how to use ratios, head movements, and preparatory asanas you can further enhance the benefits of this important breathing practice.
- Queen of Self-Care
My life is busy. Yours probably is too. But menopause is a time of significant biological change – your body needs both excellent nutrition and lots of rest in order to adjust. Being well rested can support the cortisol shifts that come along with menopause and often disrupt sleep and make us feel more stressed and exhausted.
The advice to rest more used to piss me off. Men aren’t told to slow down so why should I? In order to be okay with it, I needed to have a better understanding of what was going on in my body. It’s not that I’m less productive or less capable, it’s that my body deserves my respect at this time.
So, I decided to crown myself the “Queen of Self-Care,” which means it’s my royal privilege and duty to take care of my body.
That reframe helped me to think about rest more positively and practically – how can I fit two or three 10 minute power savasanas or legs up the wall into my life every day? How can I make sure my daily practice is supporting my body’s needs? When I rest more, I’m calmer, more attentive, and healthier. I’m also happier (and so is everyone else in my house 😁).
I love to pass this on to my students by helping them embrace their own role as Queen of Self-care too. Practically, I do this by talking openly about menopause, and by including longer restorative poses, longer śavāsanas, and lots of yoga nidras into my classes – because every woman deserves her royal rest!
- Move More
Although it seems antithetical, the menopause transition requires both more rest AND more movement. Everyone knows that exercise is good and protective against chronic health issues like heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. And there’s ample evidence supporting the use of exercise for mitigating some of the symptoms of menopause too. But, there’s also research that suggests that over-exercising can further dysregulate the diurnal cortisol slope in menopausal women. Too much exercise can dysregulate the HPATG (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid-gonadal) axis, the optimal function of which is essential for a healthy transition.
Enter slow, mindful asana practice.
Slow, mindful practice is amazing for menopause – it gives us a way to move without dysregulating cortisol. Asanas were originally intended to balance hormones so using them during menopause makes a lot of sense. But, like any therapeutic tool, there’s a science to it. There’s a lot of nuance in how you use asanas during the menopause transition and I can’t explain all of it in a short blog.
But here are a few tips that I hope will help:
- Start supine and work slowly and mindfully, include poses like supta baddhkonasana for supporting pelvic floor health.
- From supine, mindfully transition to table top poses, then to standing poses, then back down to table top poses then prone poses, then legs up variations, then supine, then śavāsana.
- Include weight bearing poses like half plank, down dog, etc. to support bone density.
- Include balance poses to support vestibular system and proprioception.
- Include long śavāsana to support deep rest.
- Weave Śītalī /Sītkārī into asana practice and use it also as a standalone prāṇāyāma at the end of asana practice.
Yoga teachers have a lot to offer the many millions of women going through (or who will go through) the menopause transition both in terms of helping them to mitigate some of the symptoms as well as helping them to embrace the wisdom and magnificence that menopause offers.
Yoga teachers can also support women in whatever choices they make during this time. No one needs to feel shamed about using hormones or other supportive modailities, or be led to believe that yoga will solve everything. Rather, we should celebrate the fact that we live in a time when we have access to so much information, so many choices, and so many ways to make menopause magnificent.
Join me for Subtle Yoga for Menopausal Magnificence on Saturday, January 28, from 9:30 am till 1:30 pm ET – can’t make it live? No worries, it will be recorded!