Patricia Walden on Menopause

The Great Stabilizer:

Yoga instructor Patricia Walden, 57, knows firsthand how yoga can help temper menopausal complaints. Like many other women’s symptoms, hers arrived like rain: first a sprinkle, then a full-fledged storm. Hot flashes came first, and then-for the next year-she suffered through constant fatigue and insomnia. She often awoke in the night and stayed awake for up to three hours.

On the days when Walden had intense symptoms, she found she needed to modify her yoga routine. She was accustomed to a vigorous daily practice but discovered that unsupported inversions, strenuous poses, and backbends sometimes made her symptoms worse. When that happened, she turned to supported and restorative poses to calm her nerves. She still did inversions, but instead of an unsupportedSirsasana (Headstand), which sometimes brought on more hot flashes, she would do Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) using bolsters orSarvangasana (Shoulderstand) with a chair. With these modifications, Walden was able to reap the benefits of inversions—relief from anxiety and irritability—without challenging or heating her body.

As Walden’s symptoms diminished, her conviction that yoga could be a potent tool for easing the suffering that accompanies hormonal shifts deepened. She began to connect with other women who were experiencing similar difficulties and has since created specific yoga sequences for women with menopausal symptoms. “I was interested in women’s issues before,” says Walden, coauthor with Linda Sparrowe ofThe Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health: A Lifelong Guide to Wellness. “But after having gone through menopause myself, I am much more sensitive to it.”

A regular yoga practice can make a world of difference in a woman’s experience of menopause. And a solid practice before this phase can ease the transition, says Suza Francina, author of Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause. “If you practice yoga before menopause, then all the poses that are especially useful for coping with uncomfortable symptoms are already familiar, and you can reach for them like an old friend,” she says. “If you are familiar with
restorative poses, then you have the best menopause medicine at your disposal.”

(from Yoga Journal)