As I write this I feel as if I have come (and am still making my way) through a rite of passage. If someone had said this is what the menopause would feel like a couple of years ago I would not have had a clue what they were talking about. I think one thing I have experienced is a sense of presence in all this. My body and mind talking and communication with me. Sometimes saying things that I did not want to hear or know about too. Thats the gift of yoga too, a body/mind awareness but at times I may have wished it wasn’t the case!
I feel there is a lot of ‘after the fact -ness’ in this transition. Much like other big life events, you are in it and then you get a chance (if you are lucky) to reflect on what has happened. I hear this from many women, something that goes along the lines of “well, I guess I must have been starting to experience perimenopause that time when I had palpitations and nothing showed up” or “ that time when I had anxiety so bad and I had never had it before” or “ I used to sleep really well and then all of a sudden I am finding it hard to get a good sleep”.
For me it was the first two and that was about 6 years ago. Not for one second did I think it was ‘the change’ ( I hate that word by the way! - I feel it has to come with its own sound like in the films when the villain shows up - dun dun dun!).
It is only when I look back on all that was happening that I can now say I started about 6 years ago. I never said it to anyone. I didn’t know. I didn’t know anyone of my friends experiencing the same. Until, at a Christmas dinner with some of the gals and I mentioned to my friend Sharon who is a psychotherapist that I was going around with a knot in my stomach and had no idea why. Check this out - I was rubbing peppermint oil on my belly, I was taking herbal bitters, I was cutting out foods I thought were affecting it but it was still there. Why? Because a knot in the stomach can be anxiety - I never experienced this before. I was in a good place in my life and I was not feeling stressed about anything. Sharon told to me that unexplained anxiety is one of the many symptoms of perimenopause. What! How did I not know this? Then of course we got talking and more information was passed to me. The box was open. I was now asking more questions and finding out more. My body became my own lab and I was exploring an unknown territory.
I am thankful I have a great relationship with my mother and she passed to me some nuggets to help me, she always has. She used to bring in a wild yam cream from a friend in Arizona and share with her friends. She has started that connection with Arizona again and this time it is for me and my buddies.
I remember being in my early twenties and hearing all about menopause when in her company. I even did a couple of exhibits with her as she was getting this information out to the women at that time. The women would talk and share. This in itself was powerful and at a time in Ireland when anything to do with women’s health was very much pushed under the table. Listening to Joe Duffy’s radio show a couple of months ago it feels maybe not much has changed as women are still not being listened to properly by many in the medical profession. Fair play to Joe’s team. What was to be a one day phone-in turned into a week and it opened many eyes and ears! When women get together big things happen. Why do you think for years we have been vilified and seen as a threat? Thats for another article!
So, women getting together and talking. Finding out that their symptoms may not be the same or that they may not be experiencing any symptoms at all. There is so much negativity around this time that I have actually spoke to women who think there is something wrong with them because they are not having any symptoms! Every woman is having a different experience with perimenopause and menopause. The symptom’s range is vast. Why? Because it has everything to do with our endocrine system and its connection then to every other system in out body. We come as a whole. We are all different and I really believe this is why both the medical profession and modern society cannot fathom or understand us - we can’t be put into a “one size fits all” box. It is easier to just ignore us or deny any of this exists. The beauty of this passage is it makes or forces us to realise we are different, each of us but we need to come together to help and support each other.
So many times over the last 18 months I have been reminded of myself in my ‘maiden’ years -a teenager into my twenties. I was an activist. I had a shaved head with a bright red fringe, army boots and I went to protests. I never realised this until I began to sense these feelings again of being different, not giving a hoot of what people though of me, speaking out against injustice. I have turned punk rock in my 50th year! Something switches where we come out from under the gaze of a predominantly patriarchal culture. We are not subject to the whims of how we are supposed to look according to a culture that values appearance over substance. We know it goes deeper than this - maybe we have known this all along but felt we had to go along with it?
Then you find a voice you never knew you had - the editing begins. You start to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Physically and emotionally. It happens without us knowing too. It is very empowering and a bit scary at times. The power flowing through us is a reminder of where we have come from. The other side of this can be damaging as studies show that the majority of women who take their own lives do it around the time of menopause - this is why it is so important to talk, seek help and if you feel you are not being listened to then go to someone who will listen. We must keep our lines of communication open with each other during this time. I will always say, apart from my yoga teacher training, going to a talk therapist is one of the best things I did for myself. I went to a psychotherapist for what I thought was going to be 6 weeks and turned out to be 2 years! It has helped me so much at this time of change. I was lucky to find a good fit - again, don’t be disheartened if you have to change therapist - it is worth it. You must find someone who you gel with.
There is so much more to tell you about!
For now though I will share a little on the seasons and why I use this as a tool to help navigate not just day to day emotions but embodying sensation in myself too.
Inspired by Wild Power, the book by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, and the wonderful teachings of Uma Dinsmore Tuli I have found myself more and more ‘synching’ and exploring the cyclical wisdom that is everywhere around us. From the seasons of the year to the cycles of the moon - these have acted like an anchor when I am feeling all over the place and without direction. At a time when perhaps our menstrual cycle is irregular or has stopped this cycle awareness can act as a way to check in with ourselves. To stop and be able to recognise why we may be feeling a certain way can help put some distance between irrational though patterns or the inner critic. It is also a great way to ‘organise’ our energy ahead of time. For example Winter is usually a time of introspection and getting cosy, lighting the fire and resting and Summer is our time for getting out, staying up late, celebrating life. Take a moment to close your eyes and try get a felt sense of how both of those seasons are for you. Can you sense, feel or imagine the difference between the two? How would it be then to check in with yourself and ask - how am I feeling today? What season am I in? What can I do to honour that season in myself? Am I winter - do I need to rest or take something off the to-do list if my energy feels low? Am I feeling Summer - is this a good time to invite my sister over with the kids and have fun? The ways of interpreting the seasons are many and personal to each one of us. Enjoy this exercise in finding how you move through the seasons. Stay curious! I have included some examples of what they mean to me and you may have your own. Please feel free to share with me what you find and if you find it beneficial. In the meantime, I would love to extend an offer of a free resource list I have compiled (it is ever changing too) of things that I have found to help me on this wondrous path. Go to my website https://www.anandacentre.com and I will email it out to you when you sign up for it. If you would like to work with me further I am available for one to one in person or online and also through the Being Well with Brenda membership group that has classes, workshops, guests, journalling and lots of inspiration.
Grab whatever you need in the way of tools you use in your daily practice - blocks, bolsters etc.
Sit for a moment or two and connect with being present in your space and the breath.
For me my Winter is a fully supported savasana pose - lots and lots of cosiness. I can let my batteries recharge. One of the biggest things I found of help through Yoga is rest - lots and lots of it! Be it Restorative Yoga (staying for 20 minutes in a supported pose) or a yoga nidra - lots of rest! Making time for it is a challenge but it is so worth it.
2. Spring has sprung - what is Spring like for you? When you think of the earth warming, buds starting on the trees, nature waking up - does this evoke anything for you? Optimism, hope maybe? If you are a couple of years into menopause there may even be a sense of emerging, renewed energy. Often called the time of a Second Spring.
I have chosen Childs pose for myself here as it reminds me of a seed in the earth getting ready to start emerging - a new beginning. I may move slowly too as I emerge, I am in no hurry.
3. Summer fun - I had my niece helping me take photos and then thought why don’t the two of us have some fun - this is Summer all over - holidays, ice creams, fun. Increased energy even though the days are brighter and maybe not so much sleep had either. Buzzing.
For many years I found it hard to get into even trying a headstand. I had old injuries to my neck and needed to be extra careful. When I discovered the headstand helper it was a game changer. The delight of being able to finally do a headstand safely had me feeling like a kid again. This for me is summer - carefree and no fear!
4. Reaping in Autumn - Autumn is the season most associated with Perimenopause. It is the time in the seasons when we look back on all we have achieved or planted and worked on. What has come to fruition. It can be for the year or for this time in our life. We may begin to harvest the good stuff from our endeavours but we also may look at what has not been working for us with a view to change. We have gained wisdom and experience from our time. Taking stock, we now get to put it to use and not let anything get in our way. It is also a time when things may begin to slow down again, when we start to move inwards, a little introspection and reflection. Getting ourselves ready for the time of rest in the next season, taking with us what we need, knowing there will be renewal once Spring comes around again.
I have placed myself in Supported Cobbler pose. For me it signifies a position of receiving and trust - receiving all the good stuff that nature and the universe has to offer us. It honours the place of the womb space where the potential of creation and creativity lies. It reminds me that I am being held and everything will be ok in the end.
Thanks to my lovely niece for helping me take the photos. She is a pro!
This blog post is also featured in the Yoga Therapy Ireland - YTI Magazine that goes out to members.
Thank you to Yoga Therapy Ireland for allowing me to share my practice.
If you are not a member of them, I highly recommend joining.
You do not have to be a teacher to recieve the magazine.
For more details see http://www.yogatherapyireland.com/membership/