I recently conducted some market research. I asked a bunch of questions to you, my audience. I wanted to understand what you knew about your ever-changing body, how you create balance in your life and you how assess your personal health and wellbeing.
I spoke to a number of women between 40-55 years old and it has been fascinating. These women have been so generous with their time and opening up to me about their lives, their physical and emotional health and wellbeing, and their thoughts about Yoga.
Whilst I won’t reveal personal details shared, I will say that I noticed a couple of common themes regarding our perceptions about the journey of menopause – oh yeh I said the M word!
And wow are we totally unprepared! So here are my observations.
Observation 1: Most women are scared, apprehensive and down-right in denial about what happens in the approximately 15 years when our bodies move through the peri-menopause stage into final menopause. They don’t want to deal with the inevitable, would prefer to ignore it until it happens and will try to muddle along once it does happen.
Observation 2: Women are clueless about the hormonal changes their bodies go through, and consequently there is only anxiety surrounding the potential cascade of accompanying symptoms. There is very little understanding about what the hormonal changes are, and how they impact you emotional and physical changes. There is no awareness of how to prevent or manage them.
Observation 3: Some women did go to their gynecologist and try to become more informed. However, the doctor’s response was usually – “lets get a blood test to ascertain what stage of menopause you are in”. There was no discussion about what was involved physically, hormonally, or emotionally, there was no reassurance that everything would be ok, there was no connection or understanding. There was no offering of solutions (other than potential HRT- Hormone Replacement Therapy).
The post-menopausal stage of life is a relatively new phenomenon, as the life expectancy of women has increased. In 1960, a woman’s average life expectancy was 54.5 years and in 2016 it was 74.2 years (global figures data source.) This means that for many women who are in the post-menopausal stage of their life, they have out-lived their life-expectancy at birth. In the mid-1900s, post-menopausal women were an anomaly in society, there was no language or frame of reference for how to relate to them.
For this reason, (amongst others) Western culture has traditionally viewed menopause as the beginning of the end for women. Your reproductive organs become irrelevant, you begin to feel older and show signs of aging, and your value in society is reduced to “sweet old lady waiting to die”.
This cultural view is being challenged vigorously as women live up to 30 + years post menopause. Some leading pioneers are now challenging perceived norms about women in this stage of life and introducing inspiring language to the discourse – Dr Christiane Northrup and the actress Jane Fonda to name just two.
In the wise words of Dr. Northrup:
“Although women have been taught to dread menopause, this life stage ushers in the springtime of the second half of life and is often accompanied by surges in creativity, vitality, newfound ambition, and the need to be of meaningful service to the community in a larger way”.
More and more women are realizing that a whole new life awaits them post-menopause (what Jane Fonda calls The Third Act) with new wisdom, new insights, new understand and a new perspective.
The challenge is to access it, and arrive there in the best physical and emotional state possible to be able to enjoy it! To do this you have to first traverse the peri-menopause and menopause stage with much more wisdom, awareness and connection then most women currently have.
In my view, peri-menopause and menopause are not things to fear or ignore – they are part of our natural development, just like adolescence, pregnancy and motherhood. It is the next stage on our life journey. And just as we talk to our pre-menstrual daughters about what to expect when they have their first period, and the physical and emotional changes they will go through, we deserve to educate ourselves about this new stage of life that we are going to experience. We deserve no less!
There are many ways to prepare for menopause and there are many ways to manage and treat the over 100 potential hormonal, physical and emotional side-effects. Regular Yoga practice of course being one of them. Through yoga poses and deep breathing, Yoga Nashit balances the raging hormones and relieves many of the physical and emotional side effect. However, before any of this can happen, the first thing we as women have to do, is change to negative language we use around menopause and the way we approach it. There is no question that transitioning into the menopause phase of life is a time of re-birth, growth and immense creativity – Embrace it!