For thousands of years, it has been known that yoga can help women connect and work with their internal cycles. This includes such cycles and milestones as menstruation, menopause and pregnancy, and even the act of aging gracefully. Part of this process is restorative yoga, meaning a class where the body, mind and spirit learn the art of relaxation.
For instance, a womenís desire to conceive can often be overwhelming and stressful, driving her to the point of obsession and collapse. A woman must begin to cultivate the most favorable conditions for conception. To alleviate stress about trying to conceive, start mapping your cycle of fertility. When entering a fertile time, start practicing restorative poses to calm the mind and the body. As you practice, soften the abdominal area with breath and begin to consciously remove tension from around the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Some of my favorite restorative poses are forward bends, reclining poses and Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose). Try Viparita Karani after coitus (which will theoretically keep the sperm inside the body and close to the opening of the uterus) to encourage the opportunity for sperm penetration.
Prenatal Yoga offers expecting mothers the opportunity to reconnect with their innate wisdom. Linking yoga postures with breath will lead practitioners to new discoveries, bringing awareness to the mind, body and spirit, and also to the spirit of their babies. Gentle yoga postures help strengthen the uterus and pelvic muscles, improve circulation, improve digestion, provide relief for the spine, and increase overall comfort. Yoga helps expecting mothers develop greater vitality and awareness of their ever-changing bodies, while deepening their relationship with their babies. Breath work, vocal toning and meditation will help cultivate flexibility, calm and confidence in preparation for labor and childbirth. Yoga is a wonderful way to ease the birthing process, by reducing pain and increasing the joy of giving birth!
Many women have begun seeking more natural solutions for menopausal symptoms and have found that yoga can ameliorate the undesirable side effects of menopause. Those who have turned to yoga for relief have found that while asanas may not directly influence estrogen production, specific postures can help control unpleasant symptoms. Restorative postures in particular can relax the nervous system and may improve the functioning of the endocrine system (especially the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the thyroid, and the parathyroid gland), which helps the body adapt to hormonal fluctuations. I believe that having a solid practice prior to menopause and continuing yoga during menopause will provide maximum benefits for women and truly ease their transition. For women stuck in ìoverdriveî also know as the ìfight or flightî response, Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)–in both cases with the head resting on a bolster or blankets–can help reduce irritability and mental tension, because bending forward and shutting out external distractions and stimuli can soothe the mind and reduce the effects of stress. The nervous system then receives the signal that all is well, and the adrenals and sympathetic nervous system stop working so hard.
Restorative yoga helps us learn to relax and rest deeply and completely. Itís about letting go of the body and breath so that we might disidentify ourselves from our thoughts. Most yoga classes donít allow enough time for Shivasana. It takes a minimum of 12-15 minutes before one can withdraw from external sensations and allow the body to reset. I encourage you to try one of my yoga classes to experience the innate balance Yoga can bring you and help you to connect and adapt more deeply to the natural changes of being a woman.
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