It seems like yesterday I was checking my temperature and looking for those two parallel blue lines. Reading volumes into late cycles and feeling thrilled at the slight nausea that arrived with my morning coffee.
Fast forward a decade or so and the next chapter is stirring within the delicate confines of my ovaries. A way off yet says my doctor but I hear it's whispers. Preparation is key I think.
I wasn't prepared for the eruption of maternal reverence that accompanied the birth of all three of my children. The weird paranoia (what if I drop him), the stress (what if he turns 16 and drops me), The crazy all consuming love (I have the most perfect children in the entire universe) and the horror (Please go to sleep or I'm going FREAKIN LOSE IT!!!!!!) I'd read all the books about conception, pregnancy and birth. I'd researched early developmental phases and sleep techniques, but I wasn't prepared for how I'd feel.
Same goes for menopause- information is power and I want to approach this next chapter armed with a map that will guide me both physically and spiritually. I also want to share it, which is why I teach women how to navigate this territory using yoga, meditation, visualisation, whole food, deep relaxation, women's circles, art, soft cheeses, (the occasional stiff drink), green juices, moon-howling, chocolate hoovering, crazy-making....and laughter. Women are so good at laughter.
It's powerful provocative work.
Know it young my beautiful friends. Hear the whispers in your own life so you might avoid the horrid shouting of night sweats and moods that might darken the very doorways of demon-hell-fire-houses. Use yoga to clear the way in your body for a new beginning. Opening your life to wisdom, compassion and steady strength.
The root of the word peri means around or near and in the case of peri-menopause, refers to the period of time that a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes that will eventually lead to the cessation of her monthly cycle (menopause).
Just as it takes around 4-7 years for a woman’s cycle to become balanced after her first period, peri-menopause can last for many years. Most women transition for a period of two to seven years with a spectrum of symptoms ranging from nothing to debilitating suffering.
In the case of medically induced menopause, through cancer treatment or removal of the ovaries, women can experience a few years of symptoms condensed into a few weeks. Many suffer psychological trauma because they are unable to experience the gradual process of working through this important time.
During this process oestrogen levels remain fairly stable until the final year before menopause. Testosterone levels drop but not markedly and some women actually produce more testosterone.
The most significant change occurs with a decrease in progesterone and this accounts for most peri-menopausal symptoms. Progesterone and oestrogen are supposed to counterbalance each other during the menstrual cycle, with one falling as the other rises, so this drop in progesterone means that oestrogen levels go unopposed. The result is a whole lot of oestrogen that can lead to a whole lot of problems!
Symptoms of oestrogen dominance include mood swings, headaches, weight gain, reduced circulation, breast tenderness, bloating, irregular abnormal periods and decreased sex drive.
The ovaries slow down at this stage of our lives because reproduction is no longer a biological requirement. However it is important to know that in a healthy body, hormones are produced in body fat, skin, the brain and adrenals. Therefore we are biologically able to create balance within our changing bodies without relying on the ovaries.
The pituitary gland regulates the production of hormones within the ovaries. At peri-menopause the pituitary no longer signals the ovaries to produce hormones. In a functioning healthy body, the adrenals then produce small amounts of hormones in order to provide balance within the body. A healthy liver is necessary for processing excess hormones within the bloodstream.
If a women has experienced a lot of stress in her life it is likely her adrenal function will be impaired. If she has smoked or drank too much or eaten a diet high in processed food, her liver function is likely to be poor. Many westerners have an iodine deficiency due to iodine antagonists in the environment, this leads to problems with thyroid function.
All of this can compound to make peri-menopause a difficult transition that may require change and intervention. In this way it can become a positive motivator for nurturing ourselves and seeking to improve our health.
Peri-menopause can often be a confusing time for women. It is a period of reflection, adjustment and change.
Within this change, many women experience the death of an old life, old ways and old thinking. This often manifests in her disposing of what isn’t working in her life. Many women leave relationships that no longer serve them. They might radically change the dynamics within their families. They might return to the workforce and want to step out of the role of constant carer.
This can be a confronting and unsettling time as we find ourselves wanting to step out of the mothering phase of our lives. We feel guilty and sometimes resentful because we want a greater independence from our dependents! This is becoming more of an issue as we have children later in life.
This process of letting go allows us to experience the death of who we were before, so that we may ‘rebirth’ the fullness of our new self. By the same analogy, the process is not without it’s labour pains. Sometimes we need the space to grieve for what is gone.
Before we are clear on what has to go, it’s common to experience a frustrating paralysis. Unsure of what is required and feeling overwhelmed by doubt or fear. We do nothing, but an insidious discontent forces us to see things with new clarity. Our intuition hasn’t been this available to us since menarche. The universe is whispering to us, we need time and space to listen.
It’s normal to want to retreat or rest. It is required for our reclamation.
Many women are terrified by the ageing process. In our culture, we often don’t value the crone, the carrier of wisdom. Looking to other societies however this ‘change’ is one of the most exciting transitions a women can undergo.
In American indian culture women cannot become shaman until they have entered menopause. The word ‘crone’ may conjure up images of dried up old witches but in fact it comes from the word ‘crown’. As a woman reaches the pinnacle of this stage she is crowned with the jewels of her knowledge. American indian women rarely colour their hair because grey is a symbol of wisdom that is respected by both the men and women of their tribe.
The same is true for many eastern and european cultures. Australian Aborigines observe the moon cycles and teach girls about their cyclic nature. This wisdom is passed down through their maternal grandmother.
But some women are devoting their life work to changing this in our culture. We are beginning to hear the collective voices of those who went before us. We are looking for something that we have lost and we are being guided to honour our moon phases and in turn, our magic.
Women are mysterious creatures. We are governed by the moon in the same way as the ocean tides. We are cyclic and we beat in time with the rhythm of the Earth. Our cycles are intimately linked with the lunar phases. During her fertile years, many women will ovulate during the full moon. However as we approach our ‘crone’ years, entering peri-menopause, we bleed with the full moon.
By becoming aware of this cyclic relationship between ourselves and the universe, we open ourselves up to wisdom. We accept our magical connection to each other and the planet. We begin to respect our intuition. By learning to practice conscious menstruation we learn to trust our bodies and our inner-guidance to support us through our whole lives.
It is then our responsibility when we close our cycles to become elders in our community. We can serve women by passing this knowledge down the line. By promoting cyclic awareness we offer our daughters and grand-daughters a priceless gift. They too will be given the opportunity to witness their divine nature.
Peri-menopause is a time to enter your own possibility.
In honouring ourselves we learn to become Truthspeakers. As we begin this transformation we might struggle with this desire to be more authentic in our interactions. We might ‘lose our cool’ or erupt rather than being able to speak with dignity and restraint. But we are pulled into this urgent wanting to make our genuine voice heard. It’s important that we are aware of this spiritual calling so that we can make a conscious effort to observe ahimsa at this time. (and forgive ourselves when we don’t.)
We can speak with the weight of experience and the clarity of past mistakes in order to serve others.
We open ourselves up to kundalini energy. Ancient yogis believed that this is a time that the kundalini is released, cleansing the body of past trauma and burning off our ego. Anyone thats ever experienced a hot flash will have a sensual reference for this experience!
The Chinese believe that there is an increase in yang energy during peri-menopause. In our mothering phase, a woman in more yin (moist, receptive, passive) and as she enters the next phase of her life she is more yang (passionate, firey, independent). This burst of new energy gives rise to hot flashes until she settles into her new self.
One of the most difficult aspects of entering peri-menopause is the lack of support from other women. With many women so desperate to hold onto their youth, we don’t openly discuss the difficulties of this phase. We are loathe to mention our heavy bleeding or waning libido or night sweats because we’re projecting that image of the ‘thirty something’(sometimes till we’re sixty!). We don’t want to see ourselves as ‘old’.
At the other end of the spectrum are the women who have already crossed the bridge. We can certainly learn from these women but it isn’t the same as being ‘amongst your sisters’. That is why I’m drawn to this work. So that we might create opportunities to stand together and walk into wisdom.
Menopause is declared by the medical community as twelve months after a woman’s last period. It marks the end of our reproductive cycle and means the ovaries no longer perform their primary function. We no longer release ova and we no longer shed our uterine lining each month. Once menopause is reached the symptoms of peri-menopause subside.
When we talk about the experience of menopause we often speak of a bridge to the other side. It’s true that whilst peri-menopause is a journey, menopause is a destination and should be celebrated.
We may appear to the world as ‘our old selves’ again but most of us are changed forever. For those of us who embrace cyclic wisdom and have crowned themselves, they are reborn into warriors, truthspeakers and wisewomen.
Pinkola Estes says it beautifully....
We may appear unchanged outwardly, but inwardly we have reclaimed a vast and womanly wildness. On the surface we are still friendly, but beneath the skin, we are most definitely no longer tame.
What ensures that we remain full juicy women as we embrace ageing, is being fully immersed in our lives. We might find meaning in ritual or reading, yoga or quilting. It doesn’t matter how we squeeze the life out of experience, it matters that we do it whilst being true to our spirit and aware of our gift to the universe.
Yoga for Hormonal Balance Workshop
Saturday 5th September
10 am- 4 pm Pine Rivers Yoga
In this workshop we will be exploring different ways to balance our hormonal cycles with yoga and meditation.
We will look for soothing antidotes to modern day life with all it’s demands and distractions. Exploring the benefits of pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra and restorative yoga. We will touch on the benefits of discovering our unique rhythm and learning to work with our bodies to create a sense of balance.
Please join Michelle and Ruth in a day of nourishing yoga designed to restore and rejuvenate. We will also cover ideas for you to establish a home practice and a light vegetarian lunch will be provided.
Cost $105 including lunch
Bookings please go to www.pineriversyoga.com
or contact Michelle on 0430 222 274 or Ruth on 0434 775 645