Yogic management of menopause

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Menopause is a major turning point in the life of a woman directly related to her womanhood. Beginning of menopause marks the end of youth in a woman. It is the stage after which a woman is incapable of bearing a child. Menopause is caused when the production of estrogen hormone in the body is significantly decreased. Menopause is a stage of life not a disease.

EXACT AGE OF MENOPAUSE: The exact age of menopause differs from woman to woman. In normal women, menopause occurs somewhere between 45 to 50 years of age. In specific cases if there are surgical operations in the body like removal of uterus, it may occur earlier. It may also be late in some women due to many reasons. But, delay of menopause after 52 years is an indication of certain irregularities in the body. The ideal age of menopause is 50, affirms Sushruta, the great medical scientist of ancient India: The menstrual blood that is present in the body from the age of twelve comes to exhaustion at fifty after which the body is ruined by old age.

PERIMENOPAUSE:

Much before the actual menopause women pass through a transitional period mostly in their 40′s that is known as Perimenopause. There is a decrease of fertility and decrease of frequency of ovulation and the levels of ovarian hormones is erratic.

These internal changes in the organism manifest in many ways. There are reports of irregular uterine bleeding, heavier bleeding than normal menstrual flow and spotting between menses and after intercourse etc.

MENOPAUSAL HEALTH PROBLEMS:

There is every reason to accept that no noticeable health problem was associated with menopause since time immemorial. Because the great medical scientists of ancient India like Charaka, Susruta and others who studied the human physique so minutely and attached serious importance to every small and big problem of the human organism have not given a single reference of any health disorder related to menopause. Relatively newer treatises like Bhava Praksa, Astanga Hridaya and other authentic texts of the Ayurvedic discipline have also not discussed any health problem related to menopause. In fact, the whole Ayurvedic literature may be said to be absolutely silent about menopausal health problems which is a testimony to the fact that menopause was considered as a normal change of stage in a woman’s life without any attendable health irregularity. Only some of the very recent books written by modern writers of the last few decades, have mentioned about menopause and its problems.

Therefore, it may not be wrong to conjecture that the systematic and disciplined lifestyle prevalent earlier and the comparatively high level of tolerance and more positive attitude towards life had left no scope for the development of any health syndrome after menopause.

It may not also be wrong to say that the disorders in menopause noticed now have their genesis in the modern age life style and change of psychological attitude towards life and decrease of adaptability. The modern medical science also does not differ from the view that menopausal health disorders do not have a long history but have a recent advance.

But in spite of its recent occurrence the current study reveals that menopause gives rise to various health problems in the physical, psychological and emotional level. A short study of the various impacts of menopause is as the following:

PHYSICAL IMPACTS:

Menopause causes major physical impacts in a lady.

a) Vasomotor instability: Vasomotor instability is one of the commonest complaints of menopause. In common terminology, it is called hot flush or hot flash. A sudden increase in the flow of blood to the skin increases the body temperature by 1 to 7 degree Celsius. A sudden wave of heat spreads all over the body particularly the upper part and the face. Hot flushes are often associated with drenching diaphoresis commonly termed as night sweats. Because of the flow of heat to the skin and cooling through evaporation, the core body temperature falls and woman feels dullness. Even some women feel the dullness without experiencing the flow of heat. Hot flushes may occur monthly, weekly or even hourly.

b) Urinary complaints: A few urinary problems are noticed in women in the post menopausal period. Frequent urinary tract infection is one of them. There are also complaints of urinary incontinence (involuntary flow of urine), frequency (urinating more frequently), urgency (feeling the urge of urination even when the bladder is not full), nocturia (urinating frequently during night), dysuria (painful urination) and stress incontinence (urine leakage during caughing, laughing, sneezing or lifting a heavy weight).

c) Vaginal problems: Loss of estrogen results in vaginal (pruritus) (itching) and irritation. Vaginal inflammation and petechia (spots due to hemorrhage) are seen on the vaginal wall. Decrease of vaginal fluid results in vaginal dryness and resultant infection.

d) Genital prolapse: Estrogen acts as receptors to all the supports of the uterus and the vagina. Therefore, lack of estrogen results in loss of elasticity, tensile strength and the muscle mass in the supports. As a result, various kinds of genital prolapses like anterior vaginal wall prolapse, posterior vaginal wall prolapse, uterine prolapse and vault prolapse commonly occur after menopause.

e) Skin problems: Decrease in estrogen makes the skin lose its elasticity and glow. Skin is dry and thin. Urticarial rashes are experienced by many women.

f) Musculoskeletal problems: Joint pain, low back ache, and diffused muscular pain in the body are common after menopause. Osteoporosis is yet another serious menopausal consequence resulted in the physique. Less production of estrogen results in thinning of bones which results in a potential threat of fracture of bone especially of the hip and spine. Osteoporosis invariably causes a stooping shoulder and a hunched back. Osteoarthritis is yet another grave problem after menopause.

g) Dental problems: Weakening and loss of teeth is one of the postmenopausal complaints. Gingival inflammation and bleeding (inflammation of the gums and bleeding from the same) are frequent in the period.

h) Hair problems: Loss of hair in the scalp and appearance of hair in the facial region is often observed in the postmenopausal life.

i) Easy fatigue: It is a very common complaint among ladies in their postmenopausal period. Ladies feel tired by lesser exertion than before.

j) Insomnia: Insomnia is not getting required amount of sleep. Many ladies after menopause have the complaint of not having a sound sleep and not feeling sleepy till late night.

k) Weight gain: Deposit of fat mainly in the abdomen area and the thighs is noticed in postmenopausal years.

l) Ocular problems: Various ocular problems are associated with menopause. Swollen and reddened eyelids, blurred vision, tired eyes, increased lacrimation (tearful eyes), sensitivity to light, foreign-body sensation, scratchiness and such other ocular problems are invariably noticed in the postmenopausal life.

m) Increase of cholesterol: Many ladies report increase of cholesterol in this period. Women are prone to threats of cardiovascular disorders.

n) Painful intercourse: After menopause there is a significant decrease in sexual desire in the lady. Intercourse, if at all, is painful due to vaginal dryness.

PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS:

Psychological problems are more prominent in menopause than the physical ones. A short list of the psychological problems is as follows:

1. Depression: The major complaint in almost all ladies in the postmenopausal life is depression. Feeling sad for non achievement of happiness and desired objects is the great problem in the post menopausal period.

2. Impairment of memory: Capacity of mental retention of facts is greatly lessened in the later life of women which is greatly attributed to menopause.

3. Reduced concentration: Lack of concentration on a subject for a long time is invariably noticed in the postmenopausal period.

4. Irritation and anxiety: Irritation in small or no cause and feeling anxious for no sufficient reasons are also the aftermaths of menopause.

5. Mental lethargy: Mental lethargy is lack of enthusiasm to do anything. Feeling disinterested is a complaint of many women during the period.

EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS

Crossing the most attractive part of the life i.e. the youth is not easily accepted by many women. A sense of deprivation and loss prevails in many women mainly in the extrovert ladies. Some feel their husbands are no more interested in them because they are no more attractive. Others feel that children are maintaining distance from them because they no more need their care. Menopause is emotionally most painful for women for whom attractive look is the means to earn public appreciation and fame without which they lose the same.

YOGIC MANAGEMENT OF MENOPAUSAL PROBLEMS:

Yoga offers many practices to successfully manage the problems of menopause and its affects on women. Following are some of the practices which help in countering many problems of menopause:

a) Vaginal problems: Marjari Asana, Simhasana and Vyaghrasana help in toning up the female organ. They help in managing the vaginal problems like petechia, vaginal irritation and the like.

b) Prolapse: Vyaghrasana and Mulabandha help in contracting the vaginal region and hence help in preventing prolapse.

c) Urinary incontinence: Mulabandha is greatly helpful in preventing urinary incontinence.

d) Joint pain and osteoarthritis: Practice of various postures of Pavanamuktasana is a great help in managing joint pain and osteoarthiritis.

e) Stooping shoulder and hunched back: Practice of Ustrasana, Ardhaustrasana, Bhujangasana and Sarpasana are extremely helpful in correcting and preventing the stooping shoulder and hunched back.

f) Reduction of fat: Paschimottanasana, Yogamudra, Sasankasana, Naukasana, Agnisara Kriya, Kapalabhati and Bhastrika are helpful in reducing fats mainly from the abdominal area. Salabhasana is helpful in reducing fat from the thighs. Practice of Suryanamaskar is highly effective in reducing fat deposits from the whole body proportionately.

g) Insomnia: Savasana, Matsyakridasana, Makarasana and Adhvasana relax the muscles of the body and relieve tension from the mind and hence are effective in combating insomnia. Irritation and anxiety are also reduced significantly when the physique is relaxed. Savasana has been described as a practice which relieves tiredness and gives rest to the mind.

h) Ocular problems: Practice of Trataka is extremely helpful in managing the ocular problems. Swami Swatmarama is also of the view that Trataka cures many eye diseases.

i) Lethargy: Trataka is equally helpful in removing lethargy. Trataka has been rightly described as a practice which removes the hurdle of lethargy. Suryanamaskara is an excellent practice for removing lethargy and inducing enthusiasm.

j) Loss of calcium and estrogen: Pranayama is the greatest panacea for hundreds of health problems. It is therefore said : (A flawless practice of Pranayama relieves one of all diseases). Pranayama, in general, works magically in managing the losses the body incurs after menopause. Nadisodhana Pranayama is a practice in which air is inhaled and retained for a particular length of time and then exhaled. It fills the lungs with sufficient oxygen. Air moves to the remotest capillaries which normally do not get sufficient air. This provides more oxygen to the body. Blood is oxygenated more perfectly. This makes up the loss of calcium in the body and prevents osteoporosis. It also balances the endocrinological imbalances in the body. All other Pranayamas are very helpful in rejuvenating the body. It is therefore symbolically said that an old man becomes young by the practice of Pranayama: (The Yogi, by the practice of Pranayama is free from old age problems and becomes like a boy of sixteen years.)

k) Increased cholesterol: Kapalabhati is a Knya in which air is inhaled and exhaled with force. It is greatly helpful in balancing excess of cholestrol. Nadisodhana is beneficial for the management of cardiovascular problems.

1) Impaired memory and concentration: Bhraman Pranayama is a practice which is performed by creating a long and repeated nasal sound which helps in activating the brain and supplying more oxygen to the same. This is helpful in preventing loss and impairment of memory. It also manages the loss of concentration. Trataka, Dharana and Dhyana are also helpful in enhancing concentration.

m) Depression, irritation and anxiety: Asanas like Savasana, Matsyakridasana, Makarasana and Adhvasana are greatly helpful in pacifying irritation and anxiety. Practice of meditation helps in overcoming almost all the psychological problems. Practice of Bhramari Pranayama greatly relieves depression since it generates unmatched happiness in the mind of the practitioner.

Apart from the above a few supportive practices are beneficial in combating the menopausal syndrome which may be listed as the following: Dietary discipline: No Yogic practice is ever fruitful without some dietary disciplines attached to it. Sage Gheranda rightly comments: (A person who practices Yoga without disciplining his diet is prone to various diseases and he is never successful in his yogic endeavour.)

Therefore ladies who wish to counter menopausal problems should adhere to some restrictions in taking food. Abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in calcium and vitamins should be the priority. Avoiding junk food, spicy and fatty eatables is conducive for the purpose. Drinking sufficient water is a good dietary practice which relieves many health problems.

Swadhyaya: Swadhyaya is an important component of Yoga. Swadhyaya has two parts viz. chanting of Mantras and reading spiritual books. Practice of Swadhyaya elevates a person spiritually. It calms down the mind and makes a man tolerant towards the diversities of life.

Iswarapranidhana: Iswara Pranidhana is surrendering all one’s a/ctions to God or being detached to the results thereof. This is a great help in combating the psychological and o emotional problems in menopause.

Other helping measures: Concentrating on some creative activities like writing, painting, gardening etc. greatly helps in distracting the mind and keeping it engrossed. As a result it does not find time to fall a prey to psychological problems like depression. Likewise dedicating some time for some social service for the destitutes and the deprived might serve a great purpose in combating the emotional problems like isolation and deprivation.

The best remedy: The best management of menopausal problems is accepting it with ease. Lord Krisna in Bhagvadgita says Yoga is nothing but equanimity towards the pairs of opposites like happiness and sorrow, loss and victory etc. Accepting the unavoidable is the best way to counter it. Human life is a continuous process of changes and menopause is one of them. Accepting this fact reduces major fraction of the problems since it induces a psychological strength to combat the same. Lord Krisna has very rightly said: (Childhood, youth, old age and death are various stages of life. A learned person is never perturbed when the changes take place.)

Thus a psychological adaptability along with a few yogic practices may be sufficiently helpful for a woman in facing menopause, one of the major turning points of her life.

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