‘I realised that I and others in our culture were being methodically starved of substance, that something was awry in some of the “wisdom” of our culture, that it did not have our best interests at heart, that it saw those who are “menopausal” as somehow less. It is not so, we are instead more. Much, much more.’
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, psychoanalyst and author.
‘Oh she’s menopaual.’ Read those words and consider their emotional undercurrent. Positive? Negative? Does the voice sound excited? Does the voice sound amazed or say these words with deep reverence?
Or do these words come delivered in a tone that suggests ‘she’ is a bit batty’ or ‘lost her marbles’. Should be excused and ignored.
In our culture we’ve a long way to go in our attitudes to women’s transition from her childbearing years. What lies beyond them? A barren wasteland? Decay and decline? Regret?
You may think I’m dramatising and, yes, we see progress. Older women (albeit famous, physically attractive personalities) are now seen on magazine covers and reclaiming their place in make up advertisements. If I were cynical I would suppose that’s because marketers have woken up to how much spending power our generation have, but we are more visible, certainly, as consumers.
Midlife women make themselves heard on social media as a vibrant, intelligent, vital energy (at least the ones I’ve found do) and long may that flourish. But there is a long road to travel before we are celebrated in these years and for women as a whole to anticipate a joyful connection with this time.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes advocates we reverse cultural diminishing and see ourselves in a ‘more than’ moment. She takes the years between 49 and 56 as a time for choosing. A time to go deep inside our selves and consider what the great work to come might be.
Easier said than done within the symptoms of menopause, I know. But they are not forever. Like puberty, they pass and we emerge.
Yes our ability to physically give birth and child rear may be past, but with that comes freedom and that energy can be redirected into a broader connection with our world’s need for our vision. It’s no coincidence that environmental activists include women like the designer Vivienne Westwood, pouring their creativity into their cause.
So where’s yoga’s place here?
As Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, author of Yoga Shakti, so succinctly expresses this: ‘Part of the freedom that the practice of yoga brings to us as women is the capacity to accept ourselves.’
If life were a play, this is your third act. Time to review and consolidate where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, what you’ve learned, sort yourself out (or find someone to help you do that) and decide what comes next – because everything is coming.
The yoga practice that may suit you now is not rigid. There is no specific ‘yoga for menopause asana sequence’. You choose the practice you need.
You may consider that you need a stronger practice. I do although my students may be grateful I don’t inflict mine on them. I’m mindful of their needs, and my needs are not theirs. You may decide you need a more restorative experience.
Certainly there are sequences that serve. Warrior sequences are a fine expression of our feminine strength and power at this time and are very popular with my class.
But this is your time to explore. May your travels be happy and enlightening.
References and further reading
The Joyous Body: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Yoni Shakti: A woman’s guide to power and freedom through yoga and tantra by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli PhD