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Midlife Crisis for Women

Ardh Shalbh asana

Shalbhasana


The time of entering mid forties for the ladies is not always comfortable. In the middle years, some will find there is something amiss in their previously active lives. Children are grown up and would have left home to pursue their careers. 

In some cases life partners may have left. Physically and mentally they undergo many changes and confront a number of other health related issues such as ageing, the passage through menopause, possible physiological imbalances from years of poor lifestyle habits, and specific physical symptoms related to frustrations at a deeper level. We are going to discuss menopause problems in this article.

MENOPAUSE

Menopause is a normal biological event which occurs in every woman's life when the ovaries stop producing eggs and begin to secrete significantly lesser hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen prevents the deposition of fat in the arteries and provides protection against coronary heart disease. After stopping of estrogen production there is possibility of development of heart disease, skin becomes dry, muscles get stiff and the body calcium also reduces which causes osteoporosis. There is a great danger of cancer of ovaries. Very rarely it is detected timely. One should have the habit of getting medical check up regularly. It is important that women understand the workings of their bodies in order to avoid unnecessary fear, anxiety and stress at this time. For that, try to understand the function of the endocrine system.

ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

The endocrine system is a system of glands which are distributed throughout the body and the hormones secreted by them into the bloodstream are distributed to all parts of the body. The endocrinal glands supplement the nervous system, in particular the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. Together, they make up a single neuro-endocrine system that integrates and coordinates the metabolic activities of the body, and controls the ability of the body to face changes in the internal and external conditions. It has a great influence in this transitional time. The glands trigger definite organs that react to specific hormones, and in this manner, changes are induced within the body according to the dictates of the brain, which is also the master controller of the endocrinal system.

ENDOCRINE GLANDS

The major glands that make up the human endocrine system are the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pineal body and the reproductive glands, which include the ovaries and testes. The pancreas is also part of this hormone-secreting system, even though it is also associated with the digestive system because it also produces and secretes digestive enzymes. Although the endocrine glands are the body's main hormone producers, some non-endocrine organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, thymus, skin, and placenta also produce and release hormones. The glands do not work independently. Each gland reacts with and modifies the influence of the other glands. Thus, any disorder of the endocrinal system in general, or in one of the glands in particular, can have negative repercussions on the health of the whole body.

THE PITUITARY GLAND

The pituitary gland and hypothalamus coordinate the menstrual cycle. During menopause the ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone is no longer secreted. In an attempt to stimulate the ovaries into producing eggs the pituitary produces greater amounts of FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (Luteinizing hormone). These pituitary hormones temporarily (over some years) increase their production until the body finds a substitute for estrogen produced by the ovaries. The fatty tissue and the adrenal glands become this substitute. Increased amounts of FSH and LH are thought to produce hot flushes, a symptom of menopause.

THE THYROID AND PARATHYRIOD GLANDS

The thyroid and parathyroid glands are involved in the homeostasis of bone remodeling. Calcitonin secreted by the thyroid gland and parathyroid hormone secreted by the parathyroid glands, keep the ionic calcium and phosphate balance & healthy within the body so that the breaking down of old bone is replaced with new. A sluggish thyroid also causes fatigue, another symptom of menopause.

THE ADRENAL GLAND

The adrenal glands control the balance of sodium and potassium in the body, the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, balance the sex hormones, produce muscle tone and produce the fight/flight stress reaction. They are a major source of post-menopausal estrogen, essential for maintaining healthy bones, by helping to convert androstenoodrone into estrogen.

THE THYMUS GLAND

The thymus gland is located close to the heart and is important for the immune system. It produces two hormones which promote the proliferation and maturation of T cells which destroy microbes and foreign substances. Recently evidence has suggested that thymic hormone may retard the ageing process.

THE PANCREAS

The pancreas secretes glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic hormone, which raise or lower blood glucose levels in the body. Women who experience fatigue may have a blood sugar imbalance, which may be due to prolonged stress, chronic infection, cancer or tumour, but for the most part is self-induced by eating sugars and refined foods. As a result the pancreas (pituitary, adrenals and liver) may become ineffective, failing to react appropriately in times of major or minor stress, resulting in fatigue. During and after menopause the ovaries produce significantly lower levels of oestrogen. While the body finds alternatives for this loss, it is important to keep the ovaries toned and balanced in order to maintain the level of oestrogen the ovaries continue to produce.

YOGA AND MIDLIFE

The middle years are a time to deal with any unresolved issues from the past in order to move towards the future. Yoga practices are a means of addressing problems arising from a sedentary lifestyle. It can help release Pranic blocks and free mental and emotional tensions as these relax stiffness in muscles and joints. Yogasanas, Pranayama, Meditation, Mudras, Yoga Nidra, Shavasna with breath awareness are helpful Yogic tools. They all influence the physical, mental and spiritual planes, helping to release unresolved issues at the unconscious level.

• The physical benefits may be felt as relief from specific ailments, an improvement in other physical problems and a whole sense of physical well-being. This can be a very powerful experience for some women who have lost touch with their body and who are alienated from the physical dimension.

• The mental and emotional benefits include an overall sense of relaxation and calmness, which act as a means to control stress and tension in our lives.

• At the spiritual level yoga can provide an enriching experience through Kirtan and Meditation. For those women who have lost contact with their spiritual nature it can awaken this aspect and provide a means to realize a deeper centre within themselves.

YOGASANA

Yoga practices especially dynamic practices are a means of addressing problems arising from a sedentary lifestyle. They stimulate and tone all the systems of the body – cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, circulatory and hormonal. Yogasanas that tone and maintain the endocrine glands and the nervous system that communicates with these glands include forward and backward bending, twisting and sideways bending and inverted postures. The practices recommended are: Tadasana, Trikonasana, Surya Namaskara, Vipareeta Karani Mudra, Kandharasana, Halasana, Paschimottanasana, Bhujangasana, Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana, Shashank, Ushtrasana, Marjariasana, Supta vajrasana and Ardha matsyendrasana.

PRANAYAMA

Pranayama involves influencing the breath and altering the flow of Prana in the body because Pranamaya Kosha is the link between the Annamaya Kosha (physical body) and the Manomaya Kosha (mind). The practices of Pranayama can reach all the levels of the mind and therefore help resolve unconscious issues by clearing energy blocks and harmonizing Prana. Useful Pranayama practices include full Yogic breath, Kapalbhati, Nadi Shodhana, Bhramari and Omkar

MEDITATION

Meditation allows the unconscious thoughts, feelings and images to rise to the conscious level while witnessing these as a neutral observer facilitates the resolution of many unconscious conflicts and the release of repressed memories and experiences. Meditation, in particular Antar Mouna, Trataka, Chidakasha Dharana and Ajapa Japa can help to maintain physical, mental and spiritual health.

BANDHAS

Jalandhara, Uddiyana, Moola, and Mahabandha help to redirect Prana and strengthen the whole body.

MUDRAS

Mudras create a link between the physical and Pranic bodies which together influence the mental body. With the Nadis clear and Prana flowing freely, deep seated conflicts find channels to surface and be resolved. Shambhavi, Nasikagra and Sahajoli Mudras are useful.

KRIYAS

Neti and Trataka

YOGA NIDRA

Yoga Nidra is a relaxation technique as well as a tool for reconstructing and reforming the personality. The stages of Sankalpa and visualization can act as a support for women in midlife by constructing positive images of the future. For example, Sankalpa can set the scene for changing negative attitudes to positive. Visualization can provide for a woman a vision of herself and the future as positive, healthy and strong.

To improve the functioning capacity of the ovaries Shalabhasana contributes very much. Regular and long practice of Shalabhasana assures simple and healthy life without getting involved in whirlwind and its sufferings. Following is the technique of Shalabhasana.




SHALABHASANA / THE LOCUST POSTURE

Lie face down in prone position. Bring the heels and toes together. Draw your arms down underneath the body (Remove wristwatch, bangles or anything breakable). Close the fists of both the hands and keep them under the thigh and the elbows under the abdomens. After slightly lifting the abdomen adjust the elbows and the fists properly. Support the head on the chin.

TECHNIQUE

Inhale deeply, slowly exhale and then lift both the legs simultaneously without bending them at knees. Lift them as much as possible and keep the heels, toes, ankles and the knees touching one another. The entire weight of the body is coming on both the arms, fists closed and pressed on the ground. Hold the breath after inhaling. Maintain the posture as long as possible without any discomfort. Then slowly exhale and return to original position and take rest in Makarasana.

NOTE
Shalabhasana can be done with single leg also.

OTHER BENEFITS

The strength of hamstrings, hip muscles and pelvic muscles increases. It relieves the problems of lumbago, backache, lumbar spondylosis and sciatica. The paravertebral muscles which support the spine, are strengthened. There is also increase in blood circulation towards the brain and heart. The functioning capacity of the stomach, pancreas, liver and kidneys increases; hence there is increase in appetite and benefits those who are under weight.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti