Fitness Magazine

Yoga for Perimenopause and Menopause: Fatigue

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina

Yoga for Perimenopause and Menopause: Fatigue

Rose Light by Melina Meza

When I was going through perimenopause, the worst symptom I had was fatigue attacks. Although fatigue or exhaustion is a classic symptom of perimenopause, I'm pretty sure I made up the term "fatigue attack" because I needed a special term for how it felt to me. I'm a pretty energetic person who gets a lot of things done in a given day, and my yoga practice during that time was quite athletic. But during that period, once in a while, I'd suddenly feel so drained of all energy that all I wanted to do was collapse into a puddle on the floor. There was something essentially different about these hormonally based episodes of fatigue than normal tiredness, and I remembered that same feeling of utter exhaustion from my pregnancies (although those were combined with nausea). So I knew it wasn't something I could fight with energizing poses, such as backbends or sun salutations. Fortunately, I got some guidance from two different senior teachers, Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden, who both helped me figure out a good way to practice when I was feeling that way.
When I first talked with Rodney about a fatigue practice, he came up with a sequence of supported inverted poses (see Just In Time for the Holidays: Inverted Poses). However, the first pose in the sequence was Downward-Facing Dog with head support (traditionally the beginning pose in a supported inverted pose practice), and I complained to him (whined?) that when I was feeling exhausted, that pose felt like to much. So he changed the sequence to start with a long Legs Up pose (Viparita Karani) so I could have a nice rest to start and then move on to more active inversions. That was a revelation to me who had only done that pose at the end of a practice. Learning I could rest at the beginning of my practice instead of the end—that I could break a rule that wasn't even a really rule— was a revelation. I started to realize I had a lot more freedom to adapt my practice to my particular needs that I had known. And practicing was a good way to get through a fatigue attack and did leave me feeling refreshed.
Later I took a workshop from Patricia Walden on Yoga for Menopause. She, too, recommended a combination of restorative poses and supported inversions. Eventually, when the book she wrote with Linda Sparrow, The Woman's Book of Yoga and Health, was published, I started to practice her menopause fatigue practice on a regular basis. This sequence is quite long and some of the poses may not appropriate for many of you, but I'll list all the poses here just in case.
  1. Supported Reclined Cobbler's pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
  2. Supported Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
  3. Supported One-Legged Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
  4. Simple Seated Twist (Bharadvajasana)
  5. Downward-Facing Dog with head support (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  6. Standing Forward Bend with head support (Uttanasana)
  7. Headstand (Sirsasana)
  8. Inverted Staff pose (backbend in a chair) (Viparita Dandasana)
  9. Chair Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
  10. Half Plow pose (Plow pose with chair) (Arda Halasana)
  11. Supported Straight Leg Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvagasana)
  12. Legs Up the Wall pose (with variations) (Viparita Karani)
  13. Relaxation pose (Savasana)
Regardless of whether you try this sequence or not, it's worthwhile to look at the strategy behind it. It begins with Supported Reclined Cobber's pose (Supta Baddha Konasana), which is a very restful and relaxing pose. Next are a couple of supported seated forward bends, which are also quieting and restful but a bit more active than the first pose. The simple seated twist is even more active, and definitely stimulating. So now, after having a rest and being a bit energized, you're ready for the more strenuous poses: Downward-Facing Dog with head support, Standing Forward Bend with head support, Headstand, and Inverted Staff pose (backbend in a chair). From there, with the Chair Shoulderstand, Half Plow pose, Supported Straight Leg Bridge pose, and Legs Up the Wall pose, you are moving into the quieting, soothing supported inversions, ending with the most restful of the group. You are also getting a balanced asana practice, with a combination of forward bends, backbends, twists, and inverted poses. (I should say this my analysis of the sequence, not Patricia's.)
As with any sequence, you could shorten this sequence by leaving out certain poses (especially if there are ones you don't normally practice) but still keep the remaining poses in the same order. Or, you could come up with a sequence of your own that combines restorative and supported inverted poses in a way that allows you to rest in the beginning, move toward more active poses, and then rest again at the end. The important thing is to acknowledge your fatigue, and adapt your practice to your current condition, thinking outside the box as needed. And, remember, doing even just one pose (such as Reclined Cobbler's pose or Legs Up the Wall pose) will very likely make you feel better than doing nothing.
Naturally, if you aren't going through periomenopause or menopause (or aren't a woman!), you can still do a practice like this whenever you feel exhausted.

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