We are open and enrolling now for our online programs. Hear what our students are saying ...

Monthly Archives April 2024

Yoga for Menopause Hot Flashes: Techniques for Relief

A calm-looking woman cross-legged on the floor practicing yoga for menopause hot flashes
A calm-looking woman cross-legged on the floor practicing yoga for menopause hot flashes

Many people facing hot flashes from menopause find that traditional Western medicine still falls short of providing them with adequate relief. More and more patients as well as providers are turning to yoga for menopause hot flashes. Yoga provides not only a variety of different techniques you can try, but also frameworks to apply those techniques in an individualized, therapeutic way. The result is that it can be easier to manage hot flashes and find peace from these symptoms.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, an experienced yoga therapist and the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, a yoga therapy training program. I’ve worked with clients who are experiencing menopause, and I’ve also had the great privilege of teaching a student, Fiona Jalinoos, who successfully treated a small group of women with menopause using yoga therapy. I’m here to share my knowledge and experience, as well as what I’ve learned from Fiona’s work, to help more people find relief.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Hot Flashes and Their Impact

The first step to treating menopausal symptoms is to understand them. Not only is it important to understand how hot flashes present, but also how they may affect you.

Defining Hot Flashes and Their Symptoms

For anyone who has had a hot flash before, it needs no introduction. The intense, uninvited wave of heat may be accompanied by rapid heartbeat, flushed skin, and even sometimes a cold shiver. Hot flashes can last anywhere from a few seconds to an hour, though most are around 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Their frequency, duration, and symptoms can vary from person to person.

How Hot Flashes Affect Quality of Life

More than just a physical discomfort, hot flashes can be a major disruption to your daily life. Unpredictable, they can interfere with your work, sleep, and social life. They can negatively impact your mood and concentration, both during and after the episode.

In addition to their physical toll, many people develop anxiety around having hot flashes, which can be just as harmful. According to a study in the Journal of Women’s Health, menopausal symptoms like hot flashes can negatively impact quality of life, and there is a significant need to find better ways of managing these symptoms.

The Transformative Power of Yoga During Menopause

A Black woman sitting in lotus position, representing an example of an eligible student for our scholarship program to reduce the cost to become a yoga therapist

Menopause can introduce a whole host of hormonal changes and unpredictability to your life. Yoga offers you a way to move toward physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance. It helps you develop greater emotional resilience. As you practice movements and breathing techniques, you can become more in-tune with your body’s needs.

Yoga teaches us how to accept change and sit with discomfort, working with your body instead of fighting against it. During this major life transition, you can gain self-understanding, acceptance, and inner peace.

Yoga Techniques for Menopause Hot Flashes

Yoga encompasses a wide variety of techniques. These include:

  • Asanas (poses)
  • Pranayama (breathing exercises)
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • And more

When it comes to yoga therapy, these techniques are personalized to you, not just your symptoms.

Personalization with Yoga Therapy and Ayurvedic Frameworks

In Western medicine, treatment usually boils down to prescribing the same interventions to anyone facing a particular condition, adjusting for any contraindications. Yoga therapy allows us to use an Ayurvedic framework when applying techniques.

What this means is that the techniques recommended to you by a yoga therapist take into account your unique body, mind, history, imbalances, limitations, and goals. Your treatment is tailored to you in a way that Western approaches tend to miss, making yoga a valuable addition to your medical care.

Yoga Poses for Menopause Hot Flashes

A woman in Cobbler's Pose, demonstrating one of many possible yoga poses for menopause hot flashes

Movement is an important component in yoga therapy. The exact yoga poses for menopause hot flashes that will work best for you may not be the ones that work for someone else. This is why it’s so critical to work one-on-one with a yoga therapist when seeking relief.

With that in mind, there are certain yoga poses that are more likely to be beneficial when hot flashes hit. Consider these examples:

  • Forward bends, such as Big Toe Pose, can increase blood flow to the brain and help you find your cool.
  • Cobbler’s Pose is great for both body and mind, encouraging relaxation while also opening your hips, increasing circulation in the pelvic area, and stretching your back.
  • Supported Bridge Pose opens your chest, calms the nervous system, and reduces anxiety.

In general, I recommend gentle asanas that focus on stretching and relaxation, rather than more intense, challenging poses that will make you feel more overheated and overexerted.

Breathing Exercises for Menopause Hot Flashes

Breathing exercises can be especially helpful for reducing anxiety, releasing tension, and relaxing. The evidence is mixed when it comes to exactly how helpful these techniques are for relieving symptoms in the moment. But pranayama can help you build resilience and give you tools for dealing with discomfort more effectively.

For example:

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing, which involves breathing through a single nostril at a time, can be especially calming and help reduce anxiety.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing, which involves breathing slowly and deliberately from the stomach, can help you to relax and breathe more effectively.

For best results in combating anxiety, I usually recommend syncing breath and movement, as well as extending exhales. These techniques can often come into play when using yoga for menopause hot flashes.

Meditation for Menopause Hot Flashes

Meditation allows you to observe and acknowledge the sensations of hot flashes without judgment. It helps you put your discomfort into perspective, feel less apprehensive, and achieve greater peace and acceptance.

By meditating regularly, you can regain a sense of control over your life as hot flashes lessen their grip over you. Meditating for even just 10 minutes a day has been shown to facilitate changes in the brain that lessen our reactivity.

It can take practice and professional guidance to learn how to meditate successfully. Tips include:

  • Choosing a quiet space without distractions
  • Positioning yourself in a way that feels relaxed and comfortable
  • Focusing on your body, breath, a mantra, or a calming visual
  • Bringing your attention back if it wanders without judgment
  • Having patience with yourself

How to Safely Practice Yoga During Menopause

As with any new physical exercise, it’s important to make sure you’re practicing yoga safely. That involves understanding your own needs and limitations, as well as knowing how menopause might affect you and the common contraindications to avoid.

Listen to your body and consult with a doctor if needed. By practicing under the guidance of a yoga therapist, you can make sure your yoga practice is tailored to your unique circumstances so it is safe, practical, and effective.

Understand Your Current Health Condition

Before you roll out your yoga mat and start practicing, it’s vital to have a clear picture of your health. You need to understand your body’s limitations and whether any other health conditions you may have could affect your yoga practice. Ask yourself, among other things:

  • Are your joints as flexible as they used to be?
  • Have you experienced any issues with your balance or mobility?
  • Do you have any health concerns that require a doctor’s green light before engaging in physical activity?

By assessing your current health condition, you can make sure your yoga practice helps to relieve the symptoms of menopause, rather than exacerbate or interact poorly with them or other aspects of your health.

Work with a Yoga Therapist

Group yoga classes usually work best if you’re interested in using yoga for exercise and practicing yoga in a social setting. If you want to use yoga techniques to address specific health conditions or symptoms, such as hot flashes, you’re better off working one-on-one with a yoga therapist. This ensures that your yoga practice is tailored to your individual needs.

Yoga therapists are trained to apply yoga techniques therapeutically to treat specific health conditions. We can tailor poses, breathing techniques, and meditation practices to your body’s unique responses to menopause. A personalized, therapeutic approach to yoga will offer you the most relief and holistic wellness.

Modify Yoga Poses for Comfort and Safety

Yoga is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It can easily be modified to make sure you are comfortable and safe, as well as bring more challenging poses within reach. Consider these tips:

  • Make changes as needed. There’s no shame in bending a knee, using a wall for balance, or even opting for an entirely different pose that feels better on your body.
  • Use props like yoga blocks, cushions, bolsters, or straps when needed. They allow you to experience the benefits of yoga poses for menopause hot flashes without strain or discomfort.
  • Consider chair yoga, which involves yoga poses that are adapted to be performed while seated in a chair. This can make yoga more accessible if you have limited mobility or need additional support.

Avoid Overexertion

If you work yourself too hard, you could make your symptoms worse or even injure yourself. With hot flashes in particular, you’re already feeling overheated, so it’s important not to overexert yourself. This can include:

  • Taking breaks as needed
  • Staying hydrated
  • Prioritizing gentle and restorative poses

Avoid hot yoga, which is practiced in a heated environment, and more rigorous styles of yoga.

Stay Hydrated

If you practice yoga for menopause hot flashes, remember to hydrate, as this woman demonstrates by keeping a water bottle handy during yoga

Staying hydrated is important, both when practicing yoga and when experiencing hot flashes. Water can help to regulate your temperature. By adequately hydrating, you also ensure that your muscles and joints are well-lubricated and your body receives the nutrients it needs to function effectively.

Keep track of your water intake before, during, and after yoga. Water bottles with measurements printed on them can help make this easier. Just be careful not to overdo it with the water either. Drinking too much water while practicing yoga can sometimes cause nausea.

Outcomes of Yoga for Menopause Hot Flashes

If you practice yoga techniques, especially under the supervision of a yoga therapist, what outcomes can you expect? For anyone considering using yoga for menopause hot flashes, this is sure to be on your mind. Outcomes will vary from person to person, but these are the main outcomes I’ve observed.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Getting hot flashes can cause people to become anxious, worried about when they’ll happen next. Studies indicate that yoga can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can help you to regulate your nervous system responses, shifting from fight-or-flight mode to a rest-and-digest state. This can help you reduce feelings of pain, suffering, and mental anguish after a hot flash, making it one of the biggest benefits that yoga can provide.

Managing Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are one of the most challenging menopause symptoms to manage. In most cases, people are not easily rid of them. With time and interventions such as hormone therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, you can relieve your symptoms and better learn how to deal with having hot flashes. Yoga gives you another tool you can use to manage your hot flashes throughout the stages of perimenopause and menopause.

Better Sleep Quality

Hot flashes can disrupt your sleep and make it difficult to fall back asleep. Over time, this can become a major problem and have a negative impact on your quality of life. Studies have shown that yoga can improve sleep quality for the elderly and for those experiencing insomnia. Anecdotally, Fiona and I have seen yoga help people with hot flashes to get better sleep and fall back asleep more easily when it’s disturbed.

Accepting Symptoms

A woman smiling and practicing Ayurvedic yoga therapy for physical, mental, and emotional health

Yoga is as much a mental practice as it is a physical one, teaching us to accept what we cannot change. As you move through the transition into menopause, embracing your body’s changes can be empowering. Yoga helps to foster the connection between your mind and body, encouraging understanding and patience.

Through sustained practice, you may notice a shift in perspective, accepting where you are in this journey and feeling better about being menopausal. Even when you experience discomfort, you will be better equipped to accept it, manage it, and live with it. With this acceptance comes inner peace and a deeper connection with yourself during this new phase in your life.

Using Yoga to Support Traditional Medical Care

While hormone therapy and other medical interventions play their roles, yoga can be an incredible complement or support to traditional care during menopause.

  • Yoga can fill gaps left in Western medicine by offering you additional techniques and an individualized approach.
  • It can improve bodily functions while also promoting mental and emotional well-being, creating more holistic care.
  • If hormonal adjustments come with physical, mental, or emotional strain, yoga can build mental and emotional resilience while helping to maintain physical strength, mobility, and endurance.
  • By reducing your stress, yoga can support the efficacy of other medical treatments.

Get Help with Hot Flashes from Our Experts

Ready to try using yoga for menopause hot flashes? We want to make sure you’re practicing yoga safely and effectively. Learn about our private sessions, which are conducted online one-on-one with one of our experienced yoga therapists.

Q&A: Memorizing Muscles, Energetic Effects of the Breath & the Use of Chakras Therapeutically

Welcome to episode 78 of The Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy and Meditation podcast.

In today’s Q&A, Breathing Deeply founder and lead teacher, Brandt Passalacqua sits down with his students to ask their yoga therapy questions. 

Brandt offers tips on how to memorize the muscles, the various energetic effects of breathing in different directions, the doshas in relation to the Anandamaya kosha, and the therapeutic application of the chakra system in yoga therapy.

This clip has been taken from a live Q&A session with Brandt and his yoga therapy students.

We hope you enjoy this Q&A. Let us know in the comments any key takeaways you had and share it with someone you think it may benefit!

Our next Yoga Therapy Course starts soon. Find out more information here: https://bit.ly/3lxc0KK

Om Shanthi, Om Peace 

This episode covers the following questions:

  • Do you have tips for memorizing the muscles for yoga anatomy?
  • What are the different effects of breathing up on the inhale/down on the exhale and down on the inhale and up on the exhale in spine breath?
  • How do the three doshas express themselves when balanced & imbalanced in the Anandamaya kosha?
  • How do we use the chakra system with the Manomaya kosha?

Breathing Deeply is a Yoga Therapy and Meditation School, founded by lead teacher Brand Passalacqua in 2014. We hold online and in-person Yoga Therapy Foundations and IAYT accredited Advanced Programs and retreats along with Meditation Programs, including online meditation teacher training and certification and holistic weight loss with Being At Peace with Food.

Breathing Deeply is made up of an active and thriving community of yogis, caregivers, therapists, teachers, medical professionals, parents & children with the same intention—to serve others, lessen suffering, and co-create a new paradigm in wellness.

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Meta