It is my opinion as a 55 year old woman that when you go through menopause, biological knowledge is power. So is a therapeutic yoga practice that addresses the adrenal glands. Hot flashes, or vasomotor instability as it is called in medical terms, is partially a product of imbalance in the adrenal glands. Adrenal insufficiency or fatigue worsens menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes.
The Endocrine System During Menopause
The endocrine system produces hormones that tell your organs and tissues what to do. The adrenals are part of this system and look like like two walnuts sitting on your kidneys. Until menopause, the main function of the adrenals is to cope with stress and activate the “fight or flight” response by releasing cortisol and adrenaline. But our amazingly adaptable body has a menopausal backup plan that involves the adrenal glands.
When we stop dropping eggs (oocytes), our hormone requirements change in the ovaries. The ovaries, (another endocrine gland) are in close contact with the hypothalamus; this pea sized brain tissue is the main link between the nervous system and endocrine system. As women, when our biological potential focus is no longer child birthing, the message goes out to the ovaries that the body doesn’t need oestrogen and progesterone for reproduction. When the hypothalamus gets word from the ovaries that they are retiring from being masters of the female hormonal supply chain, a natural system of replacement begins. The adrenal glands job share with the ovaries for a bit (perimenopause), then take over the production of oestrogen and progesterone. Eventually, the ovaries shrink and close up shop. The hypothalamus updates the adrenal’s job description and relegates them as the sole producers of oestrogen and progesterone. Now remember that the adrenals are already busy managing stress. So like any overworked employee, stress depletes the adrenal glands. They don’t have the ability to produce the necessary stress hormones and reproductive hormones (adrenal insufficiency). Eventually, the adrenal glands just putter out (adrenal fatigue). Or in other cases, the adrenals are already in full fatigue when they are given their new assignment. In either case, exhausted adrenals trigger hot flashes.
Female Testosterone You Say?
The ovaries and adrenal glands are also co-workers in the production of testosterone in the magical female body. They split 50% of the testosterone load until the ovaries walk off the job. Unfortunately, testosterone also takes a plunge during menopause, but vibrant adrenals do their best to make up for it. Females have testosterone??? Yes, and it is super important for cardiovascular health, bone density and sex drive!
The promising employee review is that yoga helps to alleviate adrenal insufficiency. Specifically, the gentle facets of yoga such as breathing techniques, meditation and imagery invite our shifting endocrine systems to come under the command of the brain boss who sends you on a relaxing holiday – the parasympathetic nervous system. The rest and digest state is where depleted adrenals take a holiday.
‘Menopause’ – Yuck! Change Order Request
Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats – whatever you call them, they are aptly named. I vote we get rid of the word ‘menopause’ though! The term menopause was first used by a French physician in the early Victorian era who thought the viability of a woman’s ovaries was a direct correlation with their brain function. In other words, non-functioning ovaries were a sign of madness. The Victorian age was a time when the accepted standard was that women’s only value was reproduction and that they were inferior to men. In cooperation and support of our amazing female anatomy, I call on all womb holders to rename “menopause” “woman-in-pause” or just “pause”. Like the caterpillar who crawls into their protective chrysalis, “women-in-pause” is our sacred metamorphosis from the goddesses of new life and taking care of others in the physical sense, to spiritual teachers. There is freedom in knowing any expectations of conception are gone. A new goal of self actualisation emerges. As it was with ancient cultures and traditions, the pause is our invitation to emerge as butterflies, spread our wings and fly into our birthright as the keepers of spiritual wisdom.
With An Ever So Warm Embrace, Megan
Making this video felt awkward and revealing…until I wrote this blog. And now I want to scream it to the hills…THE CHANGE HAS COME! This practice uses lunar breathing combined with gentle movement, simple restorative holds and imagery to take the nervous system out of the sympathetic state and replenish the adrenal glands. You will need a big stack of blankets two balls the size of tennis balls or small (and softer is better!), 2 blocks, a bolster (or substitute pillows).
PS – I am the first to admit – and it is easy today having been kept awake by night sweats for 2 hours last night – to jump on the negative menopause bandwagon. Society teaches us to dread it as much as aging itself. But like all things in life, I look for the positive. So during last night’s night sweat, I imaged myself lying under the sun on a gorgeous beach on the Costa Del Sol in Spain (while I did a marma point meditation on myself 🙂
If you have a male counterpart, I highly suggest you share this blog with them. You might be surprised to know how appreciative they are to gain insight into our pause. The more our loved ones understand us, the more there is to love.