Back in the spring, a quiet revolution occurred. Davina McCall was on the television talking about what the entire female population would experience one day- The Menopause!
The next day, my inbox absolutely blew up! Why is that? I am an accredited menopause yoga teacher and I assist the Menopause Yoga Teacher Training course founded and run by Petra Coveney.
I have been quietly trying to spread the word about menopause for a few years now, but it took a louder voice than mine to really get that message home.
Overnight, we had women enquiring into Menopause Yoga and graduates wanting to be added to the directory.
Michelle Spencer: My Perimenopause Journey
I was abruptly thrown into Perimenopause when I was 45. I ended up in A&E thinking that I was haemorrhaging only for the male doctor to say to me “It’s what all women go through” before discharging me with some tablets.
I had no clue what he was talking about. I lost my mother before my fortieth birthday, so I did not have anyone at the time that I felt I could talk to.
There was no way I was going to speak to my Mother-in-Law…she was too prim and proper.
I proceeded to take out every book in the library on the topic of menopause, anatomy and women’s health and began my own research into the topic. I was shocked!
All these symptoms I had been experiencing throughout my forties and visiting my GP for were actually perimenopause symptoms: heart palpitations, brittle nails, stress, irritability, increased cholesterol count, fatigue, depression, and now heavy bleeding.
I began offering yoga for menopause workshops to small groups. I then met my now-mentor and partner Petra Coveney.
She had developed a yoga teacher training course specifically aimed at educating women about the menopause.
Her Menopause Yoga Teacher Training course is accredited by the British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance Professionals.
Shortly after finishing the course, the UK went into lockdown, and everyone moved to online learning. Petra brought me on as her assistant at this point, and that is where I remain; helping her teach yoga teachers about Menopause Yoga.
What is Menopause Yoga?
Menopause Yoga aims to educate women about the menopause and how to manage their symptoms through a series of poses, breathwork, meditation, self-reflection and women’s circles aimed at particular aspects of menopause.
More important than the yoga poses themselves though, it is the chance for women to come together, support each other and share their lived experiences.
By the end of the session, participants leave more relaxed and aware of the change they are going through.
Notably, they realise that they are not going crazy and that they are not alone on this journey.
By educating women, it empowers them to make the right decisions for their individual bodies. Menopause Yoga educates women but does not advocate one position or another on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
The course aims to balance the argument between natural remedies and medicine- a balance between Western Science and Eastern Medicine.
Crucially, women are more empowered to approach their GPs for help. Most GPs are not informed about the Menopause at all.
Surprisingly, I had been told that I am too young to be going through the menopause…which is not true. There is a movement to change this though.
One in three women in the United Kingdom are currently experiencing menopause symptoms. Menopause symptoms can range from mild to extreme. No two women will have the same experience.
Some women sail through the menopause without so much as a hot flush, while other women experience severe hot flushes, irritability, sore joints and muscles and depression. However, both cases are equally valid and deserve attention.
Most people associate hot flashes and irritability with menopause. Nevertheless, there are more than forty symptoms which include but are not limited to: rhinitis, insomnia, hair loss, itchy skin, lethargy, fatigue, mood swings, brain fog, anxiety, heart palpitations, increased cholesterol levels, joint pain, urinary tract infections, digestive tract issues, and more.
Symptom onset is so gradual, that women often see their GPs for each one and are treated for each individually.
Did you know that GPs receive less training in the menopause than they do on pregnancy in women? This is ironic considering the menopause journey from perimenopause to post menopause can last 10 or more years!
Benefits of Menopause Yoga
However, I am not the only one out there trying to help women embrace this new phase of their lives.
So far, the Menopause Yoga Teacher Training Program has seen over 300 graduates from around the world.
We have a directory where women globally can search for qualified Menopause Yoga Teachers in their area.
The biggest change I have seen in the women who come to my workshops are their willingness to embrace their transition into this new phase of life, and their willingness to talk about their journey through the menopause.
The more women that are willing to talk about the menopause, the more the population will see it as normal, and the less ashamed we will feel.
Menopause Yoga is not a cure-all for the more than 40 symptoms, although it is another tool to help.
Women who attend my workshops walk away with at least three techniques to help them.
Best of all, the yoga is gentle and easy enough for even beginners to try. One of my recent participants said, ‘I like the sharing of experiences at the beginning and the restorative poses at the end which is something we can all easily work on at home.’
I have met so many wonderful women on my journey.
By sharing our experiences, I have learned how to manage some of my own symptoms. The teacher training is unique as it creates an on-going network of women to keep coming back to for support.
I have whole-heartedly embraced this transition in my life rather than dread the ageing process.
I have discovered a new circle of women that I call sisters whom I can lean on when needed, and in turn support when they need it.
So, thank you Davina and Petra for shouting about Menopause from the rooftops, and opening the doors to millions of women. Women stand tall and proud and embrace your Second Spring.