Archive for May, 2022

A Yogic Perspective on Menopause & Anxiety

What is menopause?

A woman reaches menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row. This typically happens in her early to mid 50s although this can vary. Occasionally, menopause occurs without any symptoms but more often women experience a variety of symptoms leading up to menopause. The years leading up to menopause are referred to as ‘peri- menopause’. Peri-menopause often begins in a woman’s late 30s and early 40s and can last 7-10 years or longer.

Menopause and the ‘householder’ stage of life

Yoga refers to this stage of life – in both women and men- as the ‘householder’ stage. It ranges from somewhere around the mid-20s into the 60s or so. This is the time of life when you are a pillar of society, caring for the young and the old. Householders make up the majority of the work force and provide the structures that keep families and friends connected. Whatever your householder responsibilities are, it is typically a busy time of life. Because symptoms of menopause occur during the busy householder stage of life, it can feel particularly frustrating and sometimes overwhelming to manage.

Symptoms of peri-menopause

There are a variety of symptoms that can arise during the years leading up to menopause. Symptoms can be physical, emotional, and cognitive. Some of the most common peri- menopausal symptoms are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Concerns about body image
  • Irritability

Yoga’s holistic view

Yoga therapy uses the holistic view of the Pancamaya model which comes out of an ancient text called the Taittiriya Upanishad. Panca means 5 and maya means made from, or consisting of. According to this model the 5 things that make up a person are 1) physical body, 2) breath/ energy, 3) thoughts, 4) behavior, and 5) emotions.

When one part of us goes out of balance the others quickly follow. For example, let’s say you are experiencing weight gain due to peri-menopause. Your physical body might feel uncomfortable because your clothes are a little snug. You might start to have some negative thought patterns around your body image. Now your physical body is uncomfortable and your thoughts have become negative and as a result your energy starts to decrease and you aren’t motivated to do much of anything. Your friend calls and asks you to meet them for coffee but you aren’t feeling good about yourself so you make up an excuse not to go. The discomfort in your body has begun to affect your energy, thoughts, and behaviors. As a result your emotions are affected and you become sad and frustrated.


How can yoga help?

Now let’s say you’ve experienced the same weight gain but when you feel your thoughts become negative you make a decision to do a short meditation. Your meditation is about self- love and when you are done you feel a little better. Your friend calls and asks you to meet her for coffee and you agree, knowing it will feel good to get out to see a friend. You have a nice visit with your friend and when you go back home you are feeling peaceful and content.

Yoga is all about interrupting patterns

As you can see by the examples above, interrupting a pattern with a simple yoga practice, in this case meditation, can shift the course of your day because it influences you on so many different levels. The short meditation that interrupted a negative thought pattern influenced your mind and when your mind was in a better place your behavior changed and you said ‘yes’ to a coffee date with a friend. After getting out of your house and meeting with a friend, your energy and mood improved and you felt better equipped to tackle the responsibilities of the day.

Yoga is a ‘practice’

There are many different ways to practice yoga. Yoga is movement (asana), it is breathing (pranayama), it is meditation, it can be repeating a mantra, it can even be taking the time to smell a flower. Yoga is anything that keeps your attention on something positive that moves you in a healthy direction. It is unrealistic to say you can always be in a state of yoga but a little bit of ‘practice’ every day will affect you in all of your dimensions – body, energy, thoughts, relationships, and emotions. And you will notice over time that those little practices will lead to big changes.

Where does anxiety fit into this?

Menopause is full of change and uncertainty. Change and uncertainty can lead to feelings of anxiety. So it is quite common for women to feel anxiety during the years around menopause. If you have experienced anxiety you might notice it can affect you on many of the levels we talked about earlier. Anxiety can cause muscle tightness in your physical body, it can speed up or constrict your breath, it can lead to thoughts of fear and even dread. When these things happen it will undoubtedly affect your behavior and your emotions in a negative way. Anxiety is particularly tricky to manage because of its ability to take hold on so many levels of our being.

Yoga Therapy for Menopause and Anxiety

By now you can see how menopause can exacerbate anxiety – and how anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms of menopause. Yoga therapy is an effective, holistic therapy to create new patterns in your body, breath, and mind so you can feel better. Simple daily practices like meditations, breathing techniques, and appropriate yoga postures are easy ways you can start to take control over the changes you may be experiencing. Each of these yoga techniques can interrupt old patterns and create new, healthier patterns. Yoga therapy gives you the power to feel better.

Jennifer Brandt is an E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT working in private practice in Minneapolis, MN. She studies and teaches in the Viniyoga tradition at Yoga Well Institute under Chase Bossart where she received her Yoga Therapist training and is currently a faculty member. Learn more at


LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

Yoga’s Holistic Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety in a modern world

Some level of anxiety is a natural response to environmental stressors. It keeps us focused and safe. But when feelings of anxiety become overwhelming or unmanageable they can begin to take a toll on many different aspects of our lives. There are four standard recommendations to treat anxiety: talk therapy, medication, exercise, and yoga. For many of us, a combination of these approaches can be very effective.

Just as certain medications might work better for you than others, or certain therapists seem to understand you better than others, your yoga practice must to be a good ‘fit’ to be most effective. Yoga is commonly misunderstood to be just a physical practice of stretching and strengthening your body. The physical postures of yoga are important but they are only one tool of a toolbox full of healing practices. A thoughtfully created yoga practice will include a unique combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, meditations, chanting/mantra, lifestyle recommendations, and in some cases even learning about yoga philosophy.

Yoga therapists look at their clients holistically, addressing their physical body, breath/energy, state of mind, behavior, and emotions. For example, you might stub your toe on a chair in your house. Immediately you feel pain in your physical body. Your breathing might get shallow and quick. Your mind might begin to race thinking “That chair isn’t supposed to be there. Who is responsible for this?”. You might then behave in a way you normally wouldn’t and shout out to your family “Who left this chair in the middle of the room?!” And when nobody answers, you might storm away feeling angry. This simple example illustrates how stubbing your toe can quickly throw you out of balance in our body, breath, mind, behavior, and emotions. Below I will explore how anxiety effects each of the different areas.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

For many of us, anxiety shows up in our bodies in the form of muscle tension, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back. Anxiety might make you feel restless, or maybe it’s exhausting and you feel tired a lot. Some of us unknowingly clench our jaws, which can lead to headaches and dental issues. Pain in your body can create anxiety – and anxiety can certainly create tension and pain in your body. It can be a troubling cycle that we feel trapped in.

Asana (“AH-sa-na”) or yoga postures are the most commonly used yoga tool for the physical symptoms of anxiety. When a client is experiencing pain or tension of any kind, we want to first release the tension with carefully designed poses that address the areas of pain and/or tension. Depending on where you carry your tension, a thoughtfully designed yoga practice will bring relief to the areas you need it most. Once you are out of pain you can begin to build strength and resilience so you can stay out of the loop of pain and anxiety.

Physiological symptoms of anxiety

Physiological symptoms of anxiety show up in how our body functions. For many of us anxiety can cause gastrointestinal (GI) issues like constipation or diarrhea. It can also cause gas, bloating, and nausea. Often anxiety will exacerbate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Physiological symptoms of anxiety can also show up in the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of your body in the form of rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, elevated pulse, asthma flare ups, and even panic attacks.

Pranayama (“pra-na-YA-ma”), or breathing techniques, are a simple and effective way to help bring your body’s functioning back into balance. Yoga can directly influence your nervous system, helping you to get out of the cycle of fight or flight. Thoughtfully designed breathing practices send your body messages to rest and digest. When your nervous system is functioning properly you will find that you can digest food easier, breath deeper, and stay calm when it’s time to relax.


Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

There is no doubt that anxiety affects our state of mind. The cognitive symptoms of anxiety show up as a distracted mind, inability to adapt to new situations, forgetfulness, obsessive thoughts, sleep issues, and often anticipating the worst case scenario. It is as though our mind is always racing with worry and we cannot find the ‘off’ switch. It is difficult to know if anxiety effects our thoughts or if our thoughts effects our anxiety. Again, we are in this constant loop of worry we cannot turn off.

Our minds are extremely powerful. Whatever your current state of mind is will determine the perspective from which you see the world. Do you see the world as a friendly or hostile place? Why? Can you change your state of mind and subsequently change your perspective? YES YOU CAN! Meditation is an extremely effective tool for influencing the mind.

Meditation is simply the experience of focusing your mind in one direction. Practicing mediation daily can train your mind to focus more easily so when your anxiety increases you have the tools to stay calm and not let your mind spin out of control with worries. It only takes a few minutes of meditation every day to build new patterns in your mind. Meditation can be done lying down, seated, or even walking. It can be a guided experience, like imagining you are taking a walk in nature. It can be focusing on an object you want to feel more connected to, like a strong tree or a warm sunrise. It can be reciting a simple mantra that is meaningful to you, perhaps an affirmation or just the sound of “OM” or “Amen”. There are countless options for meditation practices, you just have to find one you like.

Behavioral symptoms of anxiety

Living with anxiety is lonely. You might find yourself avoiding people or places that cause you stress. You might withdraw from friends or family. You may notice you are biting your nails or moving erratically, bumping into things or feelings clumsy. Anxiety can increase the volume and rate of your speech, it can show up as compulsive behaviors, hyper vigilance, and even substance abuse. When we are struggling internally, it will eventually show up in our behavior.

Bringing your physical body and your state of mind into better balance will help regulate your behavior. Additionally, the yoga teachings of the Yamas and Niyamas are wonderful tools to better understand your behavior. The Yamas are five guidelines for how we live in the world: (1) Non-violence; (2) Truthfulness; (3) Non-stealing; (4) Moderation, and; (5) Non-greed. The Niyamas are five guidelines for how we treat ourselves: (1) Cleanliness; (2) Contentment; (3) Discipline; (4) Self-study, and; (5) contemplation of a higher power. Traditionally, these ten guidelines were taught to students before they began any postures or meditation because the way we interact with ourselves and the world around us must be in order before we do the deeper practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety takes an emotional toll on us. You might feel sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, and worried. You might experience persistent irritability and even a constant feeling of dread. Emotions are generally a byproduct of what is going on in all of your other systems. If your body is uncomfortable, your energy is low, your mind is racing, and your behavior isn’t reflecting who you really are inside, your emotions will reflect that.

It is difficult to change your emotions while you are having strong feelings. However, you can try to bring in more feelings of gratitude and joy on a consistent basis so those pleasant emotions become more and more familiar. A gratitude journal can remind you about all the good things you have in your life. It can also be helpful to focus on things that bring you joy and spend a little time every day doing things we like. It can be as simple as preparing yourself a favorite cup of tea, sinking into a hot bath, turning off your electronics for 30 minutes, or walking in nature. Think about the simple things that bring you joy and make those a priority in your life.

For more information on yoga therapy or to register for a Yoga for Stress and Anxiety workshop please visit


LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.