Thoughts on staying embodied during the menopausal years, Part One.
Here is what I find most challenging about the menopausal years: my waistline has become a hoarder and my memory keeps going out for these long walks.
I used to joke that there was a ‘Fat Fairy’ who came to my house at night with her trowel and bucket of excess adipose tissue. She’d leave a shmear across my belly and continue on her rounds. In my yoga classes and in my own practice, spinal twists began to get harder even as my spine was staying pretty supple. But I would have to use one of my hands to lift and pull at this growing layer of pudge around my belly, hips and ribs in order to sit and breathe comfortably in many once-comfortable positions.
During my 40’s the 3:45am Hormonal Wake-Up Call would often find me lying in bed, swearing that this morning I would get up, roll out my mat, and return to the Ashtanga Yoga practice that kept me sane and grounded while my kids were young. Invariably, I would just lie there in an uncomfortably warmish tangle of emotions and eventually fall back asleep. The bad-ass hot flashes we all read about were not part of my menopausal repertoire ~ my endocrinologist thought it was because I did so much yoga, which helped my system manage the ‘change’. But even a slight rise in my normal 96.8 degree body temperature feels like jungle fever to me, and so I would lie there and think about yoga poses I could be doing.
A few months ago I was waking up almost every morning between 4:00-5:30am. This particular morning, my big orange and white cat, Thor, was curled next to me belly-to-belly, playing with the thin strap of my night shirt. Lying there in the dark, listening to my street and its denizens beginning to wake up, I had many of the thoughts I wake up most every morning with: Is today the day I finally implement that ‘self improvement’ project I’ve had a hankering for?
I guess it was.
Went into my office and practice space. Removed the pile of clothes from my yoga mat and actually put them away. Clicked on a favorite chant recording and let Thor out to ogle the birds. Put on ‘practice clothes’, not my nice warm jammies, and stood at the head of my mat.
Oh f*ck. There’s that mirror again. A full length mirror I had installed in my office both for clients and for those days when I needed some feedback on my alignment. My eyes go right to my waistline (what’s left of it). I think unkind thoughts. I feel discouraged. I want to chuck my own ‘words of wisdom’ at the glass and tell myself to f*ck off.
Then I settle down, and settle in.
When I close my eyes and let my fingertips feel my skin, when I feel the strength of my stance and the steadiness of my breath, I am deeply in touch with me. When I open my eyes, and look into my reflection, I see a woman who has had a very rich 54 years. I see the babies I have carried reflected in the shape of my breasts and my belly and the widening shelf of my hips. I see the lovers I have had and the many extended moments of pleasure we’ve experienced in the playground of my body.
I start to move, find my ujjayi breath, play with asana variations and the question that keeps coming back is, ‘What feels good to you now?’ Move, be still, stretch, twist in, twist out, fold, arch, breathe. When I honor this body, she opens herself to speak to me. She ~ the deep ‘she’ of ‘me’ ~ is so f*cking patient, and compassionate.
This practice became a turning point.