Breathe through the menopause - a natural way to tackle symptoms

by
Catherine O'Keeffe.

Recently on a trip to Kilkenny I met up with the inspiring Nicola Moses from The Breathing Solution. Nicola has recently returned to Kilkenny and has established what is certainly part of the future in terms of health and well being. Breathing is more widely understood these days for the benefits it brings to our lives but Nicola explains this in more detail below and the benefits it can bring to our lives.

So you eat the right foods and you exercise – you’re doing everything right. Right? Well…no. You can eat the right foods, but if your body is in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’ because of modern life’s daily stresses, anxiety or menopausal mood swings, all your energy is being sent to your muscles to prepare for imminent danger, so your digestive system has to take a back seat. The same with all your other organ functions. You exercise but maybe you never seem to make any progress, or your lungs give out before your legs do when running. 

The missing link is your breathing.

Do you draw your belly in when you inhale and relax it out when you exhale?

Do you notice you are holding your breath – maybe when concentrating? Do you yawn or sigh a lot?

Does your body barely move when you breathe? Do you tend to tense your body?

Is your breathing very fast? Do you feel like you are hyperventilating?

Do you constantly hold your stomach in, in an effort to look slimmer? Show me a woman who doesn’t!

These are all abnormal breathing patterns. 95% of people breathe in a dysfunctional way.

Re-learning to breathe gives you the tools to deal with some of the issues that the menopause will throw at you – in a totally natural, side-effect-free way.Better breathing has a host of physical, mental and emotional benefits. 

  1. Fatigue - It gives you more energy.
  2. Bone health - It eradicates aches and pains related to using the wrong muscles for breathing.
  3. Brain-fog and memory - It gets all your organs, including your brain, operating at optimal levels, so you can focus and concentrate better.
  4. Lack of energy - Breathing energises your body at a cellular level
  5. Pain - Breathing can be used to control pain.
  6. Insomnia - By activating your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) throughout the day and using patterned breathing, you can ensure you get to sleep and stay asleep.
  7. Anxiety and mood swings - You can use breathing to quickly calm your nervous system and help you better deal with the ups and downs of menopause.
  8. Pelvic floor issues - Breathing using your diaphragm strengthens your deepest pelvic floor muscles.
  9. Hot flushes - Deep breathing can reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes.
  10. Weight gain - Better digestion, promoted by increased oxygenation and the movement of the diaphragm, which encourages peristalsis, can go some way to combatting weight gain.
  11. Hormones - Breathing helps to regulate hormones so, although it can’t stop the onset of menopause (sorry, you can’t stop Mother Nature!), it can make the process smoother if other hormones, especially cortisol, are in balance.

To get you started, try this simple exercise:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor.
  2. Place a book or a bag of sugar (something around 1kg) over your belly button.
  3. Holding on to your object lightly so it doesn’t fall off your stomach, inhale slowly and push it away from your body as much as you can (your back may arch a little – that’s ok).
  4. Exhale slowly and lower the object back down as far as you can – as if you’re trying to get your belly button to touch the floor (your back will flatten against the floor). The aim is to get as much air out of your lungs as possible. Use your lower abdominal muscles to help with this movement and you’re getting an ab workout into the bargain!
  5. Congratulations! You’ve activated your diaphragm. Repeat 20 times.

This is also a good exercise to do to get to sleep, with a beanbag or hot water bottle, or even just your hands on your stomach. It may take up to 100 breaths the first time, but this will reduce each time you practice it.

Nicola Moses is a Breathing Coach, based in Kilkenny, who teaches clients conscious breathing. To find out more about her services, check out www.thebreathingsolution.com

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