In Episode 3, today's guest is going to talk about yoga, health and wellbeing and feeling your absolute best after 40. A leading Women's Yoga instructor, wellbeing expert, influencer and Head of Yoga and Lifestyle Masterclasses for Harley Street At Home: Menopause, Libby Stevenson has created the first online wellness community specifically for women over 40. She has been quoted in The Telegraph and featured in Sheer Luxe for Best Online Yoga Classes for Women. Not only this, Libby was nominated for an Influencer Award in the category of Lifestyle and Wellbeing by the Magnified Influencer Awards Committee in August 2022.
Libby joins us to discuss yoga and therapeutic wellbeing for women of menopausal age. One of our core messages is empowering women physically, mentally, and emotionally with yoga and many forms of holistic wellbeing.
On her journey through perimenopause:
The symptom that I had that I just thought was me being weird was anxiety when driving. And I didn't realize that's a symptom. So looking back on it, I did have symptoms. Not many, though very few and, and they were mild. I don't think I really had that many hot flushes, if any at all. I never had any night sweats. So the more common ones I didn't really experience. And I think it's because I was doing so much yoga, it's the only thing I can point to.
On how menopause yoga differs to other forms of yoga:
In menopause yoga, it's more about community, and it's more about getting the women together to chat and the yoga is the venue for that. And then once they're together, you hear what they're experiencing, and then you can adapt the yoga to that.
It's more about in menopause, connecting mind and body, and creating self awareness. Because when we go through that stage of life, there's a lot happening. There are physical symptoms that are unfamiliar. There's the psychological aspect of lost youth, and aging, which a lot of women struggle with. There's emptiness, and perhaps as the children leave, like, in my case, losing your sense of purpose. Lot’s of women come to a crossroads in their careers. How you manage all of these things happening at once is by connecting back to your true self. So yes, we may evolve as we go through these different stages of life. But intrinsically, we stay the same. So your ethos and your values really don't change, and it is trying to connect back to that person.
It's the idea of sharing information and what works for you and what didn't work for you this whole idea of community and it does help to go through a stage of life, knowing others have gone through it and made it through and they're at the other end, and they’re fine and they’re good. It's not to mean that it's a bad stage of life, it can be a really enlightening and powerful stage of life.
On holistic wellbeing and nutrition as
I look at herbs, oils, and aromatherapy. I'm not a nutrionist or an aromatherapist, but I do share what I use and what works for me. I try to help women in a way that is holistic. Should they want HRT and medication, that's fine, too. But since I'm not on HRT, I can't talk about that. So I talk about what I use and what works for me, and it's all about good nutrition.
Everything is fresh, lots of fruit and veg. What I've learned as I've gone through the menopause is portion control and I have to say sleep plays a big part in weight, as well as nutrition and exercise. So, when I talk about a holistic approach to wellbeing, I don't just mention yoga, I also mention sleep, stress management and self care. But I incorporate all those things, because they all are interconnected. They all affect our wellness.
On yoga poses that are helpful for women that relate to hot flushes or slower joints
One that anyone can do any time, anywhere, is called “legs up the wall”. It's a brilliant one to do on your bed, with your feet up against the headboard. And it's one of those to do right before bed, especially, if you need to release tension from your emotions, your body, whatever, it's perfect for that as there's no movement, you just get into the pose. And it's a restorative pose, so just by getting into the pose, it releases tension from the body, it lowers your blood pressure, it calms the mind, it quiets the mind. And it's a lovely one to do right before bed.
As for hot flushes, there's a breathing technique and it's called “cooling breath”. It's all about as if you were sipping through a straw through your mouth. So you breathe in through your mouth through an imaginary straw and then you close your mouth and you breathe out through your nose. It's this slow, extended exhalation that comes to the body and it cools the body because you're taking in cooler air from the environment. Even if it is hot outside, it's cooler than your body temperature and you're breathing out the hot air from your body. It might take three, four breaths, five breaths, but it always works. I even do it when it's hot out, just to cool down and it works.
On tips for the pelvic muscle:
As we go through the menopause, that decline in estrogen affects all of our muscles and weakens them. So the pelvic floor is a muscle at the base of our pelvis and it goes from pubic bone to tailbone and side to side and it's holding up the uterus, the bladder and the rectum. So with the menopause, this muscle weakens and when muscles get weaker, they become less efficient. So what can happen is that instead of holding up those organs, they now start to sag and you can get a prolapse, incontinence, vaginal dryness, there's all kinds of symptoms. So there are kegels that you can do to tone your pelvic floor and in yoga when you're breathing in deeply, you are relaxing the pelvic floor and then when you are exhaling, you are tightening that pelvic floor. So just by breathing deeply, you are exercising your pelvic floor in a very gentle way.
Libby’s number one piece of advice for readers to take away:
I would say do it. And I would say if you're new to yoga, and you don't know where to start, I would say start from the comfort of your home. Go to YouTube. There's so many brilliant teachers there who are really good, and get comfortable with it.