21 August 2009


Pre menopause…that’s the only explanation I can come up with for my moodiness over the last few months. We humans (especially we women) are at the mercy of our pesky hormonal chemicals. They have a mind all of their own and bombard our systems at will wreaking havoc on our moods and behaviour.
I’m thinking it’s peri-menopausal because
a) I’m 49 years old
b) My menstrual periods have been coming every two weeks for the past three months
c) The ups and downs FEEL hormonal and out of my control.

My heavy frown, my lack of motivation, my depressed state of mind, are all completely out of character. There’s no sense of Divine communion anywhere, no disciplined spiritual practice, no altruistic ideals, no love and compassion for all beings.
Just generally feeling very self-centred and demoralised.

As with all things I know this shall pass, but if it is peri-menopausal it won’t be passing quickly so I’ll need some new strategies other than the panic stricken, beat-myself-up ones that haven’t been helping me at all.

Yoga practice has waned to almost no yoga practice, especially with my yoga buddy Renate overseas for two months – an occasional evening restorative practice has been the yoga highlight of my week. What happened to the athletic 40-something who used to thrive on a daily, sweaty Ashtanga practice? I pondered whether lack of yoga is actually causing my blue state of mind (which led to the thought that feeling good each day may have been completely dependent on a morning Ashtanga yoga practice hit), but quite possibly the reverse is closer to the truth because a depressed mood destroys all motivation and a hormonal imbalance can drastically alter my physical/mental/emotional state.

Hmmm…what comes first, the chicken or the egg?
And can the mood and lack of motivation be overcome by WILL?

I don’t know if one kind of hormone is being overproduced or if another one drying up. Whatever it is = no motivation = no yoga = leave me alone.

The last good 2 hour practice I did was last Saturday, exactly one week ago, but I’ve done a couple of shorter evening practices since them.

Here are my notes from last Saturday:

It was a blissful Saturday morning because I had a day off – no work, no commitments to anyone, my precious time was my very own. I felt strong enough, and present enough to attempt a few moves that have dropped off my practice routine because they aggravate my sacroiliac injury, like the lift-up-jump-back move from seated position.Although I haven’t been able to ever do this properly, engaging the muscles to start it helps strengthen my core and, well, you gotta start somewhere…again.

Paschimottanasana, (the seated forward bend) for me starts the second third of the sequence. I tend to divide the whole sequence into three sections: standing, seated and inverted poses. Paschimottanasana is a fairly accurate barometer of my determination on the day – the gauge being how well my heels lift off the ground. If my mind is disengaged or resistant, my heels won’t be off the ground and it becomes a resting pose instead of an active one and the practice will slowly disintegrate from there.
Today I was right in this pose, actively grounding the thighbones, working the leg muscles enough to keep my heels off the ground and engaging mulabandha. Concaving my pubic abdomen (ie. drawing the top of the pubic bone inwards slightly) in all forward bends is something I learned from Glenn Ceresoli and that little adjustment causes wonderful things to happen in my sacroiliac joint and pelvic floor.
From Janu C I digressed to backbending: Supta Virasana to stretch the front of my thighs, Salabhasana to strengthen my spinal muscles, Dhanurasana to develop the upper back arch, Ustrasana to deepen it even further, then some repetitions of Urdhva Dhanurasana focussing on my new obsession with alignment. Add together sacroiliac injury, uneven leg lengths and lop-sided pelvis and you’ll understand why my body needs some serious retraining.

So I approached Urdhva Dhanurasana with a slightly different intention today. I slid to the top end of the mat, made sure my feet were placed parallel and in a straight from mid-heel to middle toe. The side edges of the mat provided the frame in which I positioned my feet – they had to be an even distance from each side. Once in place I cemented them there, determined not to move them even one millimetre for the duration of the 3 backbends. This was a fascinating mental exercise because I was confronted with every little habit that my feet wanted to revert to, to make the lift up into the backbend easier - like slightly lifting a heel or turning one foot in more than the other. Catching the little urge to move the foot just before the foot responds to the urge gives a fascinating insight into how unconscious and prevalent are our habit patterns.
After pushing up into the first stiff backbend with feet cemented into the earth like tree trunks, I then had to adjust my hands to line them up as perfectly as my feet – each one had to be the same distance from the side edge of the mat, and as I’d placed myself at the end of the mat I could also place the tips of my middle fingers at the leading edge of the mat. Once my feet and hands were perfectly lined up both horizontally and vertically, the unevenness of my arched body was magnified to gigantic proportions in the full backbend. My pelvis felt crooked and I had to work hard to stretch up through the left side of my torso (this is my shorter side, as my left leg is 1.5cm shorter than the right). Need someone to spot me objectively…
So today it was Urdhva Dhanurasana that provided the context within which I could explore the extent of my body’s misalignment.
As my body ages, and as I become increasingly sensitised to the subtleties of my body and its habits, the imbalances built up over a lifetime are emerging in tandem with the imbalances of my peri-menopausal mindstates.

Lovely, lovely Headstand....12 minutes in Headstand: 100 breaths, it topped off a thorough practice. Counting to 100 provides a realistic but challenging goal and keeps me right there in the pose, watching how my body and mind change as the seconds tick away.

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