Are You At Risk of Starting Menopause Early?

Are you in your 30’s and experiencing changes in temperature? Do you wake up in the night between 3-4am? Has the rhythm of your period changed? Is your bladder less reliable than it used to be?

 That got your attention, didn’t it?

All of these symptoms in a woman below 45 most often indicate that you are running yourself too hard! They are likely signs of what Chinese Medicine calls “yin deficiency”.  It can also be understood as “stress,” but it is more nuanced than that.

When we are young women we need to be careful not to burn out all of our yin essence, even though we may feel like we are capable of anything and everything. Women are excellent at stepping into the fast pace of life, competing in the job market, creating a career path and setting sights on motherhood. But we need to be attentive to our bodies, our hormones, and our yin through every phase of life so that we set ourselves up for a smooth next chapter.

Many women in my practice have spent their 20’s burning the candle at both ends, waiting until they are in their late 30’s to try for pregnancy, and then having a hard time. For those who do get pregnant in their 30’s, and then embark on the busy path of working and raising children, they end up in my office with insomnia, night sweats, and anxiety. When this stage of life is not well tended to, they reach menopause and the night sweats are worse! The anxiety is worse! The incontinence gets really bad. And forget any desires for intimacy or restorative connection with their partners: they are fried.

This can all be prevented.

It is music to my ears when a woman in her 20’s comes in and tells me “I am not ready for kids, but I want them one day and I want to make sure it happens easily when I am ready. How can we be sure my body is healthy and balanced now so that in 5-10 years I can slip right into an easy conception, pregnancy, and motherhood?”

Or, when a woman comes in and tells me she’s about to have her first child and she wants to know how to help her pelvis and vulva heal after the birth, to make sure her bladder and uterus return to where they should be.  She wants to insure that her pelvic bowl regains it’s strength and balance as well as to prevent any future imbalances in hormones or tissue integrity. She is thinking ahead, recognizing that care needs to be taken for the health of her future.

When we do start the peri-menopausal process, usually in our early to mid-40’s,  some of us start to notice little signs that perhaps we didn’t tend to our bodies as closely as we should have. When the hormones begin to shift, our connective tissue and smooth muscles can behave differently. This can show itself in reduced flexibility and reduced elasticity, and can also show up as bladder incontinence. The ways in which we did not take care of ourselves will begin to reveal themselves as we begin to undergo this change.

One of the key pieces of advice I have for women is to anticipate what is down the road and do not take for granted just how thin you can spread yourself in your youth. We are not built to lead the pace of life that we do. We all must rebel against it with fierce self-care. Take the time and devote the energy to nourishing your yin.

How do I nourish my yin, you ask? Oh, you will like these suggestions:

 ·      Slow down! Cut one or two errands out of your schedule everyday. Allow yourself to stop running around.

·      Your device – I need not say more!

·      Turn down the lights around 7pm and keep the house quieter and darker.

·      Hang out next to the water, amongst the trees, and in the garden.

·      Sit and stare at the sky.

·      Lie on the earth.

·      Practice BE-ing instead of DO-ing.

·      Eat good quality protein and minimize raw foods, especially as the weather cools down.

·      Rest your mind: no planning, no list making, no device, no reading. Just notice where you are, what you hear, the feeling of the air on your skin.

·      Take a bath (and add soothing smells and bath salts).

·      Play an instrument (even if you are no good!).

·      Weave, paint, craft.

·      Get acupuncture, cranio-sacral work, or an abdominal massage.

·      What else can you think of?

 The gist of this article is to say that as women, we go through 3 major phases of life: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. If we do not care well enough for ourselves in one stage, the next stage will likely be more difficult. Listen to your body. Think ahead. Do not assume the gifts of youth will be there for you to ease the transition into the next phase. Nurture yourself now as an investment in your life to come.

Pleasure In The Patriarchy

I have something juicy I want to share with all of you, but I have been struggling with actually affiliating this information with myself, especially in a professional context. In examining why this has been bumpy for me, I came to realize a few things that I want to discuss here (very briefly, mind you!), before we get to the juicy bits. The subject: patriarchy.

The word "patriarchy" is one I wrestle with because I always feel like it makes men out as "bad"- bad humans, bad members of society, bad people in our history; the oppressive MAN. I have had to do my own personal assessment and dissection of this word over the last 20 years so that I can feel more comfortable using it. This is not a complete discussion of the system of patriarchy by any means, rather here is what I have come to understand so that I can use this word in a productive way. To be sure, there is more to add to this conversation, and I would welcome anyone to do so in the comments section. 

The patriarchy is a way to describe the trend in our world of the last 2,000 (or so) years toward favouring traits that are masculine such as success, competition, goal-oriented productivity, growth (namely economic), etc. Furthermore, a patriarchal value system prioritizes the males in a community for their physical strength and intellectual contributions, and in the realms of decision-making, governing, reproductive rights, education, and economics, to name a few. In short: the men hold the power. It was a long and complicated road to get here, which, while interesting, is not what I want to discuss here. And there are so many millions of men in the world who would rather we didn't allocate all of this value to men over women, and who genuinely seek balance between the masculine and feminine. We cannot confuse the controlling, ego-maniacal, out of balance men in the world who fully subscribe to and can't even comprehend the existence of a patriarchal structure because they are so steeped in the benefits of this system, with the men who want equal voices and equal rights for men and women across the globe, and who see the disparity. And we cannot confuse individual men with "the patriarchy". 

 Now, with the concept of patriarchy on the table, what would be the opposite? I think it would be a global culture that also values feminine ways of living such as slowing down to cultivate connections and community; one that places less of an emphasis on doing and more of an emphasis on being. We would appreciate beauty and good design over a structure built for function alone. We would spend more time with our emotions and would value the information we can gain from paying attention to how we feel, rather than just living from an analytical mind-set. We would enjoy our human existence more and take the focus off of success, productivity, being the fastest and coming out on top. We would place a value on how others are doing just as much as we place value on how we ourselves are doing as individuals. Lastly, but not least: we would listen to our bodies and value pleasure, an experience that we as humans know in a very unique way. 

Now I am finally getting to the point: I watched the video linked below just a few weeks ago for the first time. I wanted to share it far and wide, but I caught myself feeling shy and wondering if it was inappropriate to share. I have been sitting with this question of "why do I, a woman who spends everyday working to help women connect more deeply to their own emotions and their own pleasure, feel like it would be 'inappropriate' to share a video about female anatomy and pleasure?!"

My answer is simple: internalized patriarchy. In spite of my own ongoing cultivation of pleasure in my life (ranging from finding a beautiful flower bouquet for my table to feeding myself and my son delicious food, to delighting in sexual pleasure with my beloved) I also struggle with feeling like it is inappropriate to discuss female pleasure. And I must note, that as I write that sentence it makes my blood boil! Why does a man get to openly and freely discuss his sexual pleasure with the world and it is not okay for a woman to do so? And why, as this video notes, did we not fully understand the anatomy of the female clitoris until the last quarter of a century? And why are young people not taught about how to engage both a man and a woman in sexual pleasure? A man can sexually penetrate a woman and have robust physical pleasure, but if the woman's body is not attended to equally she will very likely get close to 0% of the pleasure he is getting. And frankly, when that happens, it just feels like these female bodies of ours are perceived to be here just for the man's use. Certainly, that is how many men view us, and sadly, what many women have also come to believe. And I have to say, that when sexual intercourse is happening and only one party is getting pleasure, it is hard not to feel used, not cared for, not valued, disrespected, and in more extreme circumstances possibly even like you have been raped. Women, I know many of you can relate. 

When we only value the masculine, we fail to see the more finely tuned, the more delicate, the more sensitive feminine aspects of life. This is very literally true, and quite symbolic I might add, in the realm of sex and sexual anatomy. When a man cannot slow down long enough to connect with his sexual partner and help her access her own pleasure, both parties are missing out. You will likely be amazed when you watch the Ted Talk below and see the extent of the female clitoris and begin to ponder for yourself the concept of female pleasure. It is time we slowed down, paid more attention to the intricacies of all that is feminine in our world, and actually allow ourselves to feel the nuance of life that is evident when the energies of masculine and feminine (and yes, males and females too) actually spend time dancing together, feeling one another, and attuning to the beauty that comes from balance. 

So what happens to our world when we start to openly discuss female pleasure? What happens to us internally when we push ourselves to see and vocalize that women have been overwhelmingly neglected (and outright abused) in our sexuality for centuries? How might both men and women be transformed by our engagement with female pleasure? 

Finally, here is a little educational short for you. Enjoy! 

The Voice of Intuition and Your Pelvis

Recently a friend linked to a fantastic blog post by another local woman in the healing arts: Rachel Warrington. She articulates with such rawness and beauty the connection between our intuition and our pelvis.  "Intuition comes from the same place in your energetic system where feelings and desire sit, which in the way I have learned to see it is the sacral chakra."

When I work with women during a Mayan Abdominal Therapy session or Holistic Pelvic Care, I know that part of what is happening is that the woman is finding more connection with her intuition. Often we come to a clinic in search of physical healing (organ prolapse, fertility struggles, painful sex) but when it comes to addressing physical complaints of the female pelvis, we return to the magnificent depths of our very own intuition, passion, and wisdom. So many of my patients come in after having seen a physio or another mechanically-oriented pelvic floor therapist, but they still feel out of balance. That is because there is a piece missing: the energetic and emotional patterns that affect the muscles and fascia.

After studying the human energy system in a 2 year intensive (and ongoing studies thereafter), and then learning these physico-energetic techniques to take care of our pelvises, I fully agree with Rachel's words and could not have articulated it better. Please enjoy her blog post here: 

https://www.yarrowhealingarts.com/single-post/2017/07/20/A-Ramble-on-Intuition

 

Artwork by Andrew Trimmer

Artwork by Andrew Trimmer