By Helen Ratcliffe
Going through ‘the change’ can be a confusing, frightening and lonely experience, which is why a yoga teacher is using her talents to help women navigate this transitional period in their lives.
Combining restorative yoga, breathing exercises, guest speakers and old-fashioned sisterly support, Vanessa Morton has designed a learning experience for menopausal women at her studio in Peyia, Paphos.
“The menopause tends to be a taboo subject and even women find it a difficult conversation to have,” Vanessa said.
“The studio is a safe environment for women to discuss their emotions, body changes and the journey they are undertaking. It is also a place for them to lend support to one another, to show none of us is alone in this stage of life.”
Called Menopausal Mayhem, Vanessa’s monthly gathering is designed for women who are entering the perimenopausal state or experiencing the menopause or post menopause.
She says the idea came to her as she helped a client go through this stage of her life.
“I introduced more restorative yoga for her, but sometimes all she wanted to do was cry. It made me realise it doesn’t matter how much money we have, nothing can stop the hormonal changes to our bodies.
“It was then I decided I’d like to bring transitioning women together, to share and validate feelings.”
The menopause is a natural ageing process, occurring typically between the ages of 45 to 55 when the oestrogen levels start to drop, causing hormonal imbalances within the body. Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, feminine dryness, insomnia, mood swings and a reduced libido. While some treatments are medical, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, exercise has proved to be helpful – especially yoga.
Although Vanessa has yet to go through the menopause herself, at 46 she says subtle changes are happening to her body, such as a thickening of her waist, and she’s “learning to live with it, love and embrace it.”
The mother-of-one first started taking an interest in all things menopausal when she saw changes occurring in the women around her, whether they were friends or yoga students. She then started to research the menopause in detail.
“There is no right way or wrong way to cope with the menopause. It’s a very personal journey. Who’s to say that HRT treatment is right or wrong, it’s down to what works for the individual,” she said. “At Menopausal Mayhem I want to teach coping mechanisms; techniques that can be placed in an emotional toolbox such as restorative yoga for the body and Pranayama, breathing exercises to help with hot flushes, sleeping difficulties and stress levels.
“Guest speakers will also attend the meetings, giving a range of advice on topics such as nutrition, hormones and journaling techniques.”
Vanessa, originally from Warrington in Cheshire, has practised yoga for 23 years, teaching for 16 of them after gaining qualifications in the USA and India. An assistant teacher trainer with Yoga Works, she has lived in Cyprus for ten years, finally realising a long-held dream last month by opening her own studio.
“My wish was always to have a studio that I could put my own stamp on. There was nothing wrong about how I was teaching before, but this was always a dream of mine,” she said.
“We’re mothers, wives and daughters. We have families to look after, homes to run and jobs to hold down. Yet it doesn’t matter how much we achieve, we as women always give ourselves a hard time.”
It’s a female trait that doesn’t diminish with time.
“We all are very critical of ourselves and it becomes more difficult to be at peace with our bodies when we’re undergoing a changing process,” Vanessa explained.
“We’re too fat, we’re not pretty enough or we’re not smart enough, this is our inner critic versus our inner friend and we have to learn that the positive advice we give to our friends is something we should also apply to ourselves.
“At the women’s gathering we’ll practise Pratipaksha Bhavanam, an old teaching that helps us to turn a negative into a positive.”
The Menopausal Women’s Gathering is held at The Yoga Space in Peyia on the first Saturday of each month. For more details contact Vanessa on 99 289134 or check out her Facebook page ‘The Yoga Space’