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Are Your struggling through the menopause?

One of the key stones to the Alexander Technique is that our sensory perception is not reliable, that is it filters out constants. We all do it, filtering out speed signs or the voice of our long term partner! In other words our sensory system only reports changes. In terms of the menopause our "symptoms" could really be our body reporting the changes in estrogen levels. If the estrogen levels drop suddenly our symptoms may be severe. How can we make this transition smooth to avoid the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety, aching joints, hot flushes and mental health issues?

Finding a regular routine of rising, eating, resting, exercise and sleep can go along way to establishing a good foundation of a gradual reduction of estrogen. In some cases the process or reducing estrogen levels can take several years. Estrogen also plays a part with insulin to maintain stable blood sugar levels So avoiding foods that raise your blood sugar levels too quickly is also helpful. This means that you do not 'waste' your 'precious' estrogen trying to balance your blood sugar levels. So if you are using estrogen up excessively trying to manage stress and blood sugar levels then it may not necessarily be a drop in the production but and excessive usage of it. Here is a practical technique to use if you find yourself having severe symptoms, it is an accessible breathing technique that can help you ride the sudden drop in estrogen.

I developed this whilst I was pregnant preparing for the birth of my first child. I found it invaluable! It is very similar to ‘the whispered ah’ if you have ever come across this in your Alexander Technique readings. I have emphasised the smile at the back of the throat as it helps open up your pelvis more and brings the breath deeper. As the breath begins to deepen this helps stimulate the parasympathetic system and promotes our great relaxing hormones. In fact there is a nerve that directly connects your diaphragm to your brain and helps bring calmness throughout your whole body via the hormonal system.

You can do this anywhere in any position so it is very versatile. I do it many times whilst practicing yoga and in shopping queues or driving.

Throat Smile - the Process

When you breathe out let your jaw drop open and think of a smile at the back of your throat as you let the air out of your mouth. You may notice a kind of ‘ah’ sound, which is fine but do not try to force this sound. Any sound is OK, it is just where you are with your body. At the end of the out breath close your mouth and let the air come in through your nose. Remember that your diaphragm draws the air into your lungs not you sucking it in with your nose. Repeat about 5 times, no more than 10. After a few minutes of breathing in and out through your nose you can return back to some more throat smiles. This procedure may begin to change your ‘normal’ breath into something that is deeper and longer. You can also try some really big jaw opening sessions (like you are doing a big yawn. I would suggest not doing this in the shopping queues!) This helps open up your body quickly and gets more air into your lungs.

If you are doing this in semi supine you may want to really breathe out and wait for the in breath to happen more of its own accord. This helps lengthen your breathing.

Quick Guide to the Throat Smile

  1. On your out breath let your jaw drop open

  2. Think of a smile at the back of your throat

  3. Let the air out of your mouth

  4. On the in breath close your mouth and let the air come in through your nose

  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times

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