Book Review – Your Middle Years

Your Middle Years
Your Middle Years

Not every woman’s favorite topic, I know, but the menopause (eek! there, I said it) is an inevitable phase of any woman’s life.


Culturally, here in the West, we are so conditioned to value youth and beauty above everything else that the menopause is considered a taboo subject not to be discussed in polite conversation.

Have you every looked for a book on the topic of the menopause?  If you have then there is a good chance you are familiar with the array of lackluster choices out there.  The covers for many are jam-packed with too many words in a dull font and accompanied by the stilted photo of a menopause expert or flower.  (What is it with the flowers?)  So many of them have the same kind of text book appeal you get from a computer programming manual.

Not that the content isn’t relevant and probably very helpful but does it really have to be presented in such an uninspiring way?

Each topic is discussed in a fun and informative way with a bunch of contemporary colorful illustrations, lots of easy to read bullet points and simple to understand charts.

So, in my desperate search I resorted to some internet digging and unearthed ‘Your Middle Years’ written by the author partnership of Paula Mee and Kate O’Brien.

Paula, from a health, beauty and spa background and Paula from a nutrition background have partnered up together to create a book about menopause that is unlike any book on the topic I’ve seen so far.

Broken down into 12 chapters it delves into topics from food to bone & heart health to beauty, sleep, stress and sex issues.

Each topic is discussed in a fun and informative way with a bunch of contemporary colorful illustrations, lots of easy to read bullet points and simple to understand charts.

If you’re looking for well researched information presented in an easily digestible and upbeat way, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Embrace the changes and “love them, live them, own them”.

It approaches the topic of menopause in a very ‘self care’ oriented way.  All of those important things we already know about including diet, exercise, mindfulness and sleep.  Full of sensible, down to earth and achievable tips that will help with the myriad of menopausal symptoms that arise, Your Middle Years also includes a bunch of easy to create recipes – even for the non cook like me.

I love this book.  What else can I say?  It is a down to earth, practical and fun read covering a big topic in a very positive way.

As Paula and Kate say in the book – embrace the changes and “love them, live them, own them”.


You’ll find the book at in printed and digital format at all of the usual online booksellers!

The Value of Practicing Yoga with an Experienced Yoga Instructor


A recent report by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine discovered a rise in yoga related injuries for older students

 

Yoga is popular, it’s as simple as that, and today more and more older people are embracing the practice attracted by the wealth of health and self care benefits it offers.


However, as the number of yoga students has grown, so too have the number of yoga related injuries being treated.  Bad news whichever way you try to spin it.

A recent article published on the leading website yoga journal.com has found that there has been a marked increase in yoga injuries, particularly for those in the age categories 40 and upwards.  This could be seen as a reflection of the growing number of older students led to yoga on the advice of healthcare professionals or following many years of other exercise disciplines or, for some, very limited exercise habits.

The study by the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine examines injuries over thirteen years starting in 2001, a period of time that also coincides with a large increase in yoga teacher trainings and in the number of opportunities to study and teach yoga.

Although most trainings cover a spectrum of yoga topics, in many cases, only around 20 of those hours are dedicated to anatomy study.

This growth is great news for everyone as it increases choice and accessibility along with employment and experience for yoga teachers. However, currently, the only criteria that needs to be met in order to teach (in most cases) is the completion of a 200hour training.  There are many 200hour yoga trainings around which, like most things in life, can differ in style and quality.  Although most trainings will cover a spectrum of yoga topics, in many instances only around 20 of those 200 hours are dedicated to anatomy study.

Even for an experienced teacher, a class that provides safe sequencing for a large group of students with an array of physical & medical issues can be challenging.

It is unfair to suggest that any brand new teacher would intentionally cause anyone harm but it takes experience, study and understanding of the physical body and a broad range of conditions to safely and effectively lead a class.

With aging bodies comes the inevitable wear and tear of joints, weakening of connective tissues such as ligaments and other musculature changes as well as the range of physical conditions that spring up in later life.  These are all important aspects to consider when teaching an older group of students.

Even for a very experienced teacher, a class that provides safe sequencing for a large group of students with an array of physical & medical issues can be challenging.

This is not to say that a recently qualified teacher does not have the ability to teach a class well, but older students need to be mindful and responsible for their own self care too.

Listen to your own body and be selective about the classes you attend particularly when starting out.  Yoga is all about losing the ego so don’t let your own ego dictate that you attend that fast moving, level 2 class.  Take time to build up your practice with a well informed, experienced teacher making gradual progress to the faster, stronger classes if that appeals.

From a student’s perspective, the more yoga experience and study that a teacher has, the more it will also benefit their own learning. Doing some research to find a class that combines your choice of instructor with the appropriate level is important.

 Inexperience or little knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.

Although it may be uncomfortable for you to ask an instructor directly, you can take a look online to find out more or chat with other staff and students at the location where you attend class.  Most yoga teachers, regardless of their experience, welcome questions as no teacher would want to knowingly hurt a student but inexperience or limited knowledge about a condition could unintentionally cause injury.

Depending upon the yoga school or tradition the teacher follows, many 200hour graduates may also go ahead and continue in their studies with an additional 300hour teacher training.  These trainings provide practicing teachers with an opportunity to study the whole topic of yoga in more depth including aspects of injury management and yoga therapy.

So take a little time to research further and consider experience, qualifications and ongoing study to find your perfect yoga match.

Ask an Instructor – Diana Markessinis

Diana Markessinis
Diana Markessinis – Yoga instructor and fine artist

Diana Markessinis is a yoga instructor and fine artist specialising in sculpture.

ask an instructor – 10 questions

• the very first yoga class you attended?   As a small little lady with my mom we walked to an old Victorian house in our neighborhood of Wilmington Delaware. I remember the sound of the pocket door sliding shut, deep breathing, and quiet organized movement in a full room of ladies.

• what is it about yoga that inspires you?   The merging of our internal and external worlds, to explore and travel our internal world then the outside physical body world…it’s a lovely dance back and forth and eventually they merge and unite creating a one pointed focus, where all else falls away, in that peacefulness I get inspired

• what yoga item(s) could you not be without?  I suppose my blocks, but honestly if they aren’t with me, I find something else, books, buckets, a railing, whatever is available to give me more space!

• your favorite post yoga class snack?  Something juicy and refreshing like fresh veggie or fruit.

• what book would you recommend to a brand new student of yoga?  Depends on that persons interests…Donna Farhi ‘bringing yoga to life’ has a nice overview or for a deeper level ‘the body has its reasons’ by Therese Bertherat

• if you could teach a class anywhere in the world, where would it be?  On the floor of a soft forest on a sunny day.

–  type of class you like to attend when you are not the instructor?  Relaxation classes like Restoratives or Yin, as I practice this at home, but have to keep watch of the time, it’s luxurious to have someone else keeping track.

• favorite thing to do if not doing yoga?  Being outside and creating objects.

• if you weren’t a yoga instructor?  I’m an artist, my love and knowledge of yoga is to make this life fuller for myself and others.

• as a yoga instructor, what do you hope a new student takes away from your class?  To simply feel better then when they arrived. Showing up on our mat is to be a witness to whatever is happening that day, and in theory as that awareness comes through we can better serve ourselves and therefore others.

To find out more about Diana’s yoga schedule and sculpture work visit her website http://www.dianamarkessinis.com

Diana teaches a weekly Yoga Fundamentals class at Inner Space yoga studio in Santa Ana.

7 Reasons Why I’m Happy to be a Middle Aged Yogi….

Can I go get coffee instead?
As a yogi embracing the middle years there are many yoga trends I’m happy to let pass me by.  Here are 7 of them…

  • Any yoga class that has been heated to a temperature worthy of an industrial laundry.  My own body creates that heat spontaneously so why would I consider turning up the temperature…..on purpose?
  • Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the description.  Need I say more?
  • Any type of yoga clothing design that incorporates large cut out panels or swathes of mesh.  Worse still, not enough fabric to make a handkerchief from.

    Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the title.  Need I say more?

  • Any pose that involves contorting myself into the shape of a badly twisted pretzel.  I know Madonna managed to get both feet around her neck and good on her, but me?  With these hips?
  • Any yoga cleansing programs that involve a diet of foods I can’t pronounce and the need to perform four hours of acrobatic poses every day.  Just the thought of it makes me pine for a lie down…..when’s savasana?
  • Achieving a one armed handstand in the middle of the room/beach/park/any other random open space.  Didn’t happen for me at the peak of my yoga fitness so I’m happy to practice acceptance in the knowledge that it won’t happen now.
  • The trend for posting multiple yoga pose photographs to social media on a daily basis.  Can I go get a coffee instead?

How are these trends working out for you?

How yoga can help with perimenopause symptoms

The time leading up to the menopause, known as the perimenopause, can be challenging and full of physical and mental changes but news flash – or should I say hot flash – yoga can help!


There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Starting with the whole heating issue.  Some research estimates that almost 80% or women are affected by hot flashes.  Thought to be caused by the combination of unbalanced over and under active hormones bouncing about there are a number of yoga poses that can support you and inversions can be particularly helpful.

A great reference book with detailed yoga sequences for perimenopausal symptoms is ‘The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health’ by Linda Sparrowe & Patricia Walden.  Patricia, an experienced and respected Iyengar yoga teacher, recommends inversions as they can ‘jump start a sluggish system or calm an overly excited one by allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to flow into the head and neck’.

There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Whether in the full form of the pose i.e. headstand or shoulderstand, or in supported versions using props and the wall, inverted poses will help as they are calming and soothing for the nervous system.  You may already have a strong inversion practice but if you haven’t or if you are completely new to yoga or have neck and back issues that prevent you doing inversions safely there are many alternative supported inversion poses to try.  (Although be mindful, it is not recommended that you do inverted poses when menstruating).

Mood swings are another aspect of the whole perimenopause journey. Seated forward bends can be good for mood as they are soothing in anxious moments but as they are ‘enclosed’ poses with the forward folding torso they will not be suitable if you suffer with depression.

Supported restorative poses are good alternatives as a restorative practice lying over bolsters and blankets offers the opportunity to quieten the mind and body at stressful, moody moments.  A great resource for restorative yoga is Judith Hanson Lasater’s book ‘Relax and Renew’.

Finally, sleep disruption, which can be impacted by the effects of the previous two symptoms.  Hot flashes become the night sweats and the root of insomnia can be the stress and irritation that comes from mood swings.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change.

There are various lifestyle changes that can be made in terms of eating and avoiding stimulants such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine.  Exercise is still important but if you are dealing with sleep issues then consider a more energizing and active yoga practice at the beginning of the day to avoid being too ‘wired’ closer to bedtime.

Besides the physical practice, mindfulness and the meditative practices of yoga are a great asset when dealing with perimenopause symptoms.

Being able to embrace physical changes with a more positive mindset will make these inevitable changes more manageable.  As Christiane Northrup, MD author of ‘The Wisdom of Menopause’ says ‘when all is said and done it is your attitude, your beliefs and your daily thought patterns that have the most profound effect on your health’.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change and benefit from a healthy and positive transition to the next life chapter.

As with all health related issues researched on the internet be sure to seek medical advice for any symptoms you experience.