Peri-menopause marks a natural transition into the wise woman/wisdom keeper stage, the Autumn of our life, the vata stage of life. This transition signals a need for reassessment and very likely, requires big changes in both lifestyle and daily habits--especially those habits that have long aggravated our doshas—to manage with grace and ease.
Things that we have long been disassociating from or avoiding come up into our consciousness during peri-menopause, demanding to be addressed--and anger is common for many women at this time! One of my menopause teachers, Jane Hardwicke Collings, likes to call estrogen “the veil of accommodation". Estrogen softens our edges during our menstruating years, allowing us to navigate stressful situations (like building a home and/or a family, growing a business, birthing and tending a fulfilling career) with greater ease.
For many women, challenges in family, work, and life are often addressed with accommodation, rather than confrontation. Most of us in bodies that menstruate and have higher levels of estrogen naturally tend to pick our battles, in other words, vs. expending energy that’s needed during this busy, hectic Summertime “growing” season of life.
Again, this is because estrogen is mṛdu (soft), it’s brahmana (building, nourishing) —and it’s yin as opposed to yang, according to a brilliant approach to the endocrine system and menopause, explained here by Dr. Claudia Welch.
But, as estrogen levels decrease during peri-menopause, the veil of accommodation lifts, reducing our willingness to "suffer fools"--to tolerate or accommodate. This often leads to increased irritation and anger, emotions that we may have long been repressing, not merely because of higher estrogen, but also because of a lifetime of gender-based conditioning to repress or hide our anger and frustration, too.
But, I suggest that peri-menopause is a great time to actually embrace the untapped power that has been hidden in one's anger; use it to both discern and digest repressed emotions and experiences that haven’t yet been processed, along with restrictive, gender based conditioning (samskara) that limits your full potential.
The resulting energy released through this processing can be channeled directly into yoga practices that bring us through peri-menopause with greater ease, and provide insights and greater clarity on what serves us best—and what doesn’t—for the life ahead.
Finally, though it may feel like an ending, and that, too can understandably bring up feelings of both grief and anger, menopause (when it is not chemically or surgically induced) is really the natural next season in the progression of life, one accompanied by a radical transformation into a new body, just like puberty!
As one of my teachers, Nancy Gilgoff, joyfully proclaimed when I anxiously asked her what to expect when menopause came, "Don't fear it! You get a NEW body!"
So, rather than clinging or remaining attached to the former body ("attachment" raga, is one of the kleshas or obstacles, as expounded in Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.7)--rather than holding on to the passing of "Summer", consider that this transformation leads us naturally into the third season of life—one that is enriched with a lifetime of compounding knowledge and experience.
Consider figures like Maya Angelou, Georgia O’Keefe, Joy Harjo, Vandana Shiva, Ursula K. LeGuin—all of them wise creatrixes of brilliance, dignity, grace and power—who flourished most after menopause.
Menopause holds the potential of a full gathering, or harvest time, of the female body’s innate, natural power and our hard earned intelligence. I feel it may be the most profound culmination of a female body’s natural rhythms--Ṛtam--as we pass through all four seasons of our lives—Spring (Childhood), Summer (Adulthood), Autumn (Wisdom keeper/Wise Woman) and Winter (Great Elder).
This natural transformation of the female body is deeply rooted in and connected to the Earth's Ṛtams as well. In Ayurveda, every seasonal transition encourages, even demands, deeper self-reflection to identify sensible changes and adjustments--every seasonal change demands we listen to the wisdom of our bodies and adapt habits and lifestyle, to maintain or improve our wellbeing. Menopause is no different!
This process cultivates even greater wisdom each time we do it, and ideally promotes greater emotional well-being as we age. It also empowers us to deepen our spiritual practices, so that we may walk with greater courage and compassion upon a more joyful life path—one that follows dharma and deepens our connection to Source.
This becomes most evident during our culminating Season of life (if we are lucky to live so long!) and ultimately, when we come to the end of this life, too--passing from this impermanent reality into the mysterious and immortal permanence beyond the veil, from which we first arrived here, and which is our true essence.
May we all find our way!