The journey towards good health and fitness has no age limit. With growing awareness about the benefits of yoga for women, people have become increasingly motivated to work out. Women over 40 are at higher risk for bone problems and struggle with perimenopause, which affects their overall health. Yoga is one of the best ways to deal with these issues and stay fit even after 40.

Expert Sohan Singh, a proponent of yoga and the founder of Sohan Yoga International, shares a few yoga poses women over 40 can practise, along with the benefits of these exercises and some important precautionary tips.

1. How does yoga help women over 40 with their health & fitness?

The 40s is a crucial decade where one starts seeing their body entering into a more venerable stage. You may notice that there might be some tasks you might find challenging to carry out. From constant backaches to the beginning of the joint pains, the body starts sending these signals of early signs of ageing.

Yoga can help you delay ageing and also prepare your body for the imminent body stiffness.

Yoga is beneficial for maintaining:

  • A healthy heart – improves blood pressure and lowers hypertension
  • Bone health – reducing the risk of osteoporosis
  • Strength – improves the muscles in your legs, core, and shoulders

2. What are the benefits of yoga for perimenopausal women?

Perimenopause is a phase in women’s lives where they go through a plethora of hormonal and emotional changes. During this phase, I advise my female clients to indulge in yoga asanas that can soothe their bodies and calm their minds. The body, in this phase, needs a lot of composure.

From sudden hot flashes to bouts of anxiety and stress, women need to ease out their bodies. This can be achieved easily through yoga. Yoga naturally lowers body temperature and reduces hot flashes. It increases circulation in the entire body, releasing stress and tension from the body, resulting in a calm mind. It also helps in reducing external distractions and stimuli, soothes the mind, and reduces the effects of stress.

Step-By-Step Guide: 5 Yoga Poses For Women Over 40

1. Seetkari Pranayama (Cool Breathing)

  1. Cross your legs and sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Keep your spine straight. 
  3. Relax the facial muscles and loosen your shoulders.
  4. Clench the lower and upper teeth together, gently. Separate the lips as much as you can. Keep the jaw relaxed and expose your teeth. 
  5. Inhale. Focus on your breath. Exhale from your nostrils.
  6. Repeat this 3-4 times with 20-25 breaths every time.

2. Prasarita Padottana-Asana (Wide-Leg Forward Fold)

  1. Separate your legs 4 feet apart
  2. Point your toes slightly inwards
  3. Place both your hands on the waist. 
  4. Place your tail-bone directly on the floor.
  5. Inhale; raise the chest up. 
  6. Exhale; extend forward and raise the hips up towards the sky.
  7. Place your palms on the floor or on a block.
  8. Place a bolster between the legs, and rest the head on it.
  9. Pull the kneecaps up and press the outer and inner ankles towards the ground. 
  10. Bend the knees when the hamstring feels tight. Staying in the pose will gradually release tension.
  11. Straighten your legs.
  12. Hold the pose. Breathe deeply for 60 seconds. 
  13. Release by lifting the torso back up. 
  14. Repeat.

3. Vipareeta Karani (Legs Up Against the Wall)

  1. Sit facing the wall.
  2. Place your hips a few inches away from it.
  3. Lie down and raise your leg with wall support. Your lower back should touch the floor. If not, place a bolster.
  4. Keep your arms a few inches away from the body and open the palms facing the ceiling.
  5. Decompress your entire body and stay in this pose for a few minutes.
  6. While releasing the pose, bend the knees and drop them down towards the right.
  7. Sit up.

4. Supta Baddha Kona-Asana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

  1. Lie down comfortably on your back.
  2. Extend your legs and place your arms on your sides, facing your palms up toward the ceiling.
  3. Bend your knees to bring the soles (bottoms) of your feet together to touch. 
  4. The outer (pinky toe) edges of your feet should be resting on the mat. 
  5. Let your legs fall open and allow gravity to support the weight of the legs.
  6. If your hips and groin are feeling tight, you can take your feet further away from your body.
  7. If you are feeling more open, you can bring your feet closer toward your body to deepen the stretch.
  8. Relax your shoulders.
  9. Allow your back body to lay flat on the mat. 
  10. Stay in the pose for a few minutes.
  11. While coming out of the pose- move your palms to your outer thighs. 
  12. Gently fold the legs together. 
  13. Place the soles of your feet flat on the mat. 
  14. Hug your knees towards your chest and gently rock from side to side to release the low back.

5. Setu Bandha Sarvanga-Asana (Bridge Pose)

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms along the floor. Keep your palms flat.
  2. Clasp your feet and arms firmly into the floor. 
  3. Exhale as you raise your hips toward the ceiling.
  4. Move your tailbone toward your pubic bone.
  5. Hold your buttocks off the floor. Do not squeeze your glutes or flex your buttocks.
  6. Roll your shoulders backward and beneath your body. 
  7. Clasp your hands and extend your arms along the floor beneath your pelvis. 
  8. Straighten your arms as much as possible, pressing your forearms into the mat. 
  9. Reach your knuckles toward your heels.
  10. Keep your thighs and feet parallel — do not roll to the outer edges of your feet or let your knees drop together. 
  11. Press your weight equally across all four corners of both feet. 
  12. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees.
  13. Hold for up to one minute. 
  14. To release, unclasp your hands and place them palms-down alongside your body. 
  15. Exhale as you slowly roll your spine along the floor, vertebra by vertebra. 
  16. Allow your knees to drop together.

3.  What is the ideal time to practice functional yoga for women over 40?

I do not believe in fixing a particular time to perform the asanas. I let my clients choose when they want to practice the asanasearly morning or early evening. Whatever time they seem convenient, that’s when I ask them to come.

Ideally, yoga should be performed on an empty stomach. So, that’s the only thing I tell my clients to follow. To practice functional yoga, setting the practice sessions around one’s routine seems only practical.

4. What are some precautionary measures? 

For premenopausal women, too much hot yoga may actually exacerbate symptoms. I recommend my clients, who are in the phase of menopause, to opt for light yoga asanas. Use gentle and mindful movements to keep yourself grounded, connect you to your body, and relax the mind. 

Some points to keep in mind:

  • Do put too much pressure on your body
  • Do what comes naturally. Do not try to perfect the pose. It should calm you, not put you in distress
  • Be mindful of your tailbone. Do not put too much pressure on it
  • If the muscles feel too worked-up, release the pressure
  • If you think, while performing the asanas, you are applying too much pressure to your bones, then do not continue with that asana

5. Any exceptions wherein people should not perform this type of yoga? 

If not all, but most types of yoga asanas can be performed by most people. But there definitely are a few exceptions:

  • If you’re suffering from joint pain, you shouldn’t perform these asanas
  • I recommend my clients to not perform any yoga asanas on a full stomach. It will only make the menopausal discomfort even worse
  • Avoid performing any of the asanas if you are suffering from illness and/or are just recovering or have just recovered
  • If your doctor has not allowed indulging in any form(s) of exercise, avoid this too

6. Can it be done on your own or should you do it with a trainer only?

Yoga can be performed anywhere and at any time of the day. Whatever makes one feel comfortable and relaxes their mind.  Yoga is something you do not always need a trainer for, but guidance is necessary. To know what kind(s) of asanas suit your body and bodily conditions, only a trained yoga instructor can guide you through that. I feel, especially for the beginners, guidance is necessary.