There is power in rest during menopause
Yoga teachers Anna Welin, 49, and Molly Tagesson, 50, both live in Gothenburg. Anna lives north, in Kungälv, with her husband and two of her five children. The others have moved out. Molly lives in Näset, south of Gothenburg, by the west coast with her husband and son.
Anna works with real estate management. She has worked in sales most of her career and as a fitness instructor at a wellness chain. She started working as a fitness instructor in the early 90s and continued doing that until she became a yoga instructor. Molly is an education manager for IT courses and helps her restaurateur husband run a couple restaurants.
The two of them first met at a yoga teacher training course in Gothenburg in 2018, and quickly became friends. They both started teaching yoga after the course. Initially Anna’s intention was just to deepen her knowledge, but she changed her mind a couple of days into the course. She felt inspired to spread yoga to more people. They connected over their shared experiences as long-time high achievers looking for ways to be more accepting and gentle with themselves.
During the course, their teacher challenged them to look honestly at their unaddressed fears, longings and desires. They had a habit of prioritising others before themselves, which often left them feeling drained. Yoga gave them permission to finally make time for rest and break from achieving and striving. They have used yoga during menopause to alleviate symptoms and to practise accepting what their bodies and minds have been going through.
The queens of menopause founders’ menopause experiences
Anna’s menopause symptoms started in 2017. Being used to a highly active lifestyle, the worst part of her symptoms were feeling struck by a lack of energy that left her feeling powerless to do the same activities she usually does. She had hot flashes too, but nothing compared to the tiredness. She didn’t have the same drive, energy or excitement she used to. She saw a doctor who helped her with estrogen replacement therapy but it took over a year to find the right dose, she felt.
– Not many weights have been lifted during my menopause. I haven’t had the energy. I’ve been forced to prioritise rest and recovery. That’s given me new energy, Anna says.
During that time she started doing more yin yoga, a softer style of yoga which focuses on your deep connective tissues rather than muscles. She has gradually started to feel better.
For Molly, she noticed a change after a family trip to the Caribbean in 2016 but didn’t recognise them as menopause symptoms until a couple months later when a friend asked her if that was what she was possibly going through. When she came home from the trip, and saw the work emails had piled up she felt her stress response was out of control.
The stress, she says, was related to the fact that her job at the time had a toxic work environment. She believes this heightened the intensity of her menopause symptoms. A couple of weeks later she started waking up three times every night with night sweats. She tore off her blanket and clothes to feel cooler. This happened for a month straight. She eventually quit the job in 2017.
Like Anna, she has used trial and error with hormone replacement therapy to find a balance. She fell into a depression, which the doctor’s said had to do with extremely low levels of estrogen. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy helped. Eventually Molly found a balance, which for her means being able to feel calm and think more clearly again. The hormones have helped her to find balance in her body. Yoga and meditation keeps her mind and soul in shape, she says.
– Menopause is like a cake. Different slices are needed in different portions. Self-care, self-respect, hormones, supplements, exercise, sleep and a healthy diet. All these things help your hormones in the right direction. But everyone does not have the energy for hard training, which is where yoga can be helpful, says Molly.
Queens of menopause - what it is and how it began
The idea for queens of menopause came about shortly after Molly’s 50th birthday in March 2021, four years after Anna and Molly met. During her celebration she was in a positive and creative state of mind after having received a lot of love and appreciation from her family, and then four words popped into her head “service, women, menopause, recovery”. Anna was the first person she wanted to share her idea with. She called her up and told her about it. Then Molly asked Anna if she’d be up for creating a business around the concept. Anna said yes.
After a couple months of planning, Anna and Molly created their own studio and recorded videos of yin yoga, yoga nidra and active meditation classes into a six-week course. They recorded audio parts in a music studio and hired a social media manager to help them with marketing and logo design. In September 2021, they held their first online course for twenty six women in and around menopause. Participants do the course through a private Facebook group to which they are invited.
– So many women feel unwell in the darkness. Even though many things like supplements and training can help during menopause, not everyone is in the place to do those things. Queens of menopause is a place for women to rest and be, without having to strive, Molly says.
It is also a forum for participants to share what they are going through and how they are experiencing the practises.
How do you create a safe space for sharing experiences through the queens of menopause community?
– We don’t place demands, everything is okay. It’s okay to let it show that you’ve had a bad day. We tell participants they’re good enough as they are. Sometimes you need to hear that over and over again from someone for it to sink in. We’re open about our own experiences and we talk a lot about the importance of acceptance, Molly says.
Breaking the stigma
Many they have met have been reluctant and scared to talk openly about their experiences. Some women between 42-52 who they have met have had a hard time accepting they are in menopause. This is not how it should be, they say, considering that every woman goes through menopause and it is estimated that 1.2 billion women worldwide will be menopausal or postmenopausal by 2030.
– Menopause is often associated with something ugly and with women going “wild and crazy”. Things have changed these past years, but it’s still a taboo. We want to create a restful space for women where they can be inspired to break the silence, says Molly.
By building a community like queens of menopause, Anna and Molly want to help break the stigma surrounding menopause. They want to help normalise menopause by encouraging more women to talk about it and help them see that although it can be tricky, it's natural. They hope this will lead to more conversations about menopause also away from the yoga mat.
Menopause is often associated with something ugly and with women going “wild and crazy”. Things have changed these past years, but it’s still a taboo. We want to create a restful space for women where they can be inspired to break the silence, says Molly.
How has menopause changed your outlook on your life?
– When I've had to make more time for rest and recovery during menopause to handle the stressors it's made me better at saying no to things without explaining myself. I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries around what I choose to invite into my life. This has given me more energy, says Anna.
– I see now I have a role to play and responsibility in standing up for other women and setting an example. I value this time because I can look back and appreciate the many lives I've lived in my lifetime. I've lived in many places and have been touched by and touched many people, says Molly
When I've had to make more time for rest and recovery during menopause to handle the stressors it's made me better at saying no to things without explaining myself. I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries around what I choose to invite into my life. This has given me more energy, says Anna.
Why is Olivia is valuable for women going through menopause?
– A lot of research has gone into Olivia. It helps give women a good understanding of menopause. Olivia has a similar philosophy to us - we’re here for you and you can choose what you want. The app is simple to use and suits many kinds of women. Some want to do yoga, but not everyone. Olivia is for everyone going through menopause, says Molly.
Three types of yoga queens of menopause recommends:
1. Yin Yoga:
What is it?
Yin yoga is different from regular, dynamic yoga. You stay very long in the positions and use props to position yourself into deep stretching that softens up your body by focusing on your deep connective tissues, such as fascia, ligaments, joints and bones. Fascia is the biggest organ in the body. It’s a thin casting of connective tissue that surrounds every organ including our muscles and skeleton.
How is it beneficial?
When you soften your fascia, you can relax your body from the foundation to the bones. Yin yoga coupled with deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which leads to relaxation. This is when the body can heal traumas, physical ailments, clear your mind and create new cell memories. When you get used to being in these positions and stretching through the discomfort, it’s easier to start letting go and releasing emotions. It can also help heal physical ailments.
Yin Yoga positions calms your nervous system and some positions also calms your hormonal system. Through movement and breathing you shift your focus from your head to your body which releases tension, worry and anxiety. Yoga also helps you to have a more flexible and stronger body which helps you in other activities and sports.”
In a study, middle-aged participants, mostly women, did yin yoga for five week showed a decrease in psychological and psychological risk factors known to be associated with non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, mental health-related diseases and osteoporosis. The study also concluded that yin yoga could help with the negative health effects of high stress.
2. Yoga Nidra:
What is it?
Yoga nidra is a form of guided meditation, also called the yogic sleep, where you slow down and do nothing, just lay there and listen to the instructions. There are different schools that teach this, and there are different recipes that guide you into a restful state. It helps you slow down and listen to the body. You may even fall asleep. It can consist of doing a body scan, where you place your awareness on different parts of the body one by one.
How is it beneficial?
Yoga nidra helps you to relax your brain and can ease your worries and anxiety. It’s also a great tool to get a really nice deep sleep. It is a little bit like hypnosis. During yoga nidra you can get into a state of mind where delta brain waves are released, which also comes during our most qualitative sleep during the night.
During yoga nidra, cerebrospinal fluid, which supports the entire nervous system, is also released from the spine. Although there are limited studies on yoga nidra, one study found that it has a pain-relieving effect and can help with rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga nidra is growing in popularity.
3. Shaking meditation - tension and trauma-releasing exercises
What is it?
An active, moving meditation where you shake your body and create muscular tremors to release deep-seated tension. Animals tremor to regulate their nervous system and humans can too.
How is it beneficial?
Shaking meditation can help with stress, anxiety and sleeping problems because it releases tensions and can help calm the nervous system. By regulating stress in this way it can prevent trauma, depression or anxiety building up in the long-term.
The queens of menopause course Rest like a queen also includes slow flows for mobility, guided breathing exercises and a guide to lymphatic massage.
Who’s behind queens of menopause?
Name: Molly Tagesson
Age: 50 Family: Husband, son, cat
Does: Yoga teacher, education manager for IT courses
Name: Anna Welin
Family: Husband, five children, dog
Does: Yoga teacher, real estate manager
What do you like to do outside of work and queens of menopause?
Anna: “walks with my dog in the forest, skiing, strength training, spending time at my happy place in Spain and on the west coast.”
Molly: “cooking with my family and friends, spending time by the ocean and cliffs, cold water bathing and travelling.”
What is your best menopause advice?
Both: “cold water bathing and yoga”
K Hill, (1996). The demography of menopause, Maturitas
Marnie Vinall, (2021) Can Shaking Your Body Help Heal Stress and Trauma? Some Experts Say Yes, Healthline