Balancing your hormones in lockdown

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Lockdown is impacting us all in different ways. I’ve written recently about our silver linings from the first lockdown, and shared my views about self care in a pandemic too.

Today, I am handing over the reins to Cheryl MacDonald, Yoga Elder and Founder of YogaBellies. Cheryl is joining us to share some excellent information about managing our hormones, and the potential health fallout from what has been a challenging and stressful year. Thank you Cheryl!

How to lock in your hormones while stuck in lockdown

By Cheryl MacDonald Yoga Elder and Founder of YogaBellies, yoga classes held online and across the UK.

As we adapt to another few weeks in lockdown, it’s more important than ever for everyone to take stock and really care about themselves during these tricky times. Earlier lockdowns this year had a huge impact on our mental health and a poll of 5,677 women by gynaecologist Dr Anita Mitra found that 65% of women noticed a change in their periods or wilder-than-usual hormonal symptoms during lockdown.

And, if you think about the financial uncertainty, social isolation, separation from loved and psychological pressures that come with lockdown, that’s no surprise. Symptoms of hormone imbalance could be things such as chronic pain, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite and weight gain. 

But there are ways that women can help to re-balance their hormones naturally.

Fresh Air 

Do your best to to use your allocated exercise time outside, within your bubble, and enjoy the great outdoors! If you’ve got a job to do, it’s so easy to stay cooped up inside all the time but make the effort to get out, it’ll do wonders for your mental health and help you put a fresh perspective on things. Even if it’s just a brisk walk or a short run, it’ll make you feel better and release endorphins, often referred to as ‘happy hormones’. Just remember to bring your umbrella or waterproofs! 

Yoga

Yoga is a well-known reliever of stress and anxiety so try to make time to tune in to classes each day. Even if it’s just a half an hour session, it’ll make a huge difference. Yoga makes you focus on your breathing which helps you to clear your mind of negative thoughts and feelings and lifts you out of a bad mood. It also helps to increase energy levels, as you might feel constantly tired while stuck in all the time. When you’re doing a yoga class, you can’t think about anything else and the breathing techniques help to fill your blood with fresh oxygen. The best asanas to help the balance of hormones are Dancer’s Post, Camel Pose and Bow Pose (see details below)

Rock Your Hormones

Switch up your diet 

There are lots of hormone friendly foods you can have that actually help a lot with hormone imbalance. Apple cider vinegar not only lowers your cholesterol, helps with your blood sugar levels and weight loss efforts but it’s amazing for your digestion. Since apple cider vinegar is fermented, it’s amazing for your gut bacteria, which in turn can help balance those hormones. Simply add a little apple cider vinegar to your water each morning and you’re good to go! 

Make sure you eat your leafy greens. You’ve heard it time and time again about the benefits of vegetables but those leafy greens like kale, collard greens, lettuce and spinach have a very high amount of vitamins, minerals, fibre and so many more nutrients. They can help to cleanse your liver too which is an amazing way to start balancing your hormone levels.  If you’re not a natural fan, then make a smoothie out of them or add greens with poached egg on toast. 

Seek out healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and MCT oil, nuts and seeds and grass-fed butter. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are also great. The more healthy fats in your diet, the more balanced your hormones will be. 

People who go on specific diets that lower their carb intake, like Paleo and Keto, often find their hormone levels are suddenly balanced and they have lower inflammation. Why? Because they are lowering the refined carbs and added sugars in their diet that often cause inflammation and throw your hormone levels off, and add to obesity. You can still have naturally-occurring sugar like in fruits and other natural foods, but be careful about foods that add sugar, like pasta sauce, bacon and deli meats. 

Communicate

Please talk to someone if you’re not feeling great – whether that’s your partner or house mate, or friends or a professional. Don’t suffer in silence. Even if you don’t feel like it, make an effort to be sociable (even if it’s just a zoom chat!). Talking about your feelings and sharing experiences will help to reduce stress and reduce your hormone imbalance. 

Focus on Self Care

Give some focus to yourself. Make sure that you don’t spend all your time working from home. Create boundaries so that you can focus on yourself when you need to. If you’ve got children to care for, explain to your partner that you need a bit of time to yourself and exchange it for some of their own ‘me time’. It could make all the difference. 

YogaBellies Nurture

Thank you Cheryl for sharing your thoughts with Cup of Toast readers. For more information about YogaBellies, please see below:

YogaBellies holds yoga classes for women at every stage of their lives. To sign up to an online class visit www.yogabellies.com or visit a local class. 

About Cheryl:

YogaBellies was launched in 2008 by Yoga Elder, Cheryl MacDonald when she first started teaching pregnancy yoga in her spare bedroom after her son was born and she was made redundant while on maternity leave. She wanted to help women have fun and connect with other women while practising yoga, creating a warm and supportive environment. She has since helped thousands of women, at every stage of their lives, wanting to attend regular yoga classes, and those who wanted to start up their own business as a Yoga Instructor. A hugely successful franchisee model, Cheryl now mentors 100 franchisees across the UK who provide courses face to face and online. 

Founder of YogaBellies, Cheryl MacDonald says: “I want to make my classes as inclusive, accessible and fun as possible. In these really testing times, it’s important that women of all ages have a network they can reach out to, of women feeling similar things as them. The new Nurture and Fertility Yoga classes are a fantastic complement to our Pregnancy and Birth, Mum and Baby, CorePlay and Luna classes we hold and I’m really excited to welcome women along. You don’t have to be holier than thou to enjoy yoga, just looking for a new, healthy challenge and some fun along the way.”

Cheryl MacDonald - YogaBellies Founder

Cheryl’s poses to try!

Some Yoga poses that you might like to try out whilst you are at home are noted below. As always, do exercise caution and speak to your GP if you are unsure about trying a new activity.

            1. Natarajasana or Dancer’s Pose. This requires a significant amount of flexibility in the hip flexors and spine as well as an unwavering sense of balance and it helps to reduce menstrual discomfort and PMS symptoms. Begin in Tadasana and stretch the right arm forward and keep it parallel to the ground. Bend the left knee backwards and hold the left big toe in your left hand. Engage the knees and keep the left leg straight and perpendicular to the floor. Keep the balance for 10 seconds then release the grip of the left foot and lower the arms. Repeat the posture on the other side.

            2. Ultrasana or Camel Post. This pose helps to stimulate the thyroid gland in the centre of the neck to balance metabolism and impacts the entire endocrine system. Come down on your knees. Reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels and then bring your hips forward so that they are directly over the knees. Allow the head to come back, opening your throat and chest. 

            3. Dhanurasana or Bow Pose. This is a great back bending pose which will help to stimulate the reproductive organs and helps to balance the levels of progesterone and oestrogen in the body. It stimulates both the back and front of the body, especially the lumbar and pelvic regions and helps relieve depression. Combat cramps and upset stomach with a backbend like this pose, which gets the spinal fluid moving and relieves compression in the vertebrae. 

Lie on your belly with your hands by your side with your palms up. On the exhale, bend your knees and bring the feet towards the buttocks. Reach back and take hold of the ankles. The knees should only be hip distance apart, if possible. Inhale, lifting the heels away from the buttocks and also lift your thighs up from the floor. Your head and chest will follow and lift off of the floor. Keep your back muscles soft. Continue to lift, press the shoulder blades together and open the chest. Draw the shoulders away from the ears. Gaze forward while breathing more into the back. Breath here for about 10 seconds, release with an exhale and repeat once or twice as comfortable. 

Thank you again Cheryl for sharing your expertise!

I do hope that you found this post helpful. Please note, I have not received anything in exchange for sharing this information. To read more about how I work with others, please see my disclosure policy.

N.B. All photos are courtesy of YogaBellies. Please do not reproduce without permission.

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