How to Deal with the Menopausal Woman in the Room.

Via on Nov 17, 2012
Vanda Scaravelli my inspiration: image via Juliana on Pinterest

Hint: It’s just like the stoner!

Everyone probably already thinks I am stoned, because I live in Colorado and I often put the wrong foot forward in yoga. I want to clear this up: I am not stoned.

I am menopausal.

I recently wrote a blog about how to deal with stoners in the room and apparently, some stoners were really upset about it. So now I’m going to clarify that and say that being high and being in menopause is very similar, with the exception that for one of us, things will eventually clear up.

Here’s the thing: impaired people occasionally put the wrong foot forward in a yoga class (actually, everyone does this sometimes). My best advice is, get over it because someday if you get older, then you are often going to put the wrong foot forward too.

Menopause is a lot like living with constant impairment; it teaches us grace and humility to be okay with being very much not okay in our bodies.

And yes, before all the “great teachers” write in to tell me that AARP is going to revoke my card because I am sooooo mean and that menopause is a natural condition, let me also say: lighten up. I can write about this because I am an expert; I have lived through what may have been the worst case of menopause and yoga ever documented in medicine.

In fact, I am working on a book about it—we are all lucky that nobody got seriously hurt.

I just want to assure my readers and students that even though I often appear to be stoned, I am actually just sleep deprived, sick and nauseous. And very hot! That’s why I have empathy with impaired students!

I want to share my hard-earned wisdom with other teachers who may also have menopausal women in the room, because up to now, this is how it’s been for me:

Teacher:                             “Step your right foot forward to a lunge.”

Meno-Woman:                 “Huh?”

Teacher:                             “Right foot forward please.”

Meno-Woman:                 (Moves left foot forward.)

Teacher:                             “Um, please move the other right foot forward.”

Meno-Woman:                 “Man, what’s my problem?”

Right? Because the main difference between the stoner and the menopausal woman is we know immediately that it is our problem when we hold up a class. We have no idea what the heck is going on; I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked the person on the mat next to me what we are supposed to be doing and the teacher replies with “Ssshhhhhh!”

Just like any impaired yogi, menopausal women become our challenge because we must manage our classes for the good of the many and not just for the one. Here is what I’ve learned in dealing with impaired students and teachers (because I am one):

If you are lost, ask for directions. I teach an alignment-based yoga and because I am an older yogi, I must practice with good alignment as well. Therefore, I am constantly lost. I frequently ask what side we are on. Do not be afraid to ask for directions. It is so much better than doing the right side twice.

Be kind. Most menopausal women who come to practice are really sweet people, even if they seem grouchy or are sweating profusely. Try to put yourself in their position. This will take you further in communicating to them than say, speaking as if they were children, because they are old enough to be your mother and they might lecture you if you don’t show them respect. Or put you in time out. Either way, be kind.

Do not ignore the elephant. You can try to overlook the menopausal woman in the room, but here’s the thing: she could get hurt. In my opinion, you must get her quickly to the correct place in a pose (even in a modified state) so she is safe.  Once, I fell in a revolved crescent lunge and took out an entire row of students like dominos. Keeping the menopausal woman safe will keep your entire room safe. Remember, child’s pose is for mothers too.

Offer ‘Older Yogis’ Yoga. If there is a large population of older yogis in your area, you may want to consider setting aside a specific class at the studio where everyone is welcome. I currently teach a Wisdom Warriors ™ class created by Desiree Rumbaugh and it is one of the busiest classes on the schedule. We have fun and nobody cares if someone is on the wrong side (probably because the teacher hasn’t noticed either).

Suggest the subtle benefits of clarity, also known as hormone therapy. This is optional and incredibly personal, but if you have a good relationship with your menopausal student and you notice she may be a danger to herself or to society, you could mention that she see a doctor. There was a time when it was not safe for me to drive. Thankfully, I realized it and saw a doctor for help.

While yoga has the power to help everyone find more in life, my belief in its transformational qualities probably held me back from seeking help. The irony is not lost on me. I waited and suffered much too long—seven years to be exact—before I got help.

If you see a student who acts impaired, who does not know the right from the left side, who seems to be a beat behind the others, and who is probably very hot, then reach out to her. She may be stoned, or perhaps, she could benefit from getting stoned. Either way, the yogic thing to do is see if you may be of service.

Then send her to my Wisdom Warrior class and we’ll see if together we can figure out our right side from the left.

~

Ed: Bryonie Wise

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About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.

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46 Responses to “How to Deal with the Menopausal Woman in the Room.”

  1. greateacher says:

    do not know if some day Michelle, you will get how your words of your brand of humor add 'bad vibes' to a collective universe or if you think your words represent core power poorly but I hope you rethink it. I hope you find another way to be famous without hurting others. using your wonderful capability of writing.

    You have now put me into 2 of your articles. I prefer that you stop doing so. I prefer that you find a way to let go of a dramatic need for attention, so great that you have to meanly jab and make fun of lululemon, me an dother commenters, your state, CO and cast bad vibes for a yoga group which holds a solid positive reputation in the yoga community.

    • sarakimm says:

      Seriously, "greateacher", you need to get a grip. Your overly sanctimonious and critical comments on here have become a joke. Lighten up.

    • Louise Brooks says:

      Greateacher: you really need to see someone about your misplaced anger and hostility. It is dripping off of your posts. Ms. Marchildon wrote a light-hearted piece that is full of truths but presented in a way that shows her sense of humour about herself and menopause. Your reaction is extreme and troubling.

      p.s. I am beginning menopause and found the piece quite funny.

  2. Patricia says:

    Loved this! Totally relate and enjoy laughing at myself reflected in your words. And as a Yoga teacher of a certain age, may I please send a shout out of thanks to my community who graciously pause and send me the needed word when, for example, I point to my knee and say, "Bend your…your…..uh…..what is this?" Love love love looking up to see smiling faces mouthing the word, "knee." <3 We are all in this together or will be or were or live with or love someone who will be, are or were.

  3. Cookie says:

    Firstly, Michelle, as always, I appreciate your humor. There is nowhere near enough humor in the yoga world. I have read some of your other funny stuff, and giggled, and then I have read the comments from earnest, well-meaning yogis (well, meaning to cut you down and put you in your place) who could use an herbal tea with a mirth infusion. Secondly, what? Sorry, but I lost my train of thought. Oh, yeah, I was trying to track my cycle on the Google calendar. OK, let's see, there were 28 days, then 45 days, then 22, then 23, then 35. Then, I woke up all sweaty, blanked the names of the whole first row in the class I "lead" today. Holy Shit, when did those cut baby bunnies in my house become stinky, surly, mumbly , zitty teenagers?Why does my husband get that look of extreme fear when I tell him we need to talk? I think I'll do that test where I send my spit off in a tube, to, you know, see what's really "up" with those hormones. (What? You've never seen results like this, doctor?….)

  4. Yoga lover says:

    From a menopausal yoga teacher – Thank you – made me laugh and realize I am not alone. To the person considered 'great teacher' – geez, if you can't laugh at the situation and lighten up then what is the point? I wouldn't want to be in your class. LOL! Thank you for posting. I think most ladies can get a laugh out of this and appreciate the humor. As for myself, I will certainly try to be more consciously in tune for those of my students that need a little more understanding while we go through life's seasons. Together, we can laugh and enjoy the idiosyncrasies of life. Thank you again :)

  5. Ann says:

    Thank you for your honesty regarding your experience with the journey of menopause…..it ain't easy! Your ability to laugh at yourself and find the power within the pain of a very challenging time is commendable! I too found this time in my life to be beyond anything I was expecting. There was no preparation for this until it hit me like a brick wall ! Taking responsibility for my health , became a huge challenge since many western doctors have a narrow approach to how to help those of us in this place. I was elated when my nutritionist and an extremely sensitive and knowledgeable acupuncturist assisted me on the road to health and balance!

  6. Katie S says:

    It is challenging enough to age with dignity and embrace menopause as part of our rite of passage as women — do I have to read an article which compares menopausal women to the drug addled?
    Please take ownership of YOUR experience with menopause, it is not MY experience.
    I continued to practice Moksha (hot) yoga throughout menopause without losing my bearings or making any goof-ups that I didn't already do in my pre-menopausal practice.
    "WE" are not all impaired or don't know what the heck is going on. I have never felt so grounded about honoring my body and taking care of my health.
    I embrace the liberation of having more children, birth control and my period. I'm doing real well, thank-you.
    Of my female friends are going menopause, only one has the degree of symptoms that you do (she has it bad, but she is the exception).
    To quote Patti Smith (who is 65 and awesome) "Life is a series of lucky and unlucky accidents" Sorry you got the "unlucky menopause" but do not group me (or my friends) in with a stereotype of mentally and physically impaired, sweaty, grouchy women.
    I was anxious about menopause, about what symptoms would plague me. Yes, I wake up sometimes. I am warmer than I used to be but no hot flashes, and I am on the other side now.
    Please consider taking ownership of your experience. That would feel more respectful.
    Why instill negative stereo-types into women who are not yet in the phase of life we are in? That's like scaring first time pregnant women with horror stories of childbirth.

    • Louise Brooks says:

      Katie S. – please get a sense of humour. Ms. Marchildon has very eloquently "take[n] ownership" of her menopausal experience. You might have missed that as you raced to write a negative comment on EJ. Are you so insecure that humour about a particular life event (menopause in this case) can so easily reduce you to lashing out in the direction of its origin? You may wish to reflect on what is triggering such a strong reaction in yourself and then "own your own experience" as you write in your comment.

      • Katie S. says:

        No tone on email Louise – I am surprised you considered I lashed out, I was having a nice cup of toasty almond tea and snuggling a cat on my lap as I wrote (ah, the internet)
        "We have no idea what the heck is going on." Ummm, she did say "we", right? She didn't say "I have no idea…"
        Hey Cookie, I never implied I was enlightened or a better yogi (where the heck did that come from? I assure you, I have a hard enough time getting through Chinatown never mind enlightenment, thanks very much…)
        I, like my sister, mom and aunts, were largely symptom free – family genes.
        For what it's worth, during my natural childbirth I felt like I drank 2 quart of Tequila, was having an out of body experience AND I took a swing at the Doctor — and they said I had an easy birth!
        We are all unique, that's my point.
        I don't like menopausal women being compared to druggies. I know both. They aren't the same. Maybe the stoner's I know are more hardcore than yours, hence my reaction (?) To me it is not a complimentary comparison.
        My opinion like Michelle's piece – both not punishable by hanging (Geez, on the count of 3 let's all lighten up, ready? 1…2…)
        Right on the heels of menopause is ageism, and just when you thought the hot flashes were over…
        To Michelle – thank-you so much for you gracious reply, I appreciate your comments and get where you were coming from – thanks for taking the time to write.
        Sincerely,
        Katie

    • Cookie says:

      Sometimes people deal with the difficulties of life through humor. I got from this entry, which was meant to be humorous, that Michelle had a tough time with menopause, as I am beginning to. I laughed at what she wrote, and it made me feel better. I am glad that menopause was an easier time for you, but, I don't think it was easier for you because you are somehow more enlightened or a better yogi. Just like women's birthing experiences are all different, so are our menopause experiences, and we should not be shamed when we share our genuine experiences in our own, unique ways.
      There are many kinds of humor; people usually have a preference for the types of humor that make them laugh. I don't care for slapstick or physical humor, so I've just learned to avoid watching The Three Stooges and Mr. Bean. I do realize, though, that they are very good at their art, even though it's not one that speaks to me.

    • Michelle Marchildon says:

      Dear Katie,
      Good for you! I'm glad you had such an easy time with menopause. I'm truly happy for you. But please, do not discount that others may have had a more difficult passage. I own my experience. I laugh at my experience. And I in no way think it is representative of everyone's experience. You are living proof that everyone is different. I am writing today on behalf of the women who have struggled, to give them a moment of joy and comradery since we often feel surrounded by women who sailed right through and have no idea what I'm talking about. Really, I could not be happier for you, my friend. Enjoy.

  7. [...] looking up to see smiling faces mouthing the word, “knee.” Originally posted here: How to Deal with the Menopausal Woman in the Room. | elephant … ← Daddy Issues: Clueless Dads and Daughter-Wives | Bitch [...]

  8. Is this what I have to look forward to?! Hahhaha! Thanks Michelle, for dealing with angry comments in the way that more of us should—by not taking yourself so seriously.

  9. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Thank you everyone (well, almost everyone) for laughing along with me on the way to enlightenment. I do know of many women who have sailed through menopause without breaking a sweat (ha ha). I also have friends who can eat anything and not gain a pound. It takes all my yogi-ness to love these friends as I once again, pass on dessert and skip the wine because it triggers the heat. I especially love the comment about the knee! How many times have I said, "What's this called again?" Honestly! I appreciate the support. It truly gets tiring to hear how by taking a moment to laugh at the human predicament means that I'm a bad person. Lighten up, to enlighten up, that's my motto.

    • Patricia says:

      Michelle I'm glad you enjoyed the knee comment (it's a true story). Here's my best one yet: I had to ask my son to take the mail up to the "what is that box into which you place mail?" He looked at me and laughed and said, "you mean the mailbox?" Yeppers. All true. /sigh/giggle/

      • Michelle Marchildon says:

        Patricia, here's mine: I am in the car to take the kids somewhere, and I said, we can't leave until I find my sunglasses. My son said, you mean the ones on top of your head? All true, woefully.

  10. Sybil says:

    Cracks me up – thanks for that!

    "Your other right foot…." I SO relate!

    Yeah….lighten up people……sheesh.

  11. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I see the future … and it could be the return of old-school yoga (which I have seen can and does attract the blatantly PRE-menopausal by about 20 years) … yoga for the stressed-out/non-hypermobile/always starting on their other left side knows no age. Speaking as a post-menopausal woman, would it hurt anyone to take out a few vinyasas and arm/forearm balances, call it a day; and suggest the rest of the class who don't like it hurry on off to bootcamp yoga, now (before the room gets down to ambient temperature), STAT … ?

    Or maybe I have been reading too much of J. Brown's blogs (he IS in New York City–may be the home of more Power Yoga spinoffs than you could shake a stick at, but it's also where trends happen first) ….

  12. Briget says:

    Oh, how this made me laugh! And I'm through menopause – 60 now – and just stopped by to let you all know that the fogs DO clear. My body will never be the same, but my mind is in a whole new (and fascinating place). Hang in there, friends. It gets WAY better!

  13. relieftoday says:

    These tips are very funny for me yet so true! I had a hard time dealing with my mom when she's in her menopausal stage but i did some of the things listed here, and it helped a lot!

  14. Heather Morton HeatherM says:

    A student of mine always called it 'mean-o-pause'. Even though I was the teacher..and about 15 years younger…she was like my big sis. sharing how it goes and laughing. In fact, 80 per cent of my students esp. the women were always 'older'.

    But I do feel that people can be overly sensitive and perhaps subconsciously plugged into thinking they are getting negative feedback. Once while opening the door to my school I said, "Hello Yoga folks!" At the door were 2 of my students (prob. near mid fifties).

    Without hestiation one of them said or rather stated, 'Hello OLD folks."

    I was completely taken aback and kindly repeatedly myself, "No, YOGA FOLKS".

    Really, I have to say I walked away thinking, "Gee".

    Anyway, not easy…and this like many women's concerns go unspoken with many myths and illusions around it..Re: Like all women just flip out a baby, pass a miscarriage or deal with menopause with no problems, pains, scars, etc.

    It's good to have this kind of piece in which the real story can be shared..and laughed about.
    Peace!

  15. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Many of us thought this was funny, but when I wrote nearly the exact same piece for another kind of impaired person, the stoner, the stoners were really upset. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11/6-ways-to-… I find this interesting. Is it socially acceptable to laugh at the impairment of older people? But it's not okay to laugh at the impairment of younger people? I will have to think about this for the future.

  16. Heather Morton HeatherM says:

    Each piece attracted different folks with different sensibilities and experiences that in turn created different reactions. Therefore, triggering certain issues within each reader (either positive or negative).

    Expecting the same or similar reaction is too far reaching. Drawing this conclusion is too black/white.

    Cheers.

  17. Vision_Quest2 says:

    It's not just THAT, but amongst the menopausal and the post-menopausal–while we do experience quite the surge in assertiveness if we had been formerly timid (this varies among socioeconomic classes; so to broadbrush, let's just say a woman who has to fend for herself or herself and some bindweed significant other, does), we also acquire a sense of poignancy that replaces an urgency to take every little thing personally (unless something near and dear to us is questioned or attacked) …

  18. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Yes, Vision Quest2. I think that's it. I think with some maturity we gain a sense of humour and not take every little thing so personally, or else we'd go a little nuts. That's my conclusion. I know from my teenagers they are very jumpy about everything, but as a 52 year old, I let many more things roll right off my back.

  19. [...] know I can draw on this wisdom within (even if my meno-brain is fuzzier lately than belly button lint). Thing is, my libido has taken a nose-dive in the last year, as [...]

  20. Hilarious, Michelle! Look forward to your menopause book… I'm approaching that time of life. Don't think it's going to be pretty. Cheers!

  21. leslie r crockett says:

    I can relate and not just because of age! I am an Aspergers and have other spatial/ perceptual impairments. I have a lifetime of being criticized, being called dumb (or worse) etc. I happen to have an IQ of 170 and taught myself to read by age 3. I was reading college level by age 7 but people still made fun because I have balance problems that actually vary day to day ( normal for an Asppie) and have difficulty knowing exactly where all my 'parts' are! At 59 I just tell them I have problems and that's the way it is. It's my nice way of telling these 'normal's to back off. I used yoga , thi chi, and other exercises as physical therapy, from my twenties. I did not get any help, as a kid. It is frustrating when a yoga teacher or student acts as if I am importuning them. I try to make a joke before it happens by telling them to keep their distance or they might get whacked because of my spatial problems. I have quit going to classes, in the past, because of the open exasperation expressed by others. Aren't yoga people supposed to be more tolerant?

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Wow. You nailed the obverse side of problem I have, except I'd never been either that bright or that curious as a kid. Enough kinesthetic intelligence not to need a teacher, but a large-framed inflexible body (reduced from previous outsized-ness) built for comfort and not speed. And similarly aged.

      These teachers seem to prefer their own (young) age group and appeal to the already-fit. You would not see all that acro-yoga bullshit out there if that were otherwise. Once one gets past being a rank beginner, one knows it is not easily attainable by most; they may as well be hawking ballet lessons for all the spirituality and centeredness and meditativeness it either demonstrates or evokes.

  22. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Leslie, come to my class for older yogis. No one will notice if you are spatially off. You'll be one of us.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      What's that class' take on backbends? I really like only the standing, balancing ones.

      Not in love with any kind of inversions either …

      Guess my yoga pants backside probably should read, "I'd rather be in pilates class"

  23. [...] feel like I have to make a confession here; for some strange reason, the very topic of “menopause” makes people, especially men, extremely [...]

  24. [...] How to Deal with the Menopausal Woman in the Room. [...]

  25. [...] in addition to the other physical benefits of menopause, I am apparently becoming the Menopausal Medium with the ability to slam hampers shut and knock [...]

  26. [...] moments of hostility began around the time that menopause kicked in, and I’m not sure that it’s particularly good for our [...]

  27. Magnificent website. A lot of useful info here. I’m sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks to your sweat!

  28. Comments that dissent and disagree are great—it can be a learning experience for all of us. Anonymous comments where you encourage folks to find a columnist's place of business and boycott because you don't like her brand of humor? Not okay period. Please refrain from personal attacks if you would like to keep commenting on our site.

  29. I wonder why you are so mad at Michelle. She clearly uses her wit and writing skills to poke fun at the human predicament. It's good to laugh at ourselves. It seems like you hold a personal grudge towards her. If that is true, isnt' there a better way for you to communicate? With your comments, you are only hurting and discrediting yourself.

  30. greateacher says:

    I am upset because she has put me in 2 articles . I am bothered by her mean comments to readers who disagreed with her previous articles. i dislike her undercutting style of humor. I know many core power teachers who are not sarcastic mean spirited. i feel very uncomfortable by her kind of humor. I have now dropped the committee I was on for elephant journal ; am taking a break from elephant journal and appreciate this lesson into internet writing. Life is valuable and I move on.

  31. greateacher says:

    That is not a personal attack. take a deep look at some of the remarks Michelle made to commenters on her previous article for personal attacks. Or that you allowe dhe rto make fun of me in 2 articles.. Kate that was your approved action.I appreciate this dance into internet writing. I dropped my Elephant Journal committee this morning and have no desire to wangle in this argument. I need to stop getting comments sent to my emails.. Happy Thanksgiving everyone

  32. Hi there. You are commenting anonymously, so I don't see how Michelle is making fun of you specifically, besides trying to have a sense of humor about comments on her articles.

    I am unaware of you being on any of our committees, but feel free to check in on that via email—non-anonymously.

    It's a wonderful thing that we can keep discussions going in the comments, but encouraging people to seek out our writers in person or to go to her place of business because they do not like her point of view is not acceptable.

    Thanks! kate@elephantjournal.com

  33. Thank you for taking the time to answer greateacher. I am glad you are moving on. I was going to suggest that. Writing can be a very difficult medium for communication because the emotional intelligence that we get through the body language gets lost. We have only words – often those words are anonymous, as with you, which will invite a harsh way of talking that we would never do if we were face to face with someone. It can escalate very easily. Have you considered that you have hurt Michelle with your harsh words, and that is why she put you in your article? And so it begins – what is often a misunderstanding at first, will end up being a spiral of hatred and hurt. So good for you to step out of this and move on. Study with the teachers that agree with you and find your balance.

  34. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Thank you Katchie Ananda. Just to clarify, I have never put this woman into any articles. I do not know her name as she is an anonymous internet commentator. However, to assume that any reference to a great teacher, is a reference to her specifically, is a stretch at best. There are many great teachers in the world today, but most of them do not judge so harshly that to be light is to be unenlightened. Furthermore, they don't threaten other people and their liveilhood personally.

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