This is the first in a series of interviews I’ll be sharing with women (and maybe the occasional man!) who are supporting women going through menopause.

I first met my friend Anne Noonan about ten years ago when she was a stylist. We then managed to lose touch, and were recently reconnected by a mutual friend (thanks Simone!).

Anne is a Yoga and Integrative Wellness Coach and works closely with the 40, 50+ and beyond woman to help her realise her stronger, healthier self. It was her own health journey with menopause and the varied issues that came along with it, that lead Anne down the holistic nutritional path to find answers. Anne believes it’s what you eat, drink, think, believe and how you move that has everything to do with how you age and that there is no reason women can’t have amazingly healthy and vibrant second half of life.

You can find out more about Anne over on her website, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Anne Noonan Yoga for the midlife

How did you first get interested in yoga?

I’d heard of yoga for years but was always of the opinion ‘it’s too hard, it only suits young, strong, fit people’. Then after turning 50 and being overweight with liver and adrenal issues I knew only too well it was time to do something different. Gym didn’t really work, nor did a private PT. So I decided to swallow my fear and beliefs about yoga and walked into my first class. It was a matter of health necessity. If I didn’t do something different, nothing was going to change. I was converted pretty much right from that first class even though it was one of the hardest classes I’d ever done. My inexperienced unfit body really didn’t like it. But it was after the class that I felt so good, that I knew it was for me. I was totally over looking and feeling like I did and I’d read about ‘the yoga body’. Dammit, I wanted a yoga body – so I dived in.

What immediate benefits did you experience after starting yoga?

The immediate benefit was a feeling of peace and that ‘stretched all the knots out’ feeling. It’s like a massage on the inside. I felt loose rather than tight, calm rather than stressed, heart rate and blood pressure steady rather than raised, and walked out feeling at ease rather than still ‘heart pumping’ from more aerobic type classes.

What are the benefits of yoga for the midlife woman and how can yoga improve the menopause experience?

As I was searching for the right movement for me I was studying nutrition, my focus being nutrition for the 50+ woman. With most texts, experts were talking about the benefits of yoga, which is what drew me to my first class. They would talk about the calming, stretching, resistance, toning benefits of yoga. Yoga Therapy is a newly recognised modality that treats a lot of body issues very effectively. But for me particularly, and what I’ve noticed with my clients, is a boost in strength, flexibility, balance, agility and tone. Pain is released, stress is eliminated and breath is focussed upon. Where the breath goes, the mind follows.

It’s the ‘mindfulness’ of yoga along with meditation and breathing techniques rather than ‘mindlessness’ of other unsuitable movement for the menopausal body that improves clarity of mind, reduces hot flushes, inflammation and literally brings your nervous system from the red zone into the green. Some forms of exercise and movement can make the symptomatic menopausal body feel worse rather than better, but yoga has an all round healing effect while still delivering toning, shaping, strength building, flexibility, balance and cardio. Not all yoga is ‘sleepy’. Sometimes pounding it hard with a PT isn’t the best option for a stressed older body.

You can read Anne’s post on her five reasons why yoga is perfect for the 50+ body.

You’ve said your mission is to empower and motivate the midlife woman to believe she CAN be everything she dreams of being physically, mentally, holistically and with the right attitude. Why is this so important to you?

We midlife and beyond women have a LOT to offer. We have experience, wisdom, emotional intelligence, creativity, vision, qualifications, ability, a ‘no shit’ attitude and so much more. We have 50+ women with big goals and great businesses with messages they know they need to get out there.

But it’s our physicality that can sometimes get in the way and prevent a lot of that from happening. It’s at this age where symptoms, health issues and the slowing down of physical movement that can hinder that progression. That can come in the form of midlife weight gain, joint soreness, pain, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue and a list of ailments.

The 50+ woman is a culmination of all that she’s previously lived – all the traumas, the emotional and physical, the celebrations and the heartbreaks. It’s also at this age that we come face to face with mortality: many of us are nursing elderly parents who are facing nursing homes, 24-hour care and very unpleasant ageing experiences. This generation of 50+ baby boomers is ageing very differently and we mostly do not want to face the typically expected old age process.

There’s a saying ‘we live too short and die too long’. No 50+ woman I know wants to ‘die too long’. None of us has a dream of old age homes and relying on the medical system. So all of these issues can create ‘inflammaging’ within our immune system. This can be treated and turned around with mindful practices so that we can head into our second half of life as healthy and vibrant as we possibly can. I like that idea and I know I have the system that I can offer a woman (or man) to make that happen. It’s not a magic bullet or a pill – it’s a system that takes time and patience. We’re seeing it happen and I’m seeing it in my own body. Over the last 10 to 15 years I’m healthier than I’ve ever been as my insulin resistance is gone, my adrenal fatigue is dramatically improved and my menopausal symptoms have all but gone. I know I need to teach this system to others. This is my mission.

What was your personal menopause experience like?

Horrendous. Basically from the moment my cycle started at age 11 it was nightmarish. Unpredictable, heavy, painful, stressful, scary and after I had children it got worse. As time went by, my chronic anaemia led to other nutritional deficiencies which led to inflammation and eventually a hysterectomy. The hysterectomy led to other menopausal symptoms that seemed to be turned up on full volume. My body was dangerously deficient and I was a cardiac risk. I soon learned that as much as menopause can sometimes be determinant on genes, I also now know it’s very environment driven. My body was inflamed, deficient and ill, so my menopause was nightmarish. I needed to heal.

I chose not to go the HRT or drug route, I went down the nutritional holistic route. It took a long time to experiment under the care of numerous naturopaths with different treatments, gynaecologists and of course my nutritional trainers and mentors. I learned from them but I healed myself. I chose movement, breath, meditation, food and supplementation instead. And now at age 57 I’m healthier than I was at age 40. I believe menopause is the arrival of a fabulous time of life. If it lands in a healthy body, it’s an awakening. If it lands in an unhealthy body, it arrives like a bushfire. I needed to find the way to clear the path, put the fire out, and find my way through these wonderful gates to a new world.

'Now at age 57, I’m healthier than I was at age 40' - Anne Noonan on the power of yoga #menopauseClick To Tweet

What are a few simple yoga moves everyone can do?

I created a series of videos, including a simple 10-minute stretch sequence, a basic ‘how to plank’ video, and a ‘what to do about restless leg syndrome’ video.

Are there any particular poses that are good to help relieve menopause symptoms?

Yes, here’s a few:

  • Child’s pose – This pose brings you back down onto the mat, onto all fours with the head down. It relaxes, cools and as it keeps your head low, it calms a stressed body.
  • Downward Dog – this pose calibrates the body. It boosts strength especially in the upper body where we often lack strength but it’s the pose that ‘recharges and realigns’ the body.
  • Hip openers – these can be very deep stretches that aren’t that easy at first. We’re often tight around the hips and lower back and navel as it’s where we can store emotion. So hip openers that really work the hip flexors can feel wonderful when we learn how to really sink into it.
  • There are certain breathing and meditative techniques that help hot flushes
  • The warrior poses, both I and II are empowering and strengthening
  • To relieve back pain, any yoga twists are great. They also work on elimination, digestion and liver detoxing.
  • Heart opening stretches can literally release tension and emotions and feel wonderful.
  • Plank – we need to strengthen our core. When our core is loose and out of condition, pain is evident around the back and shoulders and throws our posture out.

Anne Noonan Yoga for the midlife

Apart from yoga, how do you look after your body, mind and spirit?

I walk, read and make sure I laugh a lot. I try to get to a beach from time to time for the earthing up through the feet. I love family dinners and gatherings, funny movies and doing fun activities like dancing and water yoga in the summertime. I don’t religiously monitor my food, I do enjoy it, but keep sugar down, red meat to a minimum and healthy fats and vegetables up. I’m a believer in comfort healthy foods like soups and broths especially in winter.

I make sure I get quiet time and make myself sit quietly in meditation regularly. I give myself a ‘day to do my own thing’ from time to time without any work stress, just whatever takes my fancy. I read uplifting and educational books and don’t watch stressful or distressing movies. I feed my brain the right stuff. I listen to the universal messages and take time to be quiet and listen to those messages. I believe in rituals – e.g. the dinner ritual, the morning coffee ritual, a soaking bath with lovely salts from time to time, a facial, a massage. We need to do this kind of thing for ourselves.

I’ve learned to put my health first. It’s when we put deadlines, work, business, children, parents, others and the needs of others always before ourselves that can be our undoing.

Can you provide any strategies for midlife women, like yourself, to assist them in reaching their own health, wellness and fitness goals?

Absolutely – look into the way you’re moving, eating, drinking and thinking. Are you ‘mindfully moving’ – you must be moving every single day and doing something you love. What are you eating? Are you eating inflammatory foods or doing what you can to reduce inflammation in your body? Are you supplementing with a pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplement? It’s crucial at this age that you do. There are lots of reasons why you need to. Are you sitting quietly breathing deeply and have you tried meditation to reduce stress? The strategy is the system and the system is mindfulness in all practices – eating, drinking, thinking, movement. This is what I teach.

Are there any resources – books, films, podcasts, blogs etc that have changed the way you look at your health and wellness?

Oh my gosh so many!

  • Dr Libby Weaver’s books are amazing especially ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ and her cookbooks.
  • Lesley Kenton’s book ‘Passage to Power’ totally changed my attitude about menopause from one of ‘this is such horrible pain and an awful stage of life’ to ‘this is the best stage of life ever and I’m loving every minute of it’.
  • Dr Christiane Northrup’s book ‘Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom’ and ‘Goddesses Never Age’.
  • Bob Cooley’s ‘The Genius of Flexibility’
  • I subscribe to ‘Wellbeing’ Magazine. I love getting the new month’s mag in the mail. There’s always great yoga and food articles in it.