For some, talk of dragons is perhaps not the best introduction to a blog post about the menopause but for those who doubt, hear me out. What do you think of when you hear the term ‘dragon’ when used in connection with women? Do you think of the derogatory term used in predominently Western culture to describe a woman who is considered ‘difficult’ or aggressive? Or do you think of a powerful, awe inspiring, mysterious and legendary creature with shimmering scales who breathes fire? Personally, I’m in this camp.
Similarly, our own individual perceptions of the menopause can also be very different. It’s no secret that the menopause gets a bad press. From flat-out ignorance of the important challenges women face during this transition, to public ridicule and its intended use as a suppressive insult. How many women have heard ‘Oh, she’s going through the change’ used as a flippant way to undermine and dismiss behaviour that is deemed fractious or challenging to that person? And this is where these attitudes contribute to adversely affecting support for women during this time. The menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life but this does not mean we should ‘just get on with it’, a dismissive and disheartening phrase one of my clients heard from a healthcare professional when seeking advice and support. How we deal with the menopause is much to do with our own personal view of it, which also defines our approach to it.
Transition and Transformation
Women experience menopause at very different ages. The UK average age is between 45 – 55 years of age, with the average age at 51 years old, and with 1 in 100 women experiencing menopause before the age of 40, considered premature menopause. Menopausal symptoms can appear a considerable time before our periods stop and can last for a few years after our last period.
Many studies have shown that the menopause can last anything between 2 – 10 years, with other sources citing the transition as longer than this, and this very much depends on the individual woman. This can include pre-menopause (when menstrual changes begin to happen), peri-menopause (when periods are missed) and the menopause itself (when menstruation essentially stops).
When we consider that our bodies constantly replace themselves with a largely new set of cells over the course of time, from a few days to a few years, it’s unsurprising that women can feel like a different person during the years from pre-menopause to the end of the menopause itself. The menopause is not only an important transition for women but I feel it is akin to a physical, mental, emotional and often spiritual metamorphosis.
As a Shamanic Practitioner I work with spirit guides and teachers, who often appear as animals and mythical beings and who are our allies in a spiritual realm. There are many different types of Dragon energy, across a wide variety of traditions. Shamans consider Dragon Medicine to be that which supports us during the times when we are shedding a ‘skin’ and emerging as a new, transformed being. Dragon is a symbol of transmutation and developing mastery of our lives, lending us the courage and vitality to do this, bringing insight, inspiration and a deeper connection with ourselves. Sometimes this presents itself as memories that have perhaps been overlooked, providing us with the ability to consider past experiences in order to help bring a sense of peace and balance. A unique gift afforded to us as spiritual beings having a human experience.
This is something which I have come across numerous times in my holistic practice with my clients and which I feel is incredibly important at all stages of the menopause. As women, there is a common expectation for us to care for others, putting them before ourselves. During menopause, women are often faced with what they consider to be an inexplicable urge to review or contemplate their lives and how they have lived it, whether it’s been dedicated to a career, service, person, family, community or children. There is a deep need to look at where we have placed the priority of ourselves in our own lives and often there is a growing realisation and deeper intuitive want for that focus to be on ourselves and our own self care.
Appreciating Yourself As You Are
For the majority of women, there are considerable changes in their physical appearance, emotional responses and mental processes during menopause. With fluctuating hormones, things aren’t quite as predictable as they once were and this often means we need to look at different ways of supporting ourselves to help adjust to these changes. Symptoms of the menopause are deeply affecting. Some women feel they no longer recognise themselves, not only physically but mentally and emotionally too.
One of my clients said she wanted to get back to being the person she was before the menopause. This is a completely understandable wish that is borne of frustration, and she gave an example of all the things she used to be able to do without difficulty or having to think about. When I asked her when this was, she told me it was when she was in her late 20s. This was an incredible pressure she was placing on herself, comparing herself to the woman she was over 25 years ago. This is such a harsh comparison that the person she is now could not only never live up to this, but it disrespects the woman she is today, the woman she has become over time. All of her life experiences in those years – the difficulties, losses, achievements, joys, celebrations – not only had they not been acknowledged, they had not been appreciated.
For the ancient Chinese, the Dragon is the most powerful of symbols, a much revered energy. It symbolises the Yang energy of the Creative, an active and electrically charged force that manifested in the thunderstorms, representing supreme wisdom, power and control. In some ancient Taoist texts, the Dragon Exercise appeared under different names, as it was forbidden. The emperors at the time did not want the people to envisage themselves as dragons as they thought they would rise up and overthrow the prevailing power. This resonates strongly with the Western cultural inverse use of ‘dragon’ in order to disarm powerful, ‘testing’ women.
The Dragon Exercise is an energetically empowering pose that encourages the characteristics of the Dragon to be instilled in us. If we are to imagine becoming the Dragon, we visualise our fingers and toes as its splayed long claws, our skin as the glistening scales, our eyes as large and glowing, our mouths open and fanged and our breath as fire. In many Eastern cultures, the Dragon is depicted without wings but if you love the idea of wings (and who doesn’t), add those powerful, imaginary beauties coming from your shoulder blades and stretch them as far as you like.
Raise one foot slightly – it doesn’t have to be off the ground if you have difficulty keeping balance – hold one arm up at your chest, with claws down, and the other arm down at your side with claws up. The wonderful thing about this exercise is it affords us freedom of self expression so do what feels natural in the Dragon energy. Hold the pose for as long as is comfortable. The important thing is to unite the body and mind together, holding the image in your mind as it is reflected in your body. This has long been considered to help us overcome depression, anger, hostility and any anxiety that comes with being overwhelmed by challenging circumstances.
The Power of Creation
The image above is a photograph of what is hanging on the wall behind me as I type this post. It is of two Dragons, chasing and playing with a white luminous ball, or pearl, floating in the air between them. This ball or pearl is thought to stand for ‘truth’ and ‘life’, considered a symbol for universal Qi or chi, the vital force that forms part of any living thing, the mother of all energy and creation.
Women have immense creative power. This does not halt when our bodies stop producing eggs and we no longer have the opportunity to create another person within our physical bodies. We can continue to create, develop and nurture a new life from an existing one – our own, for ourselves. And what better time to do this than during the transformative time of menopause?
We can approach the menopause with the mindset of the slur of dragon lady or we can fully embrace it as an opportunity to harness the immense power and grace of Dragon medicine. We can define ourselves; we can be our own fierce, wise, and loving Dragons. The choice is ours. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must fly.
Flourish’s Menopause Support
Please visit the Menopause Support Reflexology page, a specifically designed 4 month treatment plan, for more information on how Reflexology can help support you through menopause including pre-menopause and peri-menopause.