Stigma and Silence: Menopause out of the shadows

There’s remarkably little awareness in society around menopause, let alone the equally important leadup period known as perimenopause.

It’s odd, because Australian culture has become accustomed to rapid evolution, and it is often our workplaces and recreational centres that lead the way. Offices and gyms all around the world now skill their staff in a variety of wellbeing and safety topics. You might say it started decades ago with mandatory first aid in many workplaces (this being a key requirement of membership to Yoga Australia for just as long!)

Modern society embraces all manner of existing and emerging health subjects. Mental health first aid is now common, as is trauma awareness, manual handling techniques, sun safety, even nutrition and exercise programs can be found in many workplaces. Back in 2010, as Manager of IT in local government, I obtained grant funding and ran a bootcamp and nutrition program for all staff. It was a wonderful way to get field staff and office staff together in a context away from compulsory WHS training (or the pub). Clearly there is appetite for positive action.

Notable too is the involvement of men. The unavoidable statistics around depression have led to men learning to dialogue with themselves and others, finding the courage to speak up or sound the alarm when warning signs are present. Bolstered by this, men increasingly hear the call to restore loving and healthy masculinity, lifting themselves and their peer groups away from the casual misogyny that continues to dog our footsteps.

Recently we have seen media and workplace attention turned to menopause and perimenopause. This is not a new condition obviously! But there is a sense of newfound appreciation on the back of emerging science, more sensitive and accommodating trends in society, and greater numbers of women in the workforce. See below data from 2022:

As you can see, gender participation looks to be evening out. Over the past 40 years, there have been dramatic increases in female employment at older ages:

  • 55–59 years of age, from 27% employed in 1982 to 71% in 2022
  • 60–64 years of age from 10% employed in 1982 to 54% in 2022

This increase makes it a far more visible experience to the working population.

For women, managing menopause and perimenopause can be challenging personally and professionally. Changes during menopause can cause women to experience hot flashes, incontinence, sleep loss, mood changes and brain fog, and joint pain. Women often report that symptoms interfere with their work at least weekly. In a recent US survey 17% of women said they have quit or considered quitting a job due to menopause.

Menopause has been a taboo subject for a long time and many people do not want to single themselves out or seek support at work. We are still grappling with clear inequity in the labour market, and it is entirely reasonable to fear penalty for revealing this private struggle. The labour market has changed drastically along with our societal expectations.

Yoga can be the wedge

Workplaces are a great tool for social change. But why wait?

What better way to educate and normalise than through yoga! The benefits of yoga to alleviate symptoms are well established now, and in our CPD Short Course Menopause: Embrace Healing through Therapeutic Yoga our presenters offer guidance in that area.

But I am interested in the way that modern commercial yoga classes handle the topic. Do we brush it under the carpet like so many other things. Just go into child’s pose if you’re having hot flush – is that really enough?

The Western world has substantially moved the delivery of yoga away from traditional small group tuition with private and nuanced instruction for individuals at any stage of life, and toward large and scalable gym classes where personal experience is replaced by group dynamics and shared energy.

How can a yoga teacher in that context support the changing needs of the group?

Thankfully, this sort of question is being asked all the more in yoga. Trauma awareness training is a part of most Teacher Training courses now (and Yoga Australia offers free CPD resources on this topic too).

In our CPD Short Course, Menopause: Embrace Healing through Therapeutic Yoga, we have numerous yoga teachers, yoga therapists, healthcare professionals, and complementary health experts speaking from a place of wisdom and experience. We hope yoga teachers of all ages and genders will see this as a chance to upskill and expand their awareness to create helpful dialogues and comfortable spaces for all.

About the Author

Josh Pryor is CEO of Yoga Australia and a Level 3 Registered Teacher. A specialist in Mysore Style yoga, Josh’s approach is light-hearted and enthusiastic, encouraging practitioners to reimagine limitations of the physical body, translating into clear vision and altered states of awareness.