Shuangbaotai - menopause

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Taijiquan in menopause

"A doctor that takes care of a disease after it has manifested is a mediocre doctor, a doctor that takes care of a disease before it is manifest is an excellent doctor."
The Yellow Emperor

The menopause is not a disease, otherwise all the women from a certain age on would be sick! On the other hand, however, we do feel it, like all the hormonal changes, with various types of symptoms.
A study¹ conducted on a great number of resident women in the USA and of various ethnic origin, shows that symptoms as the hot flashes and the night sweats are independent from the social class, from the ethnic group and from the culture and therefore unequivocally connected to the hormonal change. Does this mean that we cannot do anything about it? Yes, but we can do something to decrease the bother. The Hormone Replacement Therapy can be a short path for this, however it is not exempt from damages, presenting an increase of risk of cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer. (See the article about osteoporosis)
The other way, more demanding, but side effects-free, is changing our lifestyle. If we analyse the above survey in the depth, we notice some variations related to some symptoms: let us focus on these to draw some useful indications.
Hot flashes and night sweats: the Chinese and Japanese women suffer less in comparison with the western women.
Here we might think about the differences in the diet, in fact the oriental women eat much more soy (rich in phytoestrogens) than the others.
Urinary incontinence: the Chinese women, in comparison with the westerners, show a definitely inferior prevalence, followed by the African-American.
This can indicate a different awareness of the pelvic muscles, due to a cultural difference. Besides that, the symptom is present among the Latin-Hispanic women in about a third more in comparison with the westerners.
The cultural difference is in the different acceptance and awareness of their own body: the oriental culture doesn't make distinction between body and spirit, as in our Latin-Christian culture, to all loss of the body.
I think that the third in addition of the Latin-Hispanic (and I believe the Italians to be included) in comparison with the westerners, is related to the difference of background in the sexuality among the Catholic women and other Christians.
I have been dreaming about this survey for a long time, when I was working as urologist and particularly in my practice as urodynamist. I became convinced that the Asian women must have less problems in the pelvic floor and that the common say about the urinary female incontinence due to the childbirths was incorrect. In my urodynamic practice I could see how contracting the pelvic floor, or even being aware of it, was difficult for the women I visited (they belonged, of course, to the previous generation: I hope that something has changed by now). I blamed our catholic sexuophobic culture for it, especially towards the female sexuality, that was understood as something dirty and dangerous, something to deny.
Of course I could not demonstrate anything, especially at that time ( about 20 years ago): in Italy there was only one ethnic group, only one religion. When I said that we should not blame few childbirths for the urinary incontinence, instead we should think about how the women simply push to urinate (more times in the day, every day ) since they always squeeze their legs together, people looked at me as if I was mad, maybe also because the female urologists were really few at that time. This survey is supporting my viewpoint and I am happy to share it with you.
Stiff or sore joints, but also heart pounding, forgetfulness and difficulty sleeping: increased physical activity was associated with lower prevalence.

Prevention and control of the symptoms
As Yang Laoshi says in the number 18 of the magazine, when we live better we have also time to take care of ourselves and our health, we devote more time every day to our health, we practice taijiquan, and our emotional condition will improve.
We can start practising taijiquan at any age, in fact in taijiquan you use the intention, not the strength, and if you practise gradually and constantly, you can achieve excellent results. This is not a pill that you take according to your needs. Perseverance and regularity are basic requirements. By the way: the “regularity” is essential in order to enhance the defences of the organism.
“But I don’t have time!” Do you shower in the morning? Or do you skip it because you don’t have time? Do you eat every day? Do you make up? Do you shave? Do you get dressed carefully? Of course, you do it! You have found the time for these things, and now they are part of your daily schedule. Well, if you want to practise taijiquan, you should make it become a part of your way of life. This doesn't mean becoming an ascetic, simply taking care of yourself.
Urinary incontinence swill be controlled as the first thing. Sinking breath into the abdomen and keeping the tail bone upright is good for your pelvic floor, that will become more and more toned, and present or future problems of stress incontinence will be solved. When we will have learned to relax our pelvis well, we will learn also to control our bladder detrusor muscle, and hence the urge incontinence.
Stiff or sore joints after some months of practice our body will feel more flexible. By the time the movement will become more homogeneous and fluent, and the joint pain will become a faint memory.
Hot flashes and night sweats dcome from a surge of energy, therefore they need more time to be controlled, because one needs to develop a good mastery of one’s own energy. In any case the habit of applying intention, being watchful and relaxed will help to control the anxiety, that is an ever present component in the hot flashes. This will not give a great benefit only to ourselves, but also to our relatives. However the millennial Chinese culture offers an immediate and easy remedy: breathing calmly, concentrate the intention on the dan tian, while you enter the nearest shop of Chinese objects and buy a beautiful fan: you can find fans of all forms and for all purses. Choose the one you like most and fan yourself as much as you need with calm. You will acquire an even more fatal look!
(Vera, 27/4/2006)

¹ Relation of demographic and lifestyle factors to symptoms in a multiracial/ethnic population of women 40-55 years of age; E. B. Gold et al., Am J Epidemiol, vol.152, no. 5, 2000