Thank you for listening to the show! Your support allows me to keep putting out great content. Show your support here.
Oct. 13, 2022

Justine Thompson: Menopause, yoga and fanny farts

Justine Thompson is a passionate student & teacher of yoga.

Trained in the Anusara tradition - a style of hatha yoga that weaves a heart quality through alignment based practice.

A mother of 3, her experience of perimenopause collided with teenagers, resistance to aging & a complete lack of understanding. Justine is on a mission to share the benefits of a regular yoga practice to women navigating the various stages of menopause.

Join Justine & Sonya in person at the:
Menopause, Yoga and You Workshop - November 6th - Sydney

Connect with Justine:
An offer of 4 free recorded classes that focus on different aspects of menopause that can be supported with various techniques of yoga.  Click here to claim.

Where to find Sonya:
Take the Midlife Quiz
Stellar Women Website

You're invited to join the We Are Stellar Women community on Facebook, a free supportive space for all women navigating the menopausal transition. Click here to join.


[01:26] Sonya: Justine, thank you so much for joining me on dear Menopause, how are you today?

[01:31] Justine: I'm really well. Thank you, Sonya, and thanks for having me. I'm really excited about this.

[01:36] Sonya: Now, Justine, let's get the ball rolling. Why don't you share with me and my listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do.

[01:45] Justine: Okay, so I am a yoga teacher. I'm based on the mid north coast of New South Wales in a very tiny town, and I've been teaching qualified to teach for the last six years. I specialize in teaching yoga for menopause. It's a passion of mine as well as teaching other people. I teach Blokes and kids and everything, but I really have fill a strong desire to help women through perimenopause and menopause and beyond because I think that's hugely important.

[02:24] Sonya: It sure is. Absolutely. So I'm really keen for you to share your story around your own perimenopause and menopause experience and how that then links into what you're doing today.

[02:39] Justine: Sure. So I was in perimenopause when I was actually studying to become a yoga teacher. Didn't want to admit to it. Took me a long time to admit to it. In fact, I was really pushing against it because I was like, no, I'm not that old. That's for old ladies. That's a real stuffy old thing that happens. And so I was in denial. And I also had this terrible fear that I had early onset dementia. So I actually didn't want to go to the doctor and talk to anyone about it because I was frightened they were going to say, well, actually you have this big problem. And so I just went, just pretend it's not happening.

[03:24] Sonya: So what was it about your experience and obviously your symptoms that made you think that that could be what you were actually experiencing?

[03:36] Justine: My memory just went out the window. I found that I would meet people and then I'd forget their names instantly and then I would actually forget their faces. So I would sort of be introducing myself to someone again and they will be like, oh yeah, we met last week. And I would be, oh, sorry, had no recollection of that. I found that I'd be saying to my kids the same thing over and over and they would say, mom, shut up, you've told us that already. And that was hard. And all of those things shook my confidence. So then I started to feel like if I didn't write things down or make an effort to sort of record something on my phone, I'd be caught unawares. And because I was studying and trying to learn all of this new information, that was really challenging as well, because I needed to have recall of everything and I wasn't having it. My mother has always gone on about dementia. It's not in our family, but my mum has always talked about it. And so I suppose I thought, this is what's happening. This is what's happening.

[04:48] Sonya: It's almost like what we call a legacy fear. In many respects, she had a fear of it and she had transposed that fare over onto you. And so it's natural that when you start experiencing some of those similar symptoms that that's the place that you would go to.

[05:05] Justine: Yeah, that's exactly right. And I think because my teacher would say, okay, so this section of the class, I want you to get up and teach it. And I would almost have to try and learn things by wrote in order to make sure that I had the language in my mind and I wasn't going to forget it. And, you know, that's really hard.

[05:28] Sonya: It's really hard. And that's also an experience that I had through my own menopause. I went through medical menopause and that was my biggest frustration, was the cognitive function or the cognitive dysfunction that I ended up with. And like you, I would literally forget people's names. I would forget what I was meant to be doing. Words would disappear off the tip of my tongue and it's humiliating.

[05:56] Justine: It is. That's exactly right. It's really humiliating because you feel like you're becoming this sort of dottery little shrink, shrinked down version of yourself. And I didn't know that that was actually a part of menopause. Like, in my mind, menopause was hot sweats and hot flushes and a few other symptoms, but I didn't have it in my brain that there was this cognitive impairment that was going to happen and it was really shocking and I didn't talk to anyone about it. I just isolated myself. I didn't have friends who were going through a similar experience. And I suppose that's all part of menopause also, is that often people have said to me, now I feel isolated within my circle of friends. I don't even want to talk to them about this. I felt like I wanted to run away from my family. And it was the training and the yoga and my actual practice, my regular practice, that really made such a difference to me. It helped me to go, hang on a minute, girl. You need to stop resisting something you're resisting and actually face up to it or look into it more and then go forward. Otherwise I couldn't see a path out, not where I was at.

[07:26] Sonya: And at any point did you seek support from any type of practitioner, whether that was a GP or even a herbalist or a naturopath?

[07:38] Justine: So I did. I went to eventually I went and saw a naturopath and he was fantastic. Put me onto herbs, gave me some different treatments, like we trialed things, and I would ring him and say, this is still weird. And that helped for a long time. And actually then I went and saw my doctor. Living in a small country town, it's not easy to get into a doctor. It's probably not that easy in cities anymore either. So I had sort of put that off for as long as I could. But then I did go and see her and she was really helpful.

[08:17] Sonya: I'd love to learn a little bit about how you moved into the space where you had decided to study yoga and then moving even further into taking your menopause experience into your yoga practice as it is today.

[08:35] Justine: Okay. So I'm really fortunate that this town that I live in is where my teacher also lives. She's in her seventy s and I've been going to her classes for quite a few years. She came up to me one day and said, have you ever considered studying to be a teacher? And it sort of felt like a great choice. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I wanted to know more. Sort of yoga that we work with is called anusara yoga. So anusara yoga is an alignment based yoga, but we take our heart quality through the practice. So it's about bringing an emotional context into what the body is doing as well. So it's not just about physical movement, it's not just about breath work. There's also a desire to expand your awareness, which is what Hathayoga is really all based upon. So when I was studying to be a teacher, I was confronted with not just the cognitive impairment, but also this sense of my physical strength failing. My muscles seem to sort of just go out the window. So my teacher helped me with that and I got into doing more work that I could where I could really maintain muscle and bone strength. I do have a history of osteoporosis in my family, I have osteopenia. So I'm sort of trying to work with that and my practice really helps me with that. And pelvic floor health, that was the other thing I found that I would be because I love inversions, I love going upside down. Headstands, handstands, shoulder stands. I've always really loved that. But now I was finding that I'd be in class, going up into handstand and I'd be doing a ***** fart.

[10:42] Sonya: I think we've all done a ***** fart in yoga at some point in time.

[10:46] Justine: Yeah, when you do it yourself and you're a student, you're like, Oopsie, sorry, and you just feel embarrassed. But when you're also then teaching and you've got a room of people sort of standing around watching you, you think, oh, no.

[11:03] Sonya: Body, why fail me now? Exactly.

[11:07] Justine: Come on, girl. Can't you just leave the chat for later? It was pelvic floor I needed to work on giving my Pelvic floor some support. I needed to have a better understanding of that. So I turned to my practice to help me with all of that as well. And then I think, because I found this so helpful, I started to look for a teacher who was a yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher, but had also done a lot of work in menopause. And at the time, even at the moment, there's not a lot of teachers in Australia who are doing that. So I went to the UK, not physically. There's a teacher who's based in Ireland, her name is Neve Daily and she has instinct. Yoga is her brand and Neve is doing just amazing work. She has a course and you do it. It's all done online now because of COVID, so which was actually a blessing because this was in Covert, so I could access it, otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to do it. And she takes you through the biochemical changes, so you get a really good round grounding in what's actually happening physically in the body. And then we look at okay, so yoga is not a cure. There's nothing to be cured anyway. But yoga is not going to sort of fix it all. But what can it do? It can help with cardiovascular health, it can help with muscle and joint health, it can help with pelvic floor, it can help with bone density, it can also help with stress relief. So that mental and emotional health and it's not about sort of doing a set. This is now your yoga from the rest of your life because you're in menopause or perimenopause, but actually taking it back into all the things that you do as a teacher and sort of being considerate. Okay, so if there's a variation here, what would that look like? If I have a student who is suffering from fatigue and she's in perimenopause, she's got a stressful job and she's fatigued and also beginning to feel terrible joint pain, how can I help her? That's why I love it, because I can apply it to all the other information I have, all of the things I know about alignment based yoga and tailor it for people. And I really like that I find that really exciting because I don't think there's a onesizefitsall solution to anything in life actually but in menopause. The more women that I've met. The more individual stories I've encountered and they're all so different yeah and even.

[14:06] Sonya: When I speak to GPS and OBGYN and gynecologists here they all say that we have to be really cognizant of approaching every woman who is experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms individually because every single woman is experiencing something completely unique to her and what works for her could well be very different to what works for somebody else.

[14:35] Justine: That's so true and because I've been doing these workshops where I bring together a group of women they're generally all strangers and we sit for the first part of the workshop and everyone gets a chance to talk about one aspect of their experience that's giving them grief or that they needing help with or that they just want to share and when you sit in that circle everyone's story is so different and some of the things that people have taught me are really valued. One lady opened up about her sense of grief and her grief for the loss of her reproductive years and it was through her talking that I realized that I had had a very similar feeling too that I grieved not being able to have more children I didn't want more children I have plenty of.

[15:34] Sonya: Privilege option taken away from you which it's a natural process and there's a reason why we go through that but yet and it's really interesting grief associated with menopause and particularly women who experience early menopause so women that experience poi or I was 47 when I had my medically induced menopause I know women that were in their 30s when they experienced that and the grief associated with it has to really be looked at and managed because the path that that can take a woman on particularly leads can lead to depression and it can obviously then lead on to other more serious outcomes as well which is something that we need to be talking a lot more about and raising awareness around yes.

[16:25] Justine: That's very true and so obviously yoga can't take away that grief. However, the key element of yoga that doesn't matter if all you do is pranayama or you're an Asana based practitioner or you're a meditative practitioner it's all about expanding your awareness and so the more you can extend your awareness then you know, you start to think okay, this is what I'm experiencing, how can I help myself? Who can I turn to? Or what can I do? I think that's why I feel so passionate about giving yoga to a bigger audience of women going through perimenopause menopause because I want to be I really you know, the more awareness we can have in our world the better the world is. That's my secret plan to take over the world actually I really love that plan.

[17:24] Sonya: I'm here for that plan. I think we should try and do that together because I have a similar plan.

[17:31] Justine: Yes. Good. Very good. All right.

[17:36] Sonya: So which was actually interesting that you said that, because what I was starting to think about while you were talking was, how is there a movement to educate more yoga teachers? And I'm a personal trainer, so I am hugely advocating for more personal trainers to be able to understand what's going on for their female clients at their different phases of life, as opposed to thinking that they're all bouncy bright 20 year olds. So let's translate that into the yoga world. Is there a movement? Are you seeing any changes where people are kind of specializing more in these areas to be able to help women?

[18:25] Justine: Yes, I am. It's not big in Australia at the moment, not to my knowledge. I can probably think of less than ten teachers that I've encountered in Australia, but I know that that number is growing and I've seen more people offering afternoons to discuss menopause and do a practice around it. In the UK, it's definitely really taken off big time. And when I did the course with Neve, all of the people on the course were yoga teachers except for two, and one of them, she was a personal trainer, and the other lady, I think she was actually I don't know what she did. Oh, she was a physiotherapist.

[19:17] Sonya: Okay, great.

[19:19] Justine: But I think that there is this movement of women who are practitioners either in physiotherapy or yoga or personal training, and they're getting their faces out into the world, and they're not 25 and, you know, this sort of glamorpose sorry, glamorous is lovely, but it's the Fitzpo.

[19:45] Sonya: And it's been very detrimental to the fitness industry, unfortunately. And I would imagine it's similar in the yoga and all of the allied health spaces. And it's really interesting because I take a lot of my inspiration and the direction that I'm taking my podcast and my business in from women that are more predominantly based in the UK because there is so much more work and public recognition over there now around how we do need to be talking about perimenopause and menopause and how we do need to be supporting women through those stages. And that also includes into the workplace as well. There's a lot of work that needs to be done there as well. And I feel like those of us that have become aware of what's going on in the UK, north America is also another area that's doing better than us. We're on that wave that hasn't crested yet, but it's on its way to change here as well.

[20:47] Justine: Yeah. And that's really exciting. I find it very exciting that that is happening. It's so essential and so lovely to have people come to a workshop and be grateful that they've got a space to talk in and communicate and get a sense of community and then say to them, okay, well, these are other things that you can do, and to feel like you're a part of that is really rewarding.

[21:19] Sonya: I think it's wonderful, and I think what you've described with your workshops sound absolutely beautiful. And I think any woman that gets to experience that is incredibly lucky.

[21:31] Justine: What I'm trying to do, actually, is put together an online course. So I'm thinking of building something so that people who don't have access to a teacher who got these interest in menopause can come to me via online, via Zoom.

[21:49] Sonya: I'm a huge advocate for women just having as many options as possible and being able to choose what's right for her. Because, as we said, each woman has unique needs.

[22:00] Justine: Yeah, that's I think the exciting aspect of being in a business space where you can focus on cooperation instead of competition, it's like the more people that you can reach out to and help and bring into a space where they can go, well, actually, yoga's not really my thing, but I'm really into this. Let me find out more about this then. That's a win. I think that's fantastic. It's like we just want to create a big pool of resources that people can come and find and see what is the best thing for the best way forward for them.

[22:49] Sonya: I wanted to jump in for a moment and let you know that since recording this podcast episode, justine and I have collaborated to create an in person workshop that we will be holding on November the 6th. The workshop is called Menopause Yoga and you, and it will be held in Dy on Sydney's Northern beaches, sunday, November 6, from 10:00 A.m. To 02:00 p.m.. You are invited to join Justine and I to learn the physiological changes that your body will go through, why and what you can do to support yourself. And Justine will take us through a beautiful yoga practice, wrapping everything up with a divine yoga needra. Go to the Link in the Show notes to find all the details for the Menopause Yoga and you workshop.

[23:50] Sonya: So for any woman that is listening that is interested in knowing a little bit about you and your practice and what is the best way for her to get in touch with you at the moment.

[24:00] Justine: So either through my website, which Justine Thompson Yoga, or on Instagram, actually, at Justine Thompson Yoga.

[24:11] Sonya: Fantastic. And I'll link to both of those in the show notes for everybody, so that anybody that's interested, whether they're a yoga teacher or whether they're a woman looking to expand her options, I think it would be great for them to get to reach out and get in touch with you. All right, Justine, I wind up all of my interviews the same way, and that is would you like to share with us what you are reading, watching, or listening to right now that is bringing you, Joy.

[24:40] Justine: Well, I've gone back to The Handmaid's Tale. I've been watching Handmaid's Tale since it started, and recently I've started it all over again. But I just love it. It's such good TV, it's so well made, and it leaves me a little despairing at times, but I find it very powerful. And watching it again, there's all these aspects that I've forgotten about, or maybe I didn't notice them the first time. I'm back in there. I'm back in Gilead.

[25:14] Sonya: Wonderful.

[25:16] Sonya: And I think that there are so many parallels that we can draw from when it comes to, unfortunately, The Handmaid's Tale. Yeah. Amazing. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing that with us. And I love that you've gone back and you're revisiting that. Justine, thank you so very much for your time. I will link through in the Show Notes to Nev Neve's details in there as well, because I think that's really important for any yoga practitioners that are listening, and also your details, so that any woman that would like to know more about you, your workshops, and the work that you're doing today can reach out to you.

[25:48] Justine: Thank you so much. It's been really lovely to talk to you.

[25:54] Sonya: Thank you for listening today. I am so grateful to have these conversations with incredible women and experts, and I'm grateful that you chose to hit play on this episode of Dear Menopause.

[26:07] Sonya: If you have a minute of time.

[26:09] Sonya: Today, please leave a rating or a review.

[26:12] Sonya: I would love to hear from you.

[26:14] Sonya: Because you are my biggest driver for doing this work. If this chat went way too fast.

[26:20] Sonya: For you and you want more, head.

[26:23] Sonya: Over to Au podcast for the Show Notes.

[26:29] Sonya: And while you're there, take my midlife quiz to see why it feels like.

[26:33] Sonya: Advice is messing with your head.