Yoga and menopausal symptoms
16 January 2012
Over recent years, many women have looked to alternative methods to deal with their menopausal problems, including taking herbs and using alternative techniques. While there continues to be debate about the usefulness of herbal treatments and food supplements, recent interest has been shown in the use of techniques such as yoga and acupuncture.
Yoga is said to reduce stress levels and curb the activity of the sympathetic nervous system's "fight or flight" response, the body's reaction to threat or danger.
Regarding the role of yoga for menopausal women, two recently reported studies have shown that yoga may be helpful for menopausal symptoms.
In the first study, published in the September 2011 issue of Menopause International, a group from India reported on 200 women who were either perimenopausal or were postmenopausal and were within 5 years of the menopause.
The women were randomly assigned to either the study group who attended yoga sessions for 3 months, or a control group who did not perform yoga or take medication for menopausal symptoms. The women who attended for yoga were shown to have a statistically significant improvement in menopausal symptoms compared to the control group.
The group concluded that yoga is an effective non-invasive, non-pharmacological method for reducing menopausal symptoms, though it is acknowledged that further research on a large scale on this topic is needed.
The second study was published in Menopause October 2011 and looked specifically at the effect of yoga practice on the physical and mental health and menopausal symptoms of postmenopausal women with a diagnosis of insomnia.
Hachul and her colleagues randomly assigned 44 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 65, who were not taking hormone therapy and who had a diagnosis of insomnia to one of three groups. Fifteen had no treatment, 14 did stretches with a physical therapist twice a week and 15 participated in yoga classes twice a week.
The yoga sessions included a variety of stretching positions and Tibetan techniques used for strong and fast breathing. After four months, women in the yoga group reported fewer menopause problems than those who did nothing.
The group concluded that the study showed that a specific sequence of yoga might be effective in reducing insomnia and menopausal symptoms as well as improving quality of life in postmenopausal women with insomnia.
A gold standard double blinded trial (where neither participants nor investigators know which treatment group the participants are in) is obviously impossible in this situation but these studies do demonstrate promising effects of the use of yoga on menopausal symptoms.
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