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Yoga Eases Menopause Symptons

By Michelle Fletcher, B.A., http://michellefletcher.net

The benefits of yoga extend beyond the flexibility and relaxation gleaned from our Saturday morning class. Men and women of all ages have benefited from regular yoga sessions, but now studies are highlighting yoga’s many benefits for menopausal women.

Yoga stretches can benefit both the body and the mind, bringing energy and balance, says Susan M. Lark, M.D. in her book, The Estrogen Decision Self Help Book . This is particularly helpful to women who are currently in menopause or in menopause transition because their hormonal levels and body chemistry may be fluctuating rapidly. This can leave women feeling out of balance and truly victims of their changing bodies. Yoga exercises level out this physiological instability by relaxing and gently stretching every muscle in the body, promoting better blood circulation and oxygenation to all cells and tissues. This helps optimize the function of the endocrine glands and the organs of the female reproductive tract. Yoga exercises also improve the health and well-being of the digestive tract, nervous system, and all other organ systems.

A Pennsylvania State University study confirms Lark’s findings. “The surprising aspect of the study is that we found a significant association between changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and changes in menopausal symptoms,” said lead author Steriani Elavsky, Ph.D., of Penn State University. One hundred sixty-four sedentary menopausal women were randomly assigned to a walking program, a yoga program or a control group that did no additional exercise for four months. The women who walked or took yoga classes reported a better quality of life and reduced negative effects of menopause compared to the no-exercise group. The women who walked or took yoga classes reported improvements in mood and menopause-related quality of life compared to the no-exercise group.

Walking was chosen because it is an aerobic activity, while yoga was chosen because it is not aerobic, Elavsky said in an article in Annuals of Behavioral Medicine. The results concluded that both yoga and walking were effective at enhancing subjects’ quality of life. Whether menopausal symptoms improved or worsened appeared to be determined by increases or decreases in cardiorespiratory fitness. Women who experienced decreases in menopausal symptoms in the study also experienced improvements in all positive mental health and quality of life outcomes.

Each year, over 1.5 million women reach menopause. In addition, over 80% of these women will suffer unpleasant symptoms, including night sweats, hot flashes, anxiety, irritability or emotional instability.

A study performed at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center researched the feasibility and acceptability of a restorative yoga intervention for the treatment of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. Feasability was measured by recruitment rates, subject retention and adherence to the designed program. The majority of subjects – over 93% completed the trial – and felt overall satisfied by the results. “This pilot trial demonstrates that it is feasible to teach restorative yoga to middle-aged women without prior yoga experience ,” according to the study. “The high rates of subject retention and satisfaction suggest that yoga is an acceptable intervention in this population. Our results indicate that a larger, randomized controlled trial to explore the efficacy of restorative yoga for treatment of menopausal symptoms would be safe and feasible.”

Just an hour of yoga three times a week is enough to make a difference in one’s body. Yoga is rejuvenating, revitalizing, relaxing and energizing: sure to improve uncomfortable side-effects of nature’s course through menopause. Through the ageless art of yoga, says Susan Winter Ward in an article on the Yoga Learning Center Web site, women can balance their energies physically, emotionally, and spiritually as they go through menopause.

Yoga instructors recommend making a commitment to two or three classes a week for a month, then assess how you feel. Do you have more energy? Are you more relaxed? How is your flexibility? Have you been less irritable? Most women notice a difference after just a month of regular practice.

The benefits of regular yoga practice have been demonstrated for over 5,000 years: more the reason to give it a chance when battling menopausal symptoms.

Ward concludes, “Through consciously embracing the menopause experience and deciding how we want to live the rest of our lives; by being responsible for how we choose to navigate this transition time; and by taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, we can regard menopause as the opportunity for rejuvenation that it is and live more fully than ever with renewed vitality, inner peace and power.

References:


Ward, Susan Winter. “Yoga for the Young at Heart: Embracing Menopause, {ath to Peace and Pwer.” Yoga Learning Center. Accessed May, 2007. www.yogaheart.com.

Ward, 1.

Cohen BE, et al. “Feasability and acceptability of restporative yoga for treatment of hot flashes. Maturitas. 2007 Feb 20;56(2):198-204.

Lark, Susan M. “Yoga for Menopause.” The Estrogen Decision Self Help Book. Celestial Arts: 2006 http://www.healthy.net

Elavsky S, et al. “Physical activity and mental health outcomes during menopause: a randomized control trial. Annuals of Behavioral Medicine 33(2), 2007.

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