If you could find an easy and inexpensive way to ease symptoms of menopause, including insomnia, would you try it? Well a new (albeit small) study is indicating that yoga and/or stretching may be really helpful for women who are going through menopause.
The Huffington Post reported on a study out of Brazil that followed 44 postmenopausal women, ages 50-65, over a four-month period. These women were assigned to three different groups. One group was assigned to do yoga, while a second group did passive stretching. The third group was assigned to do nothing over the study of the period. The scientists analyzed the women’s health, stress and sleep prior to the start of the study as well as after the study concluded.
The women were asked to rate their menopausal symptoms. A rating of 0-18 was considered mild, while a rating of 18-35 was moderate, and 35 and above was considered severe. According to Reuters Health Information, researchers learned that the women who participated in yoga over the four-month trial described their menopausal symptoms as mild with an average score of 12.4 whereas the women who did not do any activity described their symptoms as moderate with an average score of 19.9. Furthermore, the participants were asked to complete a sleep questionnaire with ratings of 0-28. The women who did yoga reported an average score of 9.7 on sleep while those who didn’t have a treatment rated their sleep 9.7 on average. However, reported that no difference existed between the group that did yoga and the one who did stretching.
While stretching and yoga have a lot in common, one difference is that yoga encourages you to really focus on yourself and what you’re doing. So why would yoga be good for menopausal women? According to Reuters, studies have found that yoga eases stress levels. Furthermore, it curbs the body’s “fight or flight” response, also known as the sympathetic nervous system.
On the ABC-of-Yoga.com, Suza (who has gone through menopause and who teaches yoga classes which are filled with middle-aged women) stated, “Yoga reduces the effects of menopause’s hormonal changes by balancing the endocrine system. It smoothens out the hormonal and glandular changes that take place during this stage of life. The regular practice of all the categories of poses -- standing, sitting, lying down, backbends, forward bends, twists, and inverted (upside down) poses -- stimulates and activates all the glands, organs, tissues and cells of the body. Yoga’s inverted poses are particularly important during menopause as they have a powerful effect on the neuroendocrine system, allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to flow to the glands in the head and neck.”
Yoga also is a gentle but really wonderful exercise practice that can really help stave off the challenges of aging. “Yoga… focuses on exercising both the body and mind and works on building a greater connection between the two,” Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge write in their book, The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause. “If you are practicing the series of postures called Sun Salutations, for example, you are getting some amount of cardiovascular engagement and strength training using the best and potentially heaviest weight out there – your own body.” They also note that yoga helps with flexibility, which “is an essential, important part of exercising that often goes ignored.”
Dr. Susan Lark recommends the following steps to take if you're starting a yoga routine on Healthy.net:
· “Visualize the pose in your mind, then follow with proper placement of the body.”
· “Move slowly through the pose. This will help promote flexibility of the muscles and prevent injury.”
· “Follow the breathing instructions provided in the exercise. Most important, do not hold your breath. Allow your breath to flow in and out easily and effortlessly.”
Dr. Lark encourages women to do yoga in a slow, unhurried fashion in order to gradually loosen muscles, ligaments and joints. “If you experience any pain or discomfort, you have probably overreached your current ability and should immediately reduce the amount of the stretching until you can proceed without discomfort,” she warned. If you are stiff, Suza recommends that you use props, such as bolsters, as needed, in order to do yoga comfortably.
Yoga and stretching can both help ease menopausal symptoms. Of the two, yoga also provides a lot of other mind and body benefits. It may help you sleep better and also feel better as you go through this passage of womanhood.
Published On: December 09, 2011