Several recently-published studies suggest yoga may improve quality of life and ease symptoms among menopausal and postmenopausal women. These studies follow on preliminary research and suggestions by yoga experts that suggest restorative yoga may be especially helpful.
A study published this September by Joshi and colleagues assessed the impact of three months of yoga classes on self-reported menopausal symptoms. Researchers randomized menopausal women to a yoga group (which included instruction in asana, pranayama, and meditation) or a no-treatment control group. The two groups had similar symptom levels at the beginning of the study. Following three months of yoga classes, the yoga group demonstrated significant improvement in symptoms compared to the control group.
These results are promising, but the researchers provide no information regarding the number of research participants or the intensity, duration, or frequency of yoga practice, thus greatly limiting the application of these findings.
The second study, published by Afonso and colleagues in October, assessed yoga’s impact on quality of life, anxiety and depression, climacteric (hot flash) and insomnia symptoms, and stress among postmenopausal women ages 50-65 diagnosed with insomnia. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: non-treatment control group, physical therapy (PT) stretches, and yoga. The yoga group included stretching and “strong and fast” Tibetan breathing techniques. Both treatment groups met twice-weekly for four months.
Following the treatment, yoga appeared to improve hot flashes, quality of life, and stress compared to the control group (but not compared to the PT group). Yoga reduced insomnia severity to a greater degree than either the control and PT groups.
These findings should also be interpreted cautiously. Study limitations include a failure to indicate how many participants dropped out, and the postures/duration of yoga practice.
Still, these studies follow on a growing but preliminary body of research that suggests yoga and other mind-body therapies may be a safe and cost-effective method for improving numerous parameters of menopausal and postmenopausal health, including metabolism, stress, mood, well-being, and sleep.
Positive research outcomes are of little surprise to veteran yoga teachers, who have long advocated yoga’s healing benefits for the alleviation of menopausal symptoms. Restorative yoga is thought to be especially healing, as it relaxes the nervous system and “may improve the functioning of the endocrine system (especially the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the thyroid, and the parathyroid gland), which helps the body adapt to hormonal fluctuations.”
How has yoga helped alleviate your menopausal or postmenopausal symptoms?