Practicing yoga asanas for menopause is one of many solutions to cope with this life change.
Using Yoga to Ease Menopausal Symptoms
On average, 1.5 million women each year begin to experience menopause after the age of 50. Nearly 85 percent have unpleasant symptoms such as interrupted or delayed sleep, night sweats, hot flashes, and anxiety.
Although medical studies on the benefits of yoga are few, the majority conclude that performing yoga improves your quality of life. Many of these studies deal with particular subsets of the population, and the results overwhelming demonstrate that the practice is worth the effort.
Yoga of Awareness Study
Duke University Medical Center collaborated on a study with Oregon Health and Science University in 2007 to determine if a specialized yoga program could reduce menopausal symptoms in early stage breast cancer survivors. The women in the test group were cancer-free, but possibly on tamoxifen to prevent the disease from reoccurring. Tamoxifen can exacerbate menopausal symptoms, and even prompt similar symptoms in young breast cancer survivors not of typical menopausal age. The study consisted of 37 women participating in two-hour yoga guided sessions and home practice over the course of two months. The program was not simply a series of asanas, but a specialized program that also included stress reduction techniques. All women reported a dramatic reduction of hot flashes and sleep disturbances. Joint pain also decreased, and the study group had more energy.
These classes, called Yoga of Awareness, are offered at the Oregon Health and Science University, led by the study's co-authors, Kimberly Carson and Dr. James Carson.
Penn State University Study
Dr. Steriani Elavsky was the lead author on a 2007 study at Penn State University that analyzed the correlation between regular activity and the reduction of menopausal symptoms. A group of more than 160 women, all experiencing menopause and not exercising, were divided into three divisions: participating in yoga, part of a walking program, or the sedentary control group.
It was important in this four-month study to compare an aerobic activity, such as walking, to a non-aerobic activity, such as yoga. The results indicated that women in the yoga and walking groups experienced the same benefits: reduced hot flash frequency and intensity, better sleep, and less anxiety. Both groups also had a better quality of life over the sedentary control group.
Yoga Asanas for Menopause
Women of any age or circumstance can learn yoga, but older women in particular attain a greater sense of wellness and independence from the practice. There are many gentle routines to start with, such as John Schlorholtz's Ageless Yoga program.
Women in midlife are also more open to the mind, body, and spirit connection yoga provides. So performing yoga asanas for menopause may also alleviate symptoms by simply helping the individual find peace and acceptance of this natural stage of life.
Try the following postures in a daily, 30-minute routine:
- Start each morning with the Sun Salutation Sequence for renewed energy.
- Standing poses such as Mountain Yoga Pose, Tree Yoga Pose, and Eagle Pose help reduce irritability and the frequency of hot flashes.
- Forward bends calm and invigorate the mind at the same time. Standing Forward Bend, Downward Facing Dog Pose, and Wide-Legged Forward Bend are all great poses for this.
- If you feel your hormones are raging, try various stages of Plow Pose to bring them back into balance. Use yoga equipment to help your body ease into the posture gradually without strain.
- Seated postures such as Hero Pose and Lotus Pose center the body and mind. This is a great way to relax, especially before bedtime to encourage better, deeper sleep.
Breathing techniques can also help you ease through hot flashes.
Embrace This Life Change
Combined with a healthful diet, regular practice of yoga asanas for menopause should help diminish the effects of the most common symptoms. If you've had a troublesome menses through the years, which sometimes contributes to a more difficult cycle of menopause, it might also be helpful to ask your physician about additional treatment options.
Here are some more resources to help you stay informed, and even find humor, about this change in your life:
- Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause: A Guide to Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Health at Midlife and Beyond by registered yoga therapist Suza Francina offers a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of yoga on women at midlife.
- The book The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing During the Change is a terrific resource by Dr. Christiane Northup, a leading expert in women's health issues.
- Caron Chandler Loveless's book Honey, They Shrunk My Hormones is a poignant and humorous observation of menopause.