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Got Menopause? Get Yoga!

Got Menopause? Get Yoga!

I began my first yoga class almost 20 years ago as a means of reducing my stress. I was running a center for reproduction and women’s health and was looking for a non-pharmacologic way to relax. The yogini I enrolled with was Hari Khar Khalsa, and I took classes from her for a period of time. One day after class I asked her if she would be interested in teaching a yoga class to my patients to lower their stress. We began a series of yoga classes with the first hour consisting of us sitting on mats on the floor with my patients and discussing a health topic. I called them “Mat Chats.” The second hour was devoted to yoga with a focus on the medical topic we had just covered.

Over time, I not only received the benefit of lowering my own stress level through yoga, but also the benefit of Hari’s friendship and ultimately collaboration on A Woman’s Book of Yoga, a book that combines Eastern and Western medicine to help women at different stages of their lives. Since that time, I’ve suggested yoga to many of my patients. One group that I find it particularly useful for is women in and around menopause. They often tell me it helps them deal with their symptoms. Because many women either can’t or won’t take hormone therapy, finding an effective alternative is really important.

I was delighted to discover that the February 2012 issue of the journal Menopause, finally proves yoga reduces menopause symptoms, hot flashes and improves sleep.  This is the first study to do so. The article studied women between the ages of 50 and 65 with no yoga experience and who were not taking hormones or antidepressants. The study lasted four months and included two one-hour yoga sessions per week, which combined stretching exercises and breathing techniques. Compared to a group of women who only did stretching, the yoga group improved their sleep and their mental health, and also their menopausal symptoms.  The researchers believe this is because yoga increases levels of the brain hormone g-aminobutyric acid, which calms the brain. Yoga also seems to increase levels of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin.

Another benefit of yoga is that it amplifies the parasympathetic tone in the body, which aids relaxation and reduces the sympathetic tone – the so-called fight or flight hormones. This may be an important part of why sleep patterns improve and hot flashes are reduced. Most women observe that when they are stressed, their hot flashes increase.

As more and more women question whether or not to take HRT – and women with breast cancer are typically not able to take HRT – finally getting proof that an alternative approach reduces symptoms of menopause, lowers hot flashes and improves sleep is a great thing.  So if you are looking for an alternative to HRT, or even if you are taking HRT and just want to help your insomnia, improve your mental health and your menopausal symptoms, grab your yoga mat, enroll in a yoga class with a good instructor, practice several times per week, and sleep tight. Namaste.

Resources from Dr. Seibel:

  • Free eBook on HRT: whether or not to take it, how to take it and an explanation of bioidentical estrogens.
  • Free Sleep Diary: to help your doctor treat your sleep problem.

Related:
A Yoga Pose for Every Problem
Bioidentical Estrogens Are Safe, Right?
4 Things You Should Know About Yoga

Read more: Aging, Depression, General Health, Health, Healthy Aging, Menopause, Stay Well With Dr. Seibel, Stress, Yoga

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Dr. Mache Seibel

Women's health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers' critical needs from weight control to HRTmenopause and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is founder of My Menopause Magazine on the Apple Newsstand (http://bit.ly/MyMenoMag). Download the Free App and first Free issue. He works with companies and organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his award-winning website DoctorSeibel.com to sign up for his free monthly newsletter.

15 comments

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1:50AM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

ty

5:46AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

Thanks for the article.

8:38PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

Thanks for the post.

1:30PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

I have never had hot flashes or side effects of menopause. I am vegetarian and consume alot of soy (plant estrogen). No premarin, prempro etc. If yoga helps then go for it.

10:34PM PST on Feb 25, 2012

Nice article, thank you.
Edith B. - you don't need a teacher to carry on. I did it at the gym for about 6 months and have made my own routine which I sporadically (but increasingly often) carry out. There are also lots of good books and clips on you tube and other internet resources.

5:31AM PST on Feb 25, 2012

Thanks for this. I have recently started yoga althouh have been interested in it for a long time so this article really gives me a boost.

9:48PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Thanks, I took yoga classes for a year and loved the results. Unfortunately, the yoga teacher left and no one took his place. I would love to do yoga again. It relaxes you and stretches your body at the same time.

6:08PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Thanks. Although I am not approaching menopause yet, I definitely will keep this in mind when I am!

2:42PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Forwarding this to my mother!

12:40PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

A good night's sleep achieves the same thing. During waking hours our bodies release more fight or flight hormones (adrenalin) which increases our heartrate and gives us the energy to hunt and gather. Putting yourself in a trance slows brainwaves down to the alpha level just like sleep. When your brainwaves are slowed down your hormone output decreases. Yoga is not magic and it's not a cure all, it just helps a little. My menopause symptoms took years to slowly decrease and finally disappear. Menopause symptoms are "caused" by our addiction to Estrogen, the natural hormone put out by our own bodies. Higher levels of Estrogen in our bodies when we're young will cause greater symptoms when Estrogen levels suddenly drop off. Being addicted to our own Estrogen is different than addiction to drugs in that we don't "crave" Estrogen and want it back. All we crave is freedom from hot flashes and profuse sweating. But like other addictions it takes years to get over.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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