Nearly 20 years ago I took my first yoga class with Hari Khar Khalsa as a means of decreasing stress. Over time, I not only received the benefit of lowering my stress level through yoga, but also the benefit of her friendship and ultimately collaboration on A Woman’s Book of Yoga, a book that combines Eastern and Western medicine. Since that book came out, I’ve suggested yoga to my patients in and around menopause to help them deal with their symptoms. Because many women either can’t or won’t take hormone therapy, finding an effective alternative is really important.
Now the February 2012 issue of the journal Menopause, finally proves yoga reduces menopause symptoms, hot flashes and improves sleep. 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 4 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 γ-aminobutyric acid, which calms the brain. Yoga also seems to increase levels of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin.
So if you are looking for an alternative to HRT, or even if you are taking HRT and just want to improve your mental health, symptoms and sleep, enroll in a yoga class with a good instructor, practice several times per week, and sleep tight. Namaste.