Menopause causes stress and yoga helps relieve it better than exercise. This good news comes from a study by the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in India published in The Journal of The North American Menopause Society. During all three stages of menopause, women suffer from stress and yoga helps to alleviate the problem. In a multi-ethnic study examining data on 16,065 women, psychological distress occurred at a rate of 20.9 percent in premenopause, 28.9 percent in perimenopause and 22 percent in postmenopause. These numbers are fortunately low, but unfortunately a significant portion of women get stressed during this natural process.
Menopause Stress and Yoga Study Participants
The researchers for this stress and yoga study selected 120 women between the ages of 45 and 55 who had both regular and irregular menstrual cycles. Every participant was a yoga beginner and had not practiced yoga for more than one month in their entire lives. The stress and yoga participants were not taking hormone therapy or psychiatric medication. The researchers randomly divided the women into a yoga treatment group and an exercise treatment group. The women in both groups practiced yoga or exercises with a trained instructor for one hour each day, five days per week, for eight weeks. There was no statistical difference between the yoga and exercise groups before treatment.
Stress Reduction Yoga Class for Menopause
The stress reduction yoga class for menopause was divided in to four parts.
-First – 10 minutes of Surya Namaskar, also known as Sun Salutation.
-Second – 5 Breathing exercises, also known as pranayama.
1. Hasta ayama svasanam — hands in and out breathing
2. Hasta vistara svasanam — hands stretch breathing
3. Gulpha vistara svasanam — ankle stretch breathing
4. Vyaghra vvasanam — tiger breathing
5. Setu bandha svasanam — bridge posture breathing
-Third – 25 minutes of Cyclic Meditation, also known as Avartan dhyanam
-Fourth – 15 minutes of a yoga-based wellness lecture
The Exercise Class
The stress reduction exercise class for menopause in this stress and yoga study also had four parts. First, 10 minutes of brisk walking. Second, 10 minutes of stretching exercises, including forward and backward bending,side bending, aspinal twist and toe walking. Third, 25 minutes of resting in corpse pose, also called shavasana. Fourth, 15 minutes of a diet and exercise lecture.
Menopause Stress and Yoga Study Results
The results of this yoga study show a comprehensive yoga program works better than exercise to reduce stress during menopause. The data on stress was obtained using the Perceived Stress Scale, a well-known and respected psychological test. After treatment, the yoga group enjoyed a significantly greater decrease in perceived stress than the exercise group. The yoga group had an average of 6 point reduction in stress and the exercise group had only 1.67 point reduction in stress. The yoga group also showed a significant reduction in neuroticism.
Written by: Victoria Weinblatt, a certified Hatha yoga instructor.
Yoga research references for Stress and Yoga – Better than Exercise for Menopause:
1) Menopause; Treating the Climacteric Symptoms in Indian Women with an Integrated Approach to Yoga Therapy; R. Chattha, et al.; 2008
2) Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation