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Yoga and Menopause

By | Fact Checked |

Yoga and Menopause

When it comes to perimenopause and menopause symptoms, yoga can be one of the best natural remedies. Yoga has been practiced in various forms for more than 4,000 years, and today it can truthfully be said that just about anyone can do yoga in one form or another. 

You can do yoga poses while sitting in a chair, lying on the floor, or standing on your head. There are types of yoga and yoga poses designed for individuals who have certain physical limitations, such as hip or knee replacements, or who are working to ease symptoms, such as backache, hot flashes, or digestive issues. Certain yoga poses can protect against health issues such as high blood pressure, bone loss, depression, and poor immune function.

And yoga has the potential to ease menopausal symptoms.

Read about menopause and stress

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Yoga and menopause

If you have reached perimenopause or menopause and never tried yoga before, you may be pleasantly surprised and even amazed how regular practice, along with a healthy diet, can help manage menopausal symptoms and help protect against physical, emotional, and mental health challenges that can creep up on you during these transitional years. 

The type of yoga often suggested for women in the perimenopause and menopause years is called restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is a relaxed, restful practice that utilizes blankets, bolsters, and yoga blocks to help you hold yoga poses for extended periods of time while opening your body through passive stretching. In fact, in restorative yoga you don’t move much at all, but the healing is still taking place inside your body. Typically you hold each pose for 5 minutes or longer.

This form of yoga emphasizes the meditative, body/mind union of the practice. During restorative yoga you focus on your breath and relax the mind as well as the body. One reason for these benefits is that this yoga style can shift the balance of your sympathetic nervous system (that’s your fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the relaxed state and the part that helps maintain your body’s basic functions at their peak.

Benefits of yoga in menopause

Restorative or therapeutic yoga, as well as hatha yoga that focus on poses (asanas) that can address women’s menopausal symptoms and concerns can provide many benefits.

  • Calm the nervous system. The combination of passive stretching and deep breathing can help establish a sense of tranquility and peacefulness. Research has indicated that restorative yoga is better at inducing relaxation than the practice of regular passive stretching. 
  • Help enhance mood. Depression, anxiety, and mood swings can be managed with regular yoga practice. A review of research shows that yoga can effectively reduce tension, stress, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Improve muscle mass. Stretching and holding poses lengthens and strengthens muscles, which in turn improves muscle mass. 
  • Assist with better sleep. Insomnia and other sleep problems that are common in menopause can be relieved by regular practice of restorative yoga. Both the deep breathing and meditation part of yoga can boost melatonin, which can benefit sleep. A number of studies have found yoga to improve sleep. For example, in one study a total of 208 premenopausal, perimenopausal, and menopausal women were assigned to either a yoga intervention program for 20 weeks or to a control group. Perimenopausal and menopausal women in the yoga group reported significantly improved sleep quality. Sleep quality did not improve in premenopausal women nor in the control group. 

Read about menopause and insomnia

  • Manage hot flashes. A small study involved women who were experiencing four or more moderate to severe hot flashes daily or 30 or more per week. The women were taught eight restorative yoga poses and attended eight weekly 90-minute sessions using those poses. The mean number of hot flashes decreased by nearly 31 percent per week, and most of the women continued to practice yoga three months after the study.
  • Improve quality of life. A review of various studies involving therapeutic yoga has found that regular practice improves well-being and quality of life.  
  • Increase flexibility. Researchers have found that practicing gentle yoga can increase flexibility and mobility in the joints, including the hips and spine/back.  
  • Help with balance and risk of falls. Falls and the risk of fracture are real concerns among menopausal women. Regular yoga practice may help improve balance and the risk of falling and experiencing fracture. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan conducted a study entitled “The effect of yoga on decreasing the risk of fall-related injury in peri- and post-menopausal women.” They evaluated the impact of 12 weeks of hatha yoga on risk factors for falling such as balance, mobility, strength, and confidence. The researchers determined there were “significant improvements in fall risk factors and many perceived benefits and positive changes on quality of life and healthy aging.” 

Yoga poses for menopause

It is recommended you work with a qualified yoga instructor who is familiar with poses especially for women in menopause. Some of the restorative or healing poses that can be helpful for alleviating menopausal symptoms include the fish pose, child’s pose, corpse pose, and legs-up-the-wall pose. Other poses for menopause symptoms can be found here.

Bottom line

Yoga practice, including restorative yoga, can be helpful in relieving some symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Women who are interested in exploring yoga in menopause should seek out instructors who are knowledgeable about the most beneficial poses for their needs.

  • Balance flow yoga: preventing falls and injuries. University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine, School of Rehabilitation Science 2021 Aug 24

  • Cohen BE et al. Feasibility and acceptability of restorative yoga for treatment of hot flushes: a pilot trial. Maturitas 2007 Feb 20; 56(2):198-204.

  • Corey SM et al. Effect of restorative yoga vs. stretching on diurnal cortisol dynamics and psychosocial outcomes in individuals with the metabolic syndrome: the PRYSMS randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014; 49:260-71.

  • Ganesh HRS et al. Effects of an integrated yoga program on quality of life, spinal flexibility, and strength in older adults: A randomized control trial. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 2022 Winter; 36(1):22-28. 

  • Lindberg S. The benefits of restorative yoga and poses to try. Healthline 2020 Sep 23

  • Murray D. Yoga to relieve symptoms. Menopause Experts 2021 Dec 24

  • Pizer A. What is restorative yoga? Verywellfit 2021 Jan 12

  • Susanti HD et al. Effects of yoga on menopausal symptoms and sleep quality across menopause statuses: A randomized controlled trial. Nursing & Health Sciences 2022 Jun; 24(2):368-79.

  • Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga 2011 Jul; 4(2):49-54.

Lisa is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who focuses on helping women find relief in perimenopause and menopause. Lisa has more than eight years of experience in the health and wellness space. She is also in perimenopause and experiences the occasional hot flashes, some anxiety, and irregular cycles. She is passionate about listening to her body, eating as much of a whole-food diet as possible, and exercising for strength and longevity.