Bikram Yoga and the Menopause
On average, women experience menopause around age 51. Some women hit menopause at a much younger age and have to cope with the physical and emotional impact of early menopause. Bikram yoga offers women help with the symptoms accompanying the hormonal changes -- if you can stand being in a hot room when you have a hot flush.
Medical Support for Yoga
Doctors Charles Hammond and Lori Bastian at Duke University, and the menopause expert, Dr. Christiane Northrup give the thumbs-up to yoga for women with menopausal symptoms. All agree that it can balance hormones, reduce feelings of anxiety or depression, help you to sleep better, and it can help control hot flashes, which for many women is the most distressing symptom. Dr. Bastian suggests that yoga also helps support women who are going through the menopause without using hormone replacement therapy, or those women who are trying to stop taking HRT.
Bikram yoga, performed in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, may not seem an obvious choice for a menopausal woman, but Dr. Northrup suggests that if the heat is bearable then this form of yoga can help you stretch your muscles, a sentiment Bikram yoga instructors agree with. She also points out that yoga helps stabilize your weight, reduces blood pressure and increases your overall fitness, making it easier for you to cope with the wide ranging number of menopause symptoms. Love To Know Yoga reports that some menopausal women love the rapid detoxification process Bikram provides, although it does warn that the heat of the room may be unsuitable for anyone experiencing regular hot flushes.
Bikram Yoga and Osteoporosis Study
Osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, is a significant problem for a number of menopausal women, so the weight-bearing, but low impact, yoga postures are an aid to maintaining bone density. A 2010 study published in the scientific journal "Chinese Medicine" on the effects of Bikram yoga on osteoporosis and bone mineral density showed encouraging results for menopausal women. The study participants -- a group of pre-menopausal women -- took Bikram classes three times a week for three years. Bone scans were taken at the beginning and end of the study period. The results showed that the women had a bone mineral density above the average expected for healthy women of a comparable age who had not practiced Bikram yoga.
Bikram Yoga Considerations
According to Bikram Choudhury, if you do his yoga for 60 days it will totally transform your body, your mind and your life. However, before signing up for a Bikram class there are a few points to consider. If you have diabetes, cardiovascular or respiratory problems you might find that Bikram is too hot and too strenuous for you. If you have any of these conditions you should consult your doctor, and talk to a qualified Bikram instructor, before starting classes. Also, if you haven't exercised for some time, you may find the Bikram yoga style too demanding for a beginner, and you may prefer a less strenuous Hatha yoga class. If you do choose a Bikram class, stay well hydrated and alert the teacher if you experience discomfort, such as hot flushes.
In the words of Ladies during their menopause
‘I began my Bikram yoga journey at a time of personal crisis. Menopause was reeking havoc in every aspect of my life through chronic insomnia, hot flushes, metabolic changes (and the resulting weight gain) and anxiety attacks which I had never before experienced. The worst part was that I felt helpless to stop any of it. But this practice did stop it and completely turned things around for me. Within a few months of regular practice most of those symptoms were greatly reduced or gone completely. That was 2 years ago and I honestly don't know where I would be now without this amazing practice. Although the first few classes were difficult for me I couldn't deny that the afterglow (the sensation that I have after every class) was like nothing I had ever experienced from any other form of exercise, including other forms of yoga. This practice has made me acutely aware of my body and how it is affected by diet, hydration, medications, etc. And although the physical body is important, it is the mind/body connection that has been the most valuable gift of all. I expected a stronger physical body but I've gotten a stronger mind as an amazing bonus! I know that I now have the most powerful tool for managing the stress in my life. I am so grateful to Bikram and to all of the wonderful teachers that continue to instruct and guide me on my road to a healthy lifestyle and self-improvement. It is a beautiful life!’
-- R. W.
Menopause or climacteric is the transitional phase in a woman's life when the ovaries stop releasing eggs, ovarian production of estrogen and other hormones tapers off, and menstruation ceases. It results from declining ovarian function due to aging of the ovaries and is usually a gradual process. In the United States, natural menopause occurs at age 51 on average. Premature menopause (due to premature aging of the ovaries, debilitating disease, or infection) and artificial menopause (due to destruction of the ovaries by surgery, irradiation, or purposeful hormone therapy, as in severe premenstrual syndrome) may occur much earlier.
A 52-year old woman writes of her experience: "For the past 7 yrs I have been deteriorating physically--a severed rotator cuff, uterine cancer, sprained foot, painful hip, not to mention menopause. I came to yoga classes physically and mentally depleted. I am now in the process of trying to do 60 days.
"After 2 1/2 wks, I have no more hip pain. My stiffness has diminished; I feel more flexible in both body and mind. I have less depression with better mental stamina. I feel happier and cannot wait to do my yoga. I am astonished that my abdominal muscles are becoming stronger and that feeling is returning. While doing some of the postures I start to feel my absent uterus. I now have come to realize that I was massaging so deep internally that I was stimulating nerve roots that created phantom uterine pain. Most likely I have broken down some of the post surgical adhesions that may have formed . . . .
"I stand tall and proud and tell the world to do YOGA. HOT YOGA. It has changed my world Namaste . . . "