The physical and mental benefits of yoga are well documented. It can help you increase your strength and flexibility, lower your risk of heart disease, and ease anxiety and depression.1 2
Now, a new study shows it also fights perhaps the single most embarrassing health condition in women.
Urinary incontinence strikes 20 million American women. It can be a devastating problem. Women may have to wear adult diapers to avoid leakage. And the condition may greatly restrict their social activities.
University of California research shows that yoga can help.
Scientists studied participants in yoga classes specifically designed to help older women with urinary incontinence. They were between 55 and 83, with an average age of 66. None of them practiced yoga before joining the study.
All suffered from bladder control problems at least several times a day. Half were randomly assigned to a three-month yoga class. It included 15 standard yoga poses and specialized techniques that emphasize posture and breath control. The aim was for the women to increase their awareness of their “pelvic floor structure.”
The other half of the women took part in traditional exercise. It focused on stretching and strengthening.
Both groups met twice a week. They also did a weekly session at home. All other treatments for incontinence were stopped during the yoga and exercise programs.
Women in the yoga group saw the frequency of their incontinence fall by 75%. The other group had only a 50% reduction.
Dr. Alison Huang led the study. She’s a urology co-director of the resident research training program at the University of California. The study shows that yoga is an excellent way to prevent bladder-control problems, she said.
“Yoga poses can also improve general physical fitness and conditioning, which has been shown to be protective against urinary incontinence in frailer older women,” she said.
The deep breathing and mindful relaxation involved in yoga can improve women’s anxiety, stress, and nervous system balance. These are factors that can contribute to an overactive bladder and an urgent need to urinate.
The Best Yoga Poses for Urinary Problems
Here are three poses from the study that helped women improve bladder control:3
- Chair Pose. Stand with your feet facing forward hip-width apart. Inhale as you face your palms forward and raise them above your head. Exhale and bend your knees while squatting down. This move should feel almost like you are sitting in a chair. Bring your weight to the heels of your feet, press your shoulders down and try to arch your spine. Breathe for about three to six minutes. To see a video demonstration of the chair pose, go here.
- Triangle Pose. Widen your stance so your feet make a triangle to the floor. Turn your right foot 90 degrees. Align the center of the right heel with the center of the arch of your left foot. Inhale deeply. Then exhale as you bend your body down from the hips to the right. Keep your back straight, place your right hand down by your right foot. If this is hard for you, you can place it on your shin, foot, or the ground beside your foot. Point your left arm up to the sky. Breathe deeply. To see a video demonstration of the triangle pose, go here.
- Squat Pose. Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart. Your toes should be facing outward. Bend your knees deeply until your hips are lower than your knees. Bring your palms together and place your elbows at the inner parts of your knee. Push your elbows into your knees to open up your hips. Attempt to raise your heart up to the sky to stretch your back and spine. Hold for 30 seconds. To see a video demonstration of the squat pose, go here.
One more thing… for best results, consider joining a group yoga class. Studies show that you’re more likely to stick to a new exercise regimen when you’re doing it in a group setting.