Did you know that practicing yoga can help women reduce the frequency of urinary incontinence? New research presented at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association suggests that this form of meditative exercise is actually beneficial in fighting urinary incontinence. Since the principal of yoga is to achieve unity and improved control of the mind and body through physical strength and meditation, it serves as an excellent management strategy for urinary incontinence.
Urinary Incontinence in Women
Though it affects men as well, urinary incontinence predominantly affects women of all ages. Alison Huang, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, explains, “Urinary incontinence is extremely common among women in midlife and beyond. One in three women over the age of 50 is estimated to experience incontinence on a weekly or more frequent basis. And yet, less than half of women suffering from this problem report receiving any clinical treatment” (source). Unfortunately, this is a reality for so many women.
Due to the nature of incontinence, women are too embarrassed to speak up about their condition and seek the right treatment. However, the women who do see specialists for incontinence are presented with a variety of treatment options that range from surgery all the way to major lifestyle changes. The course of treatment for this affliction can be very intimidating, which is why there’s such a high demand for alternative treatment methods. In her interview with Healio Family Medicine, Dr. Huang explains, “There is a real need for alternative approaches to treating or managing incontinence that are more accessible, more effective, and better tolerated by the over 20 million women in the US population who have this problem.” With this in mind, researchers decided to look at the potential benefits yoga could yield as a form of incontinence treatment.
Evidence from the Group-Based Yoga Program
Working closely with an expert yoga panel, researchers developed a group-based therapeutic yoga program that focused on specialized Iyengar-style technique. Iyengar-style is a form of yoga that focuses on the alignment of the body through the practice of precision. At the start of the study, patients were randomly assigned to either the yoga program or a nonspecific muscle strengthening and stretching program. It’s important to note that none of these women were previously enrolled in a yoga class or participating in any yoga-based workshops.
Of the participants, 56 women–of 65 years of age–were in the yoga group; all of whom claimed to have daily incontinence problems. As a part of the study, these women were instructed to attend classes on a weekly basis while practicing what they learned at home once a week for a total of 3 months. In total, 50 women completed the 30-day trial, and of those women, 75% attended more than 90% of the group classes and 88% completed more than 90% of the home practice hours.
From this data, researchers were able to determine a 75% decrease in frequency of urinary incontinence episodes amongst the women in the yoga group. Additionally, a 50% decrease in urinary incontinence episodes was recorded in the group of women who were assigned to the nonspecific muscle strengthening and stretching program. Although this was not a large-scale study, it’s evident that yoga yields beneficial results in the management of urinary incontinence. Many researchers believe that if such results are found within a larger study, more and more physicians will add yoga to the list of treatment methods for women who are afflicted with urinary incontinence on a daily basis.