Yoga is all the rage but did you know that yoga may help women’s occasional urinary incontinence and bladder control loss as well? A new study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) showed that engaging in this ancient form of exercise and meditation may help women reduce suffering from urinary incontinence.
Yoga may help women manage symptoms of bladder control loss by reducing stress and strengthening muscles “Yoga is often directed at mindful awareness, increasing relaxation, and relieving anxiety and stress,” said leading researcher Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. “For these reasons, yoga has been directed at a variety of health issues, such as pain syndromes — but there’s also a reason to think that it could help with bladder control.”
The thinking is two-fold: (1) Bladder control loss can often be connected to occasional anxiousness and stress. Yoga puts emphasis on mindfulness, relaxation and meditation. Therefore relieving stress and depression might yield benefits in improving bladder control; (2) Bladder control is also associated with weakened pelvic floor muscles; yoga exercise strengthens these muscles and provides flexibility.
While yoga’s benefits would be significant in even one area, if the benefits are two-fold, improving both the physical component of muscle strength and the emotional component of mood, yoga could be very powerful for those managing symptoms of bladder control loss. “We thought this could be a good opportunity for women to use yoga to become more aware of, and have more control over, their pelvic floor muscles” Huang said.
The researchers sought to prove their concept and to determine whether yoga could have some benefits for occasional incontinence, bladder control loss, either due to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles or due to the benefits of mindfulness. Their study was published April 2014 in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, the official journal of the American Urogynecologic Society.
Twenty women aged 40 and over participated in this study, all of whom were managing symptoms of bladder control loss on a daily basis. The participants were randomly assigned to two groups: one group took part in a six-week special yoga program and the other did not.
Yoga Reduces Urine Leakage
The women who participated in the yoga program had a 70% decrease in urine leakage as compared with their own baseline, while the other control group had a 13% reduction (possible placebo effect). The benefit occurred mostly among women with stress-related loss of bladder control, which is when urine is leaked during activities such as laughing, exercising, and sneezing or coughing. These activities are known to increase pressure in the abdomen leading to urine leakage.
The study did not use a random yoga program, rather the class was specially designed by practitioners experienced in using yoga to help women improve their pelvic health and paying special attention to its safety measures for an older population. “We specifically developed a yoga therapy program that would be safe for older women, including women with minor mobility limitations,” Huang said. “So we were partially assessing safety of this program for older women who are at highest risk for having incontinence in the first place.”
Although this study is very small, the results show that yoga could provide another possible tool to support bladder control and improve bladder health. “It would be a way for women to gain more control over their pelvic floor muscles without having to go through traditional costly and time-intensive rehabilitation therapy,” according to Huang.
The researchers believe that there is more to be learned and feel they can build on the study and double its length to learn even more about how to prevent incontinence and build pelvic muscle strength by engaging in a targeted yoga practice.
At BetterWOMAN and BetterMAN, we believe that any exercise that can strengthen your pelvic floor could help you improve bladder control and general health. Certain postures in yoga and Pilates would help you to strengthen the core muscles and help pelvic health. Try to avoid exercises and postures that could hurt your pelvic floor muscles. Finding a good yoga or Pilate’s teacher is crucial.
We also believe that the right nutritional support is important to help strengthen and support the pelvic floor and bladder muscles. Integrate Vitamin D3, and BetterMAN or BetterWOMAN in your daily regimen. They can help you too.
To your health.