THURSDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Practicing yoga may not
ease menopausal hot flashes, but it might help women sleep a bit
easier, a new clinical trial suggests.
Right now, hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for
the hot flashes and night sweats many women develop as they go
through menopause. But hormones have been linked to risks like
blood clots and heart attack, so many women want alternatives.
Some small studies have suggested that yoga can reduce the
frequency and severity of hot flashes -- possibly by calming
nervous system activity. But that was not the case in this latest
trial, which randomly assigned 249 women to either take gentle yoga
classes for 12 weeks, or stick with their usual activities.
By the study's end, women in the yoga group were having fewer
hot flashes each day -- but so were those in the comparison
On the other hand, the yoga practitioners did seem to be
"For the time being, there seems to be little sound evidence
that yoga is helpful for hot flashes," said lead researcher
Katherine Newton, of the Group Health Research Institute in
"However, we did find yoga to be modestly helpful for insomnia,"
Newton added. That's important, she noted, because sleep problems
are one of the most common reasons that women seek some kind of
treatment as they go through menopause.
"If insomnia is bothering a woman," Newton said, "this style of
gentle yoga, practiced regularly, may be of benefit."
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health
and recently published online in the journal
It may be too soon to write off yoga as a hot flash remedy,
according to another researcher not involved in the study.
Yoga should be seen as a lifestyle change, and it takes time for
people to work it into their lives, noted Nancy Woods, a professor
at the University of Washington School of Nursing who studies
"It's a practice," she said. "You have to learn the poses, get
comfortable with them, and then integrate these practices into your
So it's possible that women need longer than 12 weeks of yoga to
see benefits for their hot flashes, according to Woods. Medications
would be expected to work in that timeframe, she said, but a
lifestyle change "may not have the quick effect that a drug
"Women who are already doing yoga should not stop because of
this study," Woods added.
And if women with menopause symptoms are interested in starting
yoga, she added, it's worth a try. Even if it doesn't cool their
hot flashes, Woods noted, there could be other gains, like reduced
stress, better sleep and the health benefits of physical
The findings are based on 249 women who were suffering seven to
eight hot flashes per day, on average; 107 were randomly assigned
to take up yoga, while the rest stuck with their normal daily
Women in the yoga group took 12 weekly classes that included
gentle yoga poses, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation.
They were also given a DVD and yoga props to use at home.
After 12 weeks, the women were having fewer hot flashes -- less
than five per day, on average. But women in the comparison group
reported a similar change. The only difference between the groups
was in insomnia symptoms, which improved to a greater degree in the
Woods said that women who feel they need a quick remedy for
their hot flashes might want to talk to their doctor about hormone
therapy. But if they're interested in a lifestyle change, yoga
could be part of that.
"There's no right or wrong answer," Woods said.
But both she and Newton said that, as with any type of exercise,
women should check with their health provider before starting a new
routine. There are also many different styles of yoga, some of
which are vigorous and may not be appropriate for everyone.
So before you jump into a yoga class, it's a good idea,
according to Woods, to talk to someone at the center about the
style taught there.
You'll also have to foot the bill. Yoga class prices vary, but
typically range between $10 and $20.
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine has more on
alternative therapies for menopause symptoms.