Between hot flashes, irritability and insomnia, menopause can be a real drag. And while Bikram yoga alone cannot banish all of these symptoms, it may offer some relief when your hormones go haywire. Menopause, or change of life, normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. During this time, your ovaries stop dispensing eggs and your estrogen and progesterone levels decline. Menopause lasts for up to five years, and officially ends a year after your final period. Doctors often treat menopause symptoms with hormone replacement therapy, but with side effects such as increased cancer risk you may feel safer with alternative therapies like yoga.
Bikram is sort of like yoga in a sauna. Studios are kept at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity while instructors guide you through 26 Hatha-inspired poses and two breathing techniques. Creator Bikram Choudhury claims that his brand of yoga improves the health of muscles, ligaments, veins and internal organs, and detoxifies your body through sweating. The Bikram website also claims that the heat softens your body, making it easier to transform. However, there is no clinical research to verify any advantages of Bikram over other yoga forms.
Yoga and Menopause
It is not just hocus pocus -- yoga really can help you get through menopause. In a study published in "Menopause International" in 2011, researchers followed women with comparable menopause symptoms. One group began a yoga routine while the other did not. After 90 days, the yoga group reported reduced symptoms, while the control group showed no improvements. One caveat -- although yoga moves may help your systems, the hot Bikram environment may be torture during a hot flash.
The sweltering conditions in the Bikram studio pose some risks, so protect your health by following some precautions. Guzzle cold water before, during and after your workout, and eat a salty snack a few hours before your session. The Bikram room is not the place to be modest; bare enough skin to allow sweat to evaporate from your body, cooling you down. Leave the room if you start to feel confused or weak. If you feel like you might pass out, lie down on your mat immediately.
If hormone replacement therapy is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of natural ways to battle menopause symptoms. Eat plenty of soy, which contains plant estrogens, and engage in regular exercise. Do Kegels to strengthen your vaginal muscles, and stay sexually active. Steer clear of caffeine, spicy food and alcohol, and consume foods with calcium and vitamin D. When you feel a hot flash creeping up on you, try slow, deep breathing techniques.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.