Yoga Fails to Cool Hot Flashes, But May Aid Sleep
Expert says longer study might have found more benefit for menopausal women
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 does."
"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 exercise.
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 routines.
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 yoga group.
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.