Using yoga to combat incontinence

Though not often spoken about, urinary incontinence is an incredibly common condition. So common in fact, that it is estimated that there are between 3 to 6 million people in the UK alone suffering from the condition.

New research from the University of California

The unintentional passing of urine, incontinence can be caused by many different factors such as childbirth or stress. Now, new research from Alison J. Huang M.D. from the University of California in San Francisco has found that yoga when used as therapy is effective at decreasing the symptoms of the condition.

The research involved a study which examined the feasibility, efficacy, and safety of a group-based yoga therapy intervention for women (with an average age of 61.4 years) with stress, urgency, or mixed-type incontinence.

As part of the study, ten women were randomly assigned to a six-week yoga therapy program consisting of twice-weekly group classes and once-weekly home practice, and nine were randomised to wait-list control.

The researchers found that the total incontinence frequency decreased by 66 percent in the yoga therapy group, compared with a 13 percent decrease in the control group. While, the frequency of stress incontinence decreased by an average of 85 percent in the yoga therapy group, compared with a 25 percent increase in controls.

As a condition that is often embarrassing for sufferers and seldom spoken about, yoga presents a discreet way to treat incontinence.

A discreet treatment

Yoga is perfect for this because nobody needs to know why you are doing it. It is easy to say that you are doing it because it is good for you. One of the main benefits of practicing yoga is that it can help with the balance of the nervous system. The urge to urinate is often associated with the nervous system and so practicing yoga can help to stabilise this.

Although there are different types of yoga that can be done, one of the most common forms is known as ‘Mula Bandha’ or ‘Moola Bandha.’ These work very similarly to Kegel exercises and can strengthen and thicken the pelvic floor muscles. When suffering from incontinence, your pelvic floor muscles become weak. The pelvic floor muscles extend from the front to the back, holding up your bladder almost like a sling. When these muscles are weakened, you have less control of when you urinate. Doing yoga can help to strengthen these muscles, thus helping to treat urinary incontinence.

How to do the ‘Mula Bandha’ technique

1. During urination, try and stop midstream. The muscles that you use to stop urinating are the ones that you want to use during yoga.

2. Go to a quiet room, sit up straight and contract your muscles like you did when stopping your urination. Whilst doing this, contract the muscles around the anus and hold for 3 seconds.

3. Relax the muscles for 10 seconds, and then repeat this step, 9 times.

Doing this for three months can be very effective, and you can eventually move up to contracting the muscles for 10 seconds instead of 3. You will need to do this each day, but you will eventually notice a difference. You can do these anywhere, because nobody else needs to know that you are doing them. Over time, they can even be as effective as taking medication.

There you have it, yet another reason to start doing yoga. There are other forms of yoga available but this has proven to be the most beneficial. There is no need for you to suffer in silence!

Other treatments

There are several forms of treatment available when it comes to incontinence and not all of them are medicinal. Although taking medication is one of the easier routes to take, there are often a long list of side effects that accompany them. Other ways to deal with the symptoms of incontinence are by using devices such as intermittent catheters to drain the urine.

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