The claim: You know it helps with balance and flexibility, but new research shows yoga can also help you gain control over embarrassing urinary leakage, according to a study from UC San Francisco published in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery.
The research: Lead researcher Alison Huang, assistant professor at UCSF School of Medicine, studied 20 women 40 years and older who suffered from urinary incontinence on a daily basis. Half of the women took part in a six-week yoga therapy program while the other half did not. The women who did yoga experienced an overall 70% reduction in the frequency of urine leakage, while the control group experienced a 13% improvement. The positive change was most notably seen in situations involving stress incontinence, urine leakage triggered by activities that increase abdominal pressure, such as coughing, sneezing, or bending over.
What it means: Since anxiety and depression are often associated with urinary incontinence, researchers believe yoga's benefits may relate to its emphasis on meditation and relaxation. In addition, practicing yoga on a regular basis may also helps strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and prevent the accidental leaks.
The bottom line: The program included a number of common Hatha yoga poses, including Chair Pose (Utkatasana), Triangle Pose (Trikonasana), and Squat Pose (Malasana), says Huang. "But it's important for women to learn to practice these and other poses in ways that specifically address pelvic floor dysfunction and other contributors to urinary incontinence," she says. She encourages women to seek instruction from an experienced yoga teacher with knowledge on pelvic floor health, like Leslie Howard, who designed the yoga program for the study. You can also check out two books: The Female Pelvis by Blandine Calais-Germain and Pelvic Power by Eric Franklin, which both provide helpful instructions for pelvic floor work.