A recent study conducted by doctors from the University of California, San Francisco finds evidence supporting specialised yoga programs in helping women with urinary continence. The pilot randomised trial demonstrated a decrease in total urinary incontinence frequency in women over 40, with fewer incontinence episodes and lower stress incontinence frequency.

The study was published in the Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery, the official journal of the American Urogynecologic Society in April 2014 and showed that a yoga training program, designed to improve pelvic health, can help women gain more control over their urination and avoid accidental urine leakage.

"Yoga is often directed at mindful awareness, increasing relaxation, and relieving anxiety and stress," said first author Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. "For these reasons, yoga has been directed at a variety of other conditions -- metabolic syndrome or pain syndromes -- but there's also a reason to think that it could help for incontinence as well."

Yoga for Urinary IncontinenceHuang and her colleagues recruited 20 women from the Bay Area who were 40 years and older and who suffered from urinary incontinence on a daily basis. Half were randomly assigned to take part in a six-week yoga therapy program and the other half were not. The women who took part in the yoga program experienced an overall 70 percent improvement -- or reduction -- in the frequency of their urine leakage compared to the baseline. The control group -- or the group that did not start yoga therapy -- only had 13 percent improvement. Most of the observed improvement in incontinence was in stress incontinence, or urine leakage brought on by activities that increase abdominal pressure such as coughing, sneezing, and bending over.

Huang and her colleagues believe that yoga can improve urinary incontinence through more than one mechanism. Because incontinence is associated with anxiety and depression, women suffering from incontinence may benefit from yoga's emphasis on mindful meditation and relaxation. But regular practice of yoga may also help women strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the bladder and protect against incontinence.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity for women to use yoga to become more aware of and have more control over their pelvic floor muscles," Huang said.

Not all types of yoga may help with urinary incontinence. The yoga program used in the study was specially designed with input from yoga consultants Leslie Howard and Judith Hanson Lasater, who have experience teaching women to practice yoga in ways that will improve their pelvic health.  Still Huang and her colleagues believe that many women in the community can be taught to preserve pelvic muscle strength and prevent incontinence.

“It would be a way for women to gain more control over their pelvic floor muscles without having to go through traditional costly and time-intensive rehabilitation therapy,” Huang said.

Source: UCSF News Article by Elizabeth Fernandez. Original story edited for length.