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Physical Activity

In reviewing the literature, there was an obvious gap between the subjects of yoga and menopause, therefore the keywords used in conducting the literature review were “physical activity” and “exercise” in relation to menopause, anxiety, depression, and hot flashes.

Physical activity

Women who exercise less reported more symptoms related to menopause, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. Taking estrogen did not reduce all symptoms, and actually increased some of them. That being said, during menopause women who engage in moderate to high levels of exercise report fewer symptoms. Regular physical activity improves mental health, making people feel better overall, more positive, and less anxious or depressed.

Practicing yoga has also been shown to have positive effects on mental health, even without aerobic exercise. Women who practiced yoga had higher life satisfaction, lower aggression and excitability, and fewer somatic complaints. In comparison to drug therapy for anxiety, yoga was found to be effective in reducing symptoms, with some patients reporting no symptoms at all.

But how does yoga affect mood in people in the absence of clinical depression or anxiety? Researchers Berger and Owen found that both yoga and swimming led to a decrease in tension, fatigue, and anger. They believed that the positive mood changes in both activities were due to deep, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing, which they identified as a common factor. The study also showed that aerobic exercise was not necessary for positive mood changes to occur, indicating that breathing practices alone in yoga can be beneficial. Berger and Owen also suggested that other factors in yoga, such as muscle contraction, internal awareness, and present moment focus, may contribute to mood changes. This widely cited study highlights that breathing practices in yoga can be just as effective as aerobic exercise in producing positive mood changes.

Breathing properly, specifically using deep diaphragmatic breathing, is a key element in yoga and exercise that has many benefits. It can improve mood, increase energy, and reduce anxiety. Different types of physical activity, such as stretching or more vigorous exercises, may be more beneficial for different mood states, such as reducing energy for anxiety or increasing energy for depression.

In conclusion, the benefits of physical activities such as stretching, running, or swimming are known, but what is common and of major significance to both exercise and yoga is deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Both yoga and swimming have a direct effect on alertness, enthusiasm, sluggishness, sleepiness and the degree of upset, nervousness, contentment and calmness. However, yoga asanas, or postures, performed without deep diaphragmatic breathing did not show adequate results to support its use as an independent intervention for anxiety. In yoga it is the combination of postures and diaphragmatic breathing that reduces anxiety.

Although not widely promoted by medical doctors, research shows that deep, diaphragmatic breathing techniques play a pivotal role in producing significant changes in hot flash episodes, anxiety, and/or depression.