How Yoga can Help Bladder Disorders and Other Chronic Conditions

Yoga is a type of mental and physical exercise that has been used in traditional Indian medicine since ancient times.

In recent years it has become more and more popular as a form of exercise and relaxation technique in the Western world.

Its use as a therapeutic intervention to accompany other forms of medicine has also grown in the West.

Today I would like to take a look at how yoga can be used as a therapy for chronic urologic conditions such as interstitial cystitis and chronic UTIs and chronic illness in general.

Yoga’s Role in Chronic Disease

Yoga positions and deep breathing as a form of moderate exercise may have many benefits for those afflicted with chronic illness.

Overall, people practicing yoga have been found to have lower rates of excitability, aggressiveness, emotionality and bodily complaints.

Additionally, yoga gives the benefits of light to moderate exercise in terms of aerobic capacity and muscle strength.

For the chronically ill, yoga could also be adapted to fit one’s capacity for exercise, from very light to more challenging positions.

As stress often is a problem for many chronically ill people, yoga could be used as a form of relaxation technique. Studies have shown increased endorphin and dopamine release in people practicing yoga. Both are neurotransmitters that reduce pain and help us feel good.

Further studies have shown improvements in cardiovascular markers, vital capacity markers, lung capacity and brain EEG patterns.

Yoga and Chronic Bladder Conditions

Many urological disorders such as interstitial cystitis or incontinence are associated with and can be aggravated by poor muscoskeletal and nerve function of the back and pelvis.

When it comes to the pelvic floor, there can be both problems with reduced muscle tone (such as incontinence) and increased tightness of muscles in the pelvic floor.

Certain yoga positions can help strengthen and tone the layers of the pelvic floor. On the other hand, yoga exercises may also help to relax the muscle layers of the pelvic floor.

Overall, yoga may help to bring awareness to the pelvic region so that one is able to control the muscles better to be able to self-correct any imbalances.

Moreover, many yoga exercises address the health of the spine and lower back, which can play a big role in bladder health.

How to Design a Yoga Program for Your Own Needs

It is advisable to work with an experienced yoga instructor and your doctor to help you design the optimal yoga routine for your own personal needs.

For this, one’s physical health, body weight, age and physical fitness should be taken into account.

A basic yoga program should follow the structure of other basic exercise programs: warm-up exercises, main exercises and cool-down exercises. This can include deep breathing exercises, which may be beneficial for stress relief.

The following exercises may be helpful for urologic conditions:

  • Frog Pose (with kegels)
  • Sitting forward bend
  • Shoulder stand
  • Fish Pose
  • Locust Pose
  • Plank pose
  • Bird Pose
  • Seated Twist
  • Bridge pose
  • Cobra Pose
  • Cow pose
  • Crocodile pose
  • Downward facing dog
  • Side leg lifts
  • Squatting pose
  • Wind reliving
  • Deep breathing (for stress reduction): basic deep breathing, lying flat on back, alternate nostril breathing

Are you practicing yoga? Has it helped with chronic illness? Has it helped with stress relief? Let me know in the comments!

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Ripoll, E. & Mahowald, D. World Hatha Yoga therapy management of urologic disorders J Urol (2002) 20: 306

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