With a renewed focus on mental health awareness in the last few years, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the benefits of mindfulness practices like yoga, dance, tai chi, etc., for mental health have taken center stage. However, such practices have a significant bearing on physical health, too. Let’s explore the science behind yoga for PCOS.
About 13% of women of childbearing age suffer from PCOS. Around 70% of women worldwide do not even know they have PCOS. This physical ailment is the leading cause of infertility in women. Known to be genetic, a few variations of the syndrome do exist among ethnicities.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It begins during adolescence, and the symptoms may vary in intensity.
In this long-standing condition, cysts (fluid-filled sacs) form in the ovaries. The cysts cause hormonal changes. There are fewer female hormones like estrogen and more male hormones like androgen produced. The androgen gives rise to symptoms of PCOS, like facial hair, irregular menses, baldness, acne, and others.
A long-standing condition demands a long-standing solution. One such solution is yoga. Let’s explore yoga for PCOS.
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The symptoms of PCOS
PCOS shows itself through the following physical signs:
- Weight gain
- Loss of hair
- Facial hair
- Irregular menses
- No ovulation
- Inability to get pregnant
- Dark skin around the neck, underarms, and groin
PCOS shows itself through the following mental signs:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty to get out of bed
- Lack of self-care
- Inability to maintain social relationships
- Poor sleep
- Feeling frustrated
- Low self-esteem
- Poor body image
- Increased risk of bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Yoga for PCOS: How Does It Help
Since PCOS affects the mental sphere as much as the physical, yoga for PCOS is a longstanding solution. Research suggests women who did yoga three times a week for an hour had their testosterone levels reduced by 29%. They even benefitted from the alleviation of anxiety and depression. These are the two benefits of yoga for PCOS. The study was conducted for women between the ages of 23 and 42.
Here are some more benefits of yoga for PCOS.
Yoga can regulate the menstrual cycle
PCOS can lead to infertility. Yoga lends a hand in restoring the neurological-hormonal balance. Because of this restoration, blood circulation in the pelvic region increases. As a result, the menstrual cycle becomes regular.
Yoga can improve insulin levels
Metabolic markers, like insulin, glucose, and lipid proteins, improve because of yoga. It is more effective than physical exercise. Practicing yoga daily costs nothing and can be done wherever you like.
Yoga relieves stress
Mood swings and food cravings occur owing to stress and anxiety. Yoga lowers the cortisol levels that cause stress and anxiety. In turn, it reduces the episodes of mood swings and food cravings that come with PCOS.
Yoga can relieve hirsutism and hair health
Mindful yoga involves awareness of body posture and breathing. If this is performed three times a week for three months, there can be a significant reduction in testosterone levels. Reduced testosterone reduces facial hair growth formation and prevents male-pattern baldness seen in PCOS-affected women.
Yoga assists in weight loss
Yoga treats the mind more effectively than anything else. Since PCOS is a psychosomatic disorder, the benefits of yoga for PCOS are immeasurable. One such benefit is weight loss. Various yoga asanas and pranayama can get rid of heavy body weight.
Specific yoga poses for PCOS
Yoga builds core strength and increases mindfulness and the blood flow to the pelvic region. Here are specific poses that aid in improving the symptoms of PCOS:
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Bridge pose is exclusively for the glutes, small of the back, and thyroid gland. Research says this yoga exercise is ideal for toning the body, boosting metabolism, and losing weight.
Steps to do it:
- Lie down on your back. Fold your knees.
- Hold your ankles with your palms.
- Lift your lower back and glutes straight up.
- Calms the nerve cells
- Lowers anxiety and stress
- Assuages tension in the back muscles
Bow pose is particularly for losing belly fat. However, research shows improvements in complications of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus with this pose.
Steps to do it
- Lie down on your stomach. Raise your legs in the air upwards.
- Hold your legs at the level of your ankles with the help of your palms.
- You will find yourself in a bow pose. Your weight is managed entirely by the belly, groin, and pelvis.
- Absolves discomfort of the menses
- Increases circulation in the pelvic region
- Releases the tension of the abdominal muscles
The cobra pose strengthens the muscles of the neck, shoulder, arms, and back. Research says if one holds this pose for long, it can help them relieve anxiety and stress.
Steps to do it
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Fold your elbows. Touch your palms to the ground next to your chest. With your breath in, lift your upper body upwards.
- Stretch your neck and arms. Then look upwards. Hold it for as long as possible.
- Reduces the stiffness of your lower back by promoting circulation to the pelvis.
- Helps reduce belly fat.
- Balances hormones.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
The Downward Dog pose is ideal for losing weight as it stretches your whole body. Research shows it improves digestion and gives relief to flatulence.
Steps to do it
- Lie down on your stomach. Keep your ankles close to each other. Keep your palms close to your chest with the help of folded elbows.
- Now, lift your lower back. Slowly get up from the yoga mat. Stretch your arms and legs fully.
- Your palms and feet are touching the ground with your glutes up in the air.
- Improves blood circulation to the pelvic floor muscles
- Stimulates ovaries and uterus
- It helps stretch your back muscles
Shoulder Stand pose, or the Queen of Asanas, helps gain balance and better posture and boosts metabolism. Research shows it awakens intelligence, too.
Steps to do it
- With every step, breathe in, and with the next step, breathe out.
- Lie down on your back. Fold your knees. Raise your lower back upwards with the help of your palms.
- Supported by the pull of your abdominal muscles, raise your body upwards.
- Straighten your legs upwards and hold the weight of your body in your palms positioned at the lower back.
- Increased blood flow to your brain helps in dealing with emotional worries by calming your mind
- Promotes healthy functioning of the ovaries and uterus
- Aids in balancing hormonal disturbances
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Tips for getting started with yoga for PCOS
To incorporate yoga into your life’s hustle and bustle, you must start with these ten easy-to-adopt tips:
- Keep your stomach empty before you hit the yoga mat.
- A comfortable and dedicated space is the key to serenity and peace.
- Do not push yourself too hard trying to form a pose.
- Wear comfortable, loose, and cottony clothes.
- Respect your inner voice and listen to it.
- Your muscles must be relaxed and your spine straight.
- Focus on breathing and let your thoughts flow.
- Pause before you change a pose.
- Warm-up exercise is crucial before any pose.
- Get in touch with a professional yoga teacher.
Resources for more information about yoga for PCOS
You can check out these resources for more information on yoga for PCOS.
Yoga for PCOS: Benefits & Specific Poses that Can Help
Art of Living
Yoga for PCOD: Treat PCOS at Home
How To Treat PCOS Naturally – An Inspiring Success Story
Effect of yoga on polycystic ovarian syndrome: A systematic review
Nearly 5 million women of reproductive age suffer from PCOS in the USA. While the cause of this is unknown, effective management of the condition is possible. Yoga for PCOS works wonders. Various studies have shown the alleviation of symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome due to yoga.