Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS often occurs in women of reproductive age. It is an endocrine disorder leading to weight gain, irregular periods, excess male hormones or androgens, and stubborn acne. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for PCOS yet, but there are multiple ways to control, prevent, or manage it. Yoga is one of the natural ways to manage PCOS. The science of yoga works as a detoxifying and stress-relieving approach to PCOS. It is also an easy and relaxing way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. However, the basic idea is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including good sleep, daily exercise, and a nutritious diet. And practising yoga can be a bonus.
How Does Yoga Help With PCOS?
A healthy lifestyle is essential for tackling PCOS, and yoga can help you manage the related symptoms. Hirsutism, or the presence of excess facial and body hair, is a common PCOS symptom. A study shows that performing yoga (asana) exercises for 90 minutes per session for six weeks effectively reduced hirsutism. Moreover, yoga is one of the recommended exercises to improve physical and mental symptoms, especially emotional health during PCOS. It is worth mentioning that yoga exercise does not require physical fitness or flexibility. Anyone can start doing it.
Physical and respiratory yoga exercises help increase flexibility and muscular strength. It also improves blood circulation and oxygen delivery to all the reproductive tissues and cells. As a result, women with PCOS see a beneficial difference in their reproductive function. Furthermore, as per studies, yoga poses reduce PCOS symptoms like menstrual irregularity, obesity, hypertension, and glucose intolerance. Therefore, pairing a proper diet with yoga and exercise helps decrease the symptoms and severity of the disease.
Benefits of Yoga for PCOS
Yoga cannot cure PCOS, but it can reduce the symptoms associated with this disorder. It helps reduce weight while reducing the risk of chronic complications. In addition, it improves blood sugar levels and blood circulation in the body.
Reduces the Male Hormone Levels
Performing yoga lowers the levels of male hormones in the female body. For example, a study says that women who completed the mindful yoga sessions had significantly lower testosterone levels. Additionally, it reduced PCOS induced anxiety and depression. Therefore, mindful yoga practice can be a complementary therapeutic option for lowering male hormone or serum androgen levels in women with PCOS.
Promotes Weight Loss
Weight gain is a factor responsible for PCOS. Yoga aids in weight reduction by boosting metabolic processes. It enhances the BMR in the body and stimulates calorie burning in the body. Research suggests that yoga interventions improve obesity-related outcomes, including BMR, body weight, body fat, and waist circumference. In addition, increased physical activity and clean eating behaviours increase lean muscle mass and help to shed extra weight.
Eases Oxidative Stress
Yoga can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It reduces pressure by stimulating de-stressing hormones and relaxing the body. By reducing stress hormones, it reduces oxidative stress in the body. Studies suggest that performing yoga consistently reduces stress and prevents further depressive complications associated with PCOS.
Women with PCOS have infertility in the absence of preventive measures. Research shows that yoga restores the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (neurohormonal balance) and increases blood circulation in your pelvic region. In addition, it reduces testosterone levels which encourages fertility.
Best Yoga Asanas for PCOS
Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar):
Surya namaskar helps balance doshas present in the body, i.e., Kapha, pitta, and Vata. It is a series of ancient yoga asanas with specific breathing patterns that massages the glands and balances hormone levels.
Surya namaskar decreases insulin resistance, blood sugar levels, and lipid profile to regulate the menstrual cycle. It also improves BMI along with weight reduction and low waist-hip ratio. All of these aid in reducing PCOS severity. Women suffering from PCOS tend to put on more weight, and these poses help keep the weight in check.
Steps to perform sun salutation:
- Keep your feet together and stand straight. Distribute your weight evenly between both feet.
- Inhale as you lift both arms from the sides. Exhale while putting them in a prayer position in front of your chest.
- Inhale as you stretch your entire body from the toes while keeping the spine straight.
- Exhale as you bend towards your toes while keeping the spine straight.
- Push back the right leg and keep it straight. Look straight.
- Get in the pushup position and hold for 1-2 seconds.
- Get in the cobra pose and hold the position for 1-2 seconds.
- Continue to inhale and exhale as you perform the yoga.
- And repeat the same cycle.
Reclining Butterfly Pose (Suptbandhkonasan):
It stimulates the abdominal and pelvic organs and stretches the inner thighs and groin. It relieves the stress symptoms associated with menstrual irregularities.
Steps to perform reclining butterfly pose:
- Lie down on your back to relax your body.
- Pull your legs close together in a butterfly pose.
- Hold your feet together and draw your hand close to the torso.
- Hold this pose for 5 minutes with simultaneous breathing.
- Relax after 5 minutes and take a break for 5 minutes. Repeat and relax.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana):
It makes the body flexible and relieves stress. In addition, it exerts pressure on the abdomen and boosts ovarian functions.
Steps to perform Cobra pose:
- Lie down straight on your stomach. Keep the palms facing down.
- You straighten your arms to elevate your chest off the floor as you inhale.
- Try to recline backwards as much as possible with your navel in contact with the floor.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Then before exhaling slowly and descending.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana):
It stimulates reproductive organs, eases menstrual cramps, and regulates menstrual flow. In addition, this pose increases the circulation to the pelvic region by releasing tension from the abdominal organs.
Steps to perform bow pose:
- Start lying down on your stomach. Fold your knees up and reach your hands to hold your ankles.
- Breathe in and lift your chest off the floor while keeping your legs up.
- Hold the pose for 15 seconds and continue breathing.
- Bring your chest and legs down, free the ankles’ hold, and relax.
Lotus Pose (Padmasana):
It promotes relaxation in the body by easing stress. Lotus pose significantly reduces the abdominal cramps that occur during the menstrual cycle. It stretches the inner organs and regulates hormonal imbalances. As a result, it reduces menstrual discomfort and hypertension and relieves the mind.
Steps to perform lotus pose:
- Sit on the mat with the stretched spine.
- Place your right knee on your left thigh with your right foot pointing upwards.
- Rest your feet close to the abdomen.
- Bend your left knee to cross the left foot over the right thigh, with the left foot pointing upwards.
- Place the hands on your knee and keep the head straight for a minute while breathing.
Boat Pose (Naukasana):
It is a yoga pose that focuses on abdominal muscles and organs. It exerts pressure on the abdomen and corrects the functioning of organs present in the abdominal area. They stretch the abdominal region and increase the blood flow toward reproductive organs. It relieves stress and improves ovulatory functions.
Steps to perform boat pose:
- Lay straight on your back. Keep the arms straight with your palm facing down alongside your body.
- Start elevating your arms and legs as you inhale.
- Make a boat-like shape and hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
- Then exhale and slowly descend to an earlier position.
Best Breathing Exercise for PCOS
Kapalbhati pranayam is a rapid breathing technique which relieves the symptoms associated with PCOS. It helps in weight management, blood sugar levels, and stress levels. It reduces oxidative stress levels and improves blood circulation levels in the body. In addition, it aids in weight reduction by promoting self-healing of the pancreas.
Steps to perform Kapalbhati pranayam:
- Sit cross-legged on the floor.
- Close your eyes and relax.
- Inhale while expanding the chest.
- Exhale with forceful abdominal muscle contractions to relax.
- Repeat ten times or 5 minutes.
Anulom Vilom (Alternate breathing exercise):
It is a breathing technique to purify the subtle energy channels called Nadis. As a result, it enables a smooth flow of vital energy and relieves stress. In addition, it calms the mind and increases blood circulation in the body.
Steps to perform anulom vilom exercise:
- Close your eyes and sit by resting your hands on your knees.
- Slowly inhale through the left nostril and block the right nostril with your right thumb.
- Gradually exhale through the right nostril.
- Block the left nostril while exhaling, and then inhale through your right nose.
- Repeat this process for 15 minutes and maintain your attention on the breathing pattern.
Bhramari is a breathing technique to ease mental stress, tension, and agitation. It regulates the functioning of the endocrine system. As a result, it improves nervous system functioning and emotional stability and increases insulin sensitivity.
Steps to perform bhramari:
- Close your eyes and relax.
- Place your index fingers on your ear cartilage and inhale.
- While exhaling, press the cartilage with your fingers.
- Keep the cartilage pressed while making a low humming sound.
- Breathe in and breathe out. You may repeat the process 6-7 times.
It is a series of 8 poses which includes pranayama, padmasana, makarasana, ardha salabhasana, salabhasana, bhujangasana, viparita salabhasana, and dhanurasana.
Steps to perform lotus meditation:
- Spin your body 4-5 times in each direction while sitting in a half-lotus position.
- Get in the makarasana position by lying down on your stomach with your head lifted and your feet perpendicular to the ground.
- Lift your feet from the floor one at a time and gradually get into Ardha salabhasana.
- Place your palms beneath your pelvis, elevate your limbs off the floor, and transition to poorna salabhasana.
- Proceed to the cobra pose by bending backwards with your hands near the shoulders, then transition to viprit salabhasana.
- Proceed to dhanurasana by grasping your feet with your hands in a bow shape with your torso.
Precautions to Take
Though yoga offers several health benefits, you should be cautious when practising yoga poses at home. It is necessary if you are a beginner.
Some precautions to take while doing yoga are:
- Always wear stretchable pants and comfortable clothes.
- Pre-workout meals are not good when you do yoga, as many asanas pressure your abdomen.
- Use a yoga mat to prevent slipping and falling.
- Keep your body hydrated. Hydration is essential for reaping the maximum benefits of yoga.
- Don’t push or force yourself if you cannot do a yoga pose perfectly right away. It might do more harm than good.
Yoga improves reproductive functions by reducing stress and balancing your hormones. In addition, it acts as a preventive measure against the symptoms associated with PCOS. Yoga practices include physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. In addition, yoga helps with mental health conditions related to PCOS, such as depression and anxiety. Modern science has also started accepting the growing importance of yoga in treating PCOS. However, yoga alone cannot manage PCOS. It would be best to have a customised treatment plan with a healthy diet and lifestyle modifications to tackle PCOS.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can yoga cure PCOS?
A. PCOS is incurable, but yoga is one way to manage the PCOS symptoms. Performing yoga asanas help reduce testosterone levels in the female body. Yoga also helps in balancing the hormones and managing weight.
Q. Which yoga pose is best for PCOS?
A. There are many effective poses to manage symptoms associated with PCOS. Some of the poses are cobra pose, child pose, spinal twist pose, corpse pose, butterfly pose, and mill churning pose. Sun salutation and breathing exercises are also suitable for managing PCOS. They effectively manage hormonal balance, weight loss, and easing stress.
Q. How does yoga help PCOS?
A. Yoga eases stress by reducing the level of stress hormones in females. In addition, it promotes calorie burning rate in the body by boosting metabolism. Weight gain is a significant factor responsible for PCOS, and yoga can control unnecessary weight gain. In addition, performing yoga helps improve fertility and enhances the blood supply to the brain to balance the hormonal levels.
Q. Which exercise is best for PCOS?
A. Exercises that increase the heart rate of an individual are best for PCOS. These exercises include cardio and aerobic activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming. In addition, they help reduce insulin resistance which is prominent in PCOS.
Q. How does Butterfly pose help PCOS?
A. Butterfly pose is one of the best yoga poses to manage PCOS. It works on the muscle of the groin area, inner thighs, and organs in the abdominal cavity. It opens up the pelvic region and promotes relaxation in the system. In addition, it helps to regulate the hormonal system, which reduces inflammation and reduces ovarian cysts.
Q. Is PCOD and PCOS the same?
A. PCOD is a metabolic disorder that occurs because of hormonal imbalance. PCOS is an endocrine disorder and a more severe form of PCOD. In PCOD, ovaries contain immature or partially mature eggs. PCOS can disrupt ovulation or cause anovulation, where ovaries stop releasing eggs.
Q. Can surya namaskar cure PCOS?
A. No, PCOS is not curable. But performing Surya namaskar helps in weight loss, improves lipid profile, and regulates the menstrual cycle. In addition, it helps in lowering the waist to hip ratio in women. It is effective for women with PCOS because it helps regulate hormonal balance and manage PCOS symptoms.
Q. Which Mudra is best for PCOS?
A. Mudras are hand gestures done with breathing while sitting in a lotus or thunderbolt position. They stimulate the flow of vigour in the body and uplift the mood. Mudras are helpful to balance the doshas and provide relief from PCOS symptoms. Two such mudras, shankh mudra and Vayu mudra are beneficial for PCOS.
Q. Is PCOS serious?
A. Yes, PCOS is a severe metabolic disorder. Women with PCOS usually have problems getting pregnant due to cysts forming around the eggs. In addition, PCOS can cause complications such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, and uterine cancer. However, you can manage it with lifestyle modifications, diet, and medicines.
Q. Which Yoga is best for irregular periods?
A. Bow pose is the best yoga for the reproductive system as it improves the menstrual cycle. Regular practice of bow pose improves flexibility by stretching back muscles. In addition, it helps reduce stomach fat and strengthen the spinal cord, thighs, and ankles—all of this helps relieve menstrual irregularities and discomforts.