Yoga offers many health benefits to those suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that causes infertility and other problems. Learn how you can use yoga to treat PCOS.
What Causes PCOS?
Let us begin by understanding what PCOS or Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) stands for. PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that affects some women in their reproductive age (about 15 - 45 years of age). Unfortunately, PCOS has been affecting females as young as adolescent girls. Women who suffer from this condition produce the male hormone of androgen in larger quantities that eventually causes various symptoms, such as irregular menstrual cycles.
The most common PCOS symptoms are:
Irregular menstrual cycle - Women with PCOS might have fewer than 8 periods a year. Or their periods are more often than 12 times a year. Some women stop having menstrual periods at all.
Hirsutism - Some women have too much hair growth on the face, chin, back, chest etc. This condition, Hirsutism, affects up to 70% of women with PCOS.
Acne - Women suffering from PCOS might have a bad case of acne on their face, chest and upper back.
Hair Thinning - Women with PCOS might go through hair loss on the scalp replicating male-pattern baldness
Weight issues - Women with PCOS might gain too much weight and have difficulty losing weight
Mood Swings - Due to the severe hormone imbalance caused by PCOS, women suffering from it can tend to face emotional challenges.
One must watch out for these symptoms and treat this condition in earlier stages to minimise health problems - like problems with pregnancy, hormone imbalance, elevated stress levels etc. But the best way to prevent something is to know its causes and what triggers it. Once we are aware of the causes, we can try and avoid them.
Here’s what causes PCOS:
Insulin resistance Most women with PCOS have insulin resistance. Their cells do not utilise Insulin properly forcing the body to compensate by having the pancreas makes more insulin. Extra insulin triggers the ovaries to produce more male hormones which worsen the PCOS. Obesity is a huge trigger for insulin resistance which in turn causes PCOS.
Inflammation Women with PCOS often have increased levels of inflammation in their bodies. Being overweight can also contribute to inflammation. Studies have linked excess inflammation to higher androgen levels leading to PCOS.
Genes Unfortunately, PCOS tends to run in genes. Women with mothers, aunts and sisters who suffer from PCOS are more likely to suffer from PCOS too. It is likely that a group of genetic characteristics contribute to triggering PCOS in women from the same family rather than a single genetic trait.
How Can Yoga Help with PCOS?
While there are no known treatments for PCOS and PCOD, Yoga is known to help control the symptoms and help women lead a healthier lifestyle on a physical and emotional level.
Various yoga practices directly affect the endocrine system and help regulate and check the hormonal imbalances in our bodies. This can come in handy for women suffering from PCOS as this helps them balance testosterone, androgen and other hormones.
The dynamic yoga styles and regular exercise regimen can also help with weight loss. Yoga asanas provide the move and physical exercise required to increase blood circulation. They also help with the improvement of one’s metabolism ultimately helping control the body's blood sugar levels. Various yoga involves twists and stretches that releases tension in various muscles, relieving pain. Women with PCOS who suffer from Insulin resistance can greatly benefit from this.
Some Bandhas and Mudras are known to help improve the functioning of reproductive organs. They can help stabilise menstrual cycles and even help during the prenatal time frame for women trying to conceive.
Yoga Practises of Pranayama, Meditation, Yoga Nidra and certain Yoga poses are known to relieve mental and emotional stress. Stress is known to worsen PCOS and PCOD symptoms.
Studies show Yoga helps reduce anxiety. Women suffering from PCOS and PCOS have extreme mood swings including anxiety. Thus, Yoga helps alleviate stress, improving the symptoms of PCOS/PCOD.
Yoga For PCOS: PCOS Treatment With Poses
Dhanurasana - The Bow Pose
This asana stimulates the ovaries and strengthens the abdominal muscles. It also relieves stress and menstrual discomfort.
Step 1: Start by lying on your stomach. Bend your knees and grab your ankles while looking straight ahead. Stay relaxed while breathing deeply.
Step 2: Using your leg muscles, pull your upper body upwards. Keep your arms straight and slightly tilt your head upwards. Don't strain your back muscles to the point of discomfort.
Step 3: Release the asana by slowly lowering your body, and bring your breath back to normal while laying down.
Setu Bandhasana - The Bridge Pose
This asana eases menstrual cramps and stimulates the abdominal organs while also reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Step 1: Lie flat on your back. Bend your knees with both feet on the ground as close to your buttocks as possible. Exhale and raise your tailbone off the floor.
Step 2: Clasp your hands below the pelvic region while the arms are stretched out. Lift your buttocks with the knees directly over your heels and shoulder blades pressed firmly against your back.
Step 3: Maintain the pose for up to 1 minute and release it while exhaling.
Malasana - The Garland Pose
Malasana helps deal with irregular periods. This posture also helps with indigestion.
Step 1: Squat with your feet together and heels on the floor. Separate the thighs as wide as possible and lean forward while exhaling.
Step 2: Press the elbows towards the inner side of the knees and bring the palms together in a salutation Mudra.
Step 3: To release the asana, gentle come back to a standing position.
Yoga For PCOS: Bandhas For PCOS
The Sanskrit word ‘Bandha’ means lock, to block, to close-off and hold. Essentially, Bandhas are activated to regulate your energy or life force the way you want. The locks are employed to direct your Prana to the parts of your body you want.
There are three main Bandhas which when performed with guidance can help treat PCOS / PCOD:
Mula Bandha – the root lock
Jalandhara Bandha – the throat lock
Uddiyana Bandha – the diaphragm lock
Mula Bandha – the root
Can be activated by contracting the muscles at the bottom of the pelvic floor behind the cervix.
Engaging your root lock during your yoga practice allows your energy to flow up, not down and out which leaves you with a ‘floaty’ feeling. You will be lighter on your limbs, lighter on your mat.
Jalandhara Bandha – the throat
To do Jalandhara Bandha, sit tall and cross-legged. With your palms pressing into your knees, inhale through your nose and bring your chin towards your neck. Straighten your elbows, pull your chin back and engage the muscles there so you feel them tighten, then retain.
Jalandhara isn’t often performed by itself; rather, it is performed in combination with the other locks in breathing practices. It compresses the sinuses and main arteries of the neck, putting pressure on the throat to balance the thyroid and regulate metabolism. Plus, it relaxes you and alleviates stress.
Uddiyana Bandha – the ‘false inhale’
To do Uddiyana Bandha, stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, bend forward – with a straight back – and place your hands on your knees. With a “false” inhale, make an upward movement and feel your abdominal wall and navel is pulled in towards your spine. Your ribs should be protruding over and in front of your abs. You hold this for as long as you can, exiting by releasing your hold, inhaling through your nose and straightening up.
Uddiyana moves energy upwards with much more force than a pure Mula Bandha alone. It creates a soft massage for the deeper internal muscles of the lower back and is a fantastic remedy for abdominal and tummy troubles, as well as a stimulant for digestive juices.
Well, Bandhas are extremely fruitful for the brain centres, the Nadis (channels through which Prana streams) and the chakras (energy centres). They purify, remove blockages and harmonise and balance one’s emotions and moods.
Bandhas temporarily halt the flowing of blood, so when released there is an increased flow of fresh blood. This flushes away the old, dead cells and enables the organs to strengthen and renew as circulation is rejuvenated.
Engaging the Bandhas also activates single point concentration, a steady and controlled breath and a clear, calm mind. It helps to regulate all your internal systems - reproductive, hormonal, metabolic and digestive.
Yoga for PCOS: Yoga Nidra for Stress Relief
‘Yoga Nidra’ comprises the Sanskrit words: ‘Yoga’ and ‘Nidra. This translates to yogic or psychic sleep. In Yoga Nidra, we are always aware at our subconscious level and do not fall asleep. This state is intermediate between the awake and the dream state of consciousness. To know more about Yoga Nidra click here
Severe stress and anxiety disorder can lead to many psychosomatic complications including PCOS and PCOD. Mood swings, insomnia, imbalanced emotions, emotional breakdown, anger issues are some symptoms women with PCOS or PCOD suffer from.
Studies show that Yoga Nidra facilitates relief from stress and anxiety symptoms. Yoga Nidra’s deep relaxation method decreases the dominance of the sympathetic nervous system and increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is solely responsible for relaxation. By reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, Yoga Nidra puts the practitioner in a deeply relaxing state. This eliminates all the stress from its root. By de - stressing these women can control their symptoms and lead happier and healthier lives.
Follow along for a guided Yoga Nidra session here!
PCOS and PCOD can be treated by taking medicines, making diet and lifestyle changes. But, a yoga intervention is one of the most efficient ways to control PCOS and PCOD. A holistic yoga program is affordable, accessible and has no harmful side effects, unlike various medicines. Moreover, Yoga promotes overall well being and touches you positively in all aspects of your life! Roll out your yoga mat today and take control of your PCOS or PCOD condition rather than letting your condition control you any longer.