A lifestyle condition, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is a common hormonal disorder of the female reproductive system. Statistics show that almost 1 in 10 women suffer from this condition today. It is also one of the main causes of infertility among women. Even in teenagers, PCOS is becoming a far more common condition today than it was some years ago. While there is no cure, it is said this condition can be managed with certain lifestyle changes and practicing yoga for PCOS is definitely one of them.
How does PCOS develop?
Although the condition arises due to hormonal imbalances where the ovaries produce more testosterone than they should, it is important to understand what causes this imbalance. PCOS affects the ovaries, the reproductive organs producing estrogen and progesterone, the hormones responsible for regulating the monthly cycle. The ovaries also produce male hormones called androgens and testosterone in small amounts. The Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are produced in the pituitary gland, control ovulation, that is, the release of an egg each month.
FSH is the hormone that stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle, a sac that contains an egg. After this LH triggers the ovary to release a mature egg. When the PCOS condition is there, many small, fluid filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. These sacs are called polycysts.
With PCOS, these sacs (follicles) contain an immature egg, which won’t trigger ovulation. And thus, the lack of ovulation keeps the estrogen, progesterone, FSH and LH levels low, and androgen and testosterone higher than normal. The existence of extra male hormones disrupts the menstrual cycle, so women with PCOS get fewer periods than usual.
What are the causes of PCOS?
Some of the most common factors for this imbalance to occur includes an unhealthy lifestyle, wrong food habits, lack of exercise and insulin resistance. In many cases PCOS runs in families, thus genetics is another big factor.
Stress is one of the main underlying factors that causes an imbalance and many health problems. In today’s world we are constantly in a state of fight or flight where our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. Demanding careers and maintaining work-life balance makes us multitask. With a long to-do list, our systems are exhausted by the end of the day, leading to stress. The increased cortisol level causes constant tension, lack of sleep and rest with no time for our mind and body to restore and recover. When this happens, we are less productive, eat mindlessly, give up on exercise and self-care. Good habits become hard to adapt and that’s where the health conditions start.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms can be quite evident in some cases, while in some they go unnoticed until there is difficulty getting pregnant or irregular periods. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Weight gain: Unexplained weight gain and even obesity can occur.
- Acne: Breakouts on the face, chest and back can be sudden and frequent.
- Irregular periods: Due to excess male hormones and lack of ovulation, the frequency of periods can go off-schedule. Some women get as little as 7-8 cycles in a year.
- Heavy bleeding: There is excess build up in the uterine lining because of the irregularity leading to heavy bleeding when the period does start.
- Excess hair growth: Excessive hair growth on the face, back, chest, abdomen, hands and legs are noticeable symptoms.
- Fatigue: There is often low energy and fatigue experienced due to the imbalance in the body and poor sleep.
- Headaches: Due to the hormonal changes in the body, frequent heads are also common.
How can PCOS affect the body
It is established PCOS can affect fertility. But it can also cause other ailments over a period of time. Weight gain and obesity can lead to diabetes, cholesterol and heart conditions. The bodily imbalances can lead to lack of sleep or sleep apnea too (causes breathing to pause while sleeping). This could then cause stress, anxiety and even depression. This might cause one to be more emotional and eat mindlessly, leading to poor digestive health too.
How practicing yoga for PCOS can be beneficial?
Manage PCOS with the Right Breathing Techniques
Pranayama or breathwork improves respiration and blood flow. It removes toxins, releases stress and induces slower, mindful breathing. This helps in improving balance in the mind and body. Different practices work on different aspects. For example, the frontal lobe cleansing technique (Kapal Bhati) releases congestion and blockages from different parts of the body. This helps manage weight, blood sugar and stress levels, all of which are greatly impacted in PCOS. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) releases toxins, relieves stress and balances the body. It is extremely effective in inducing calmness and peace.
Yoga Poses to Manage PCOS
Yoga is a great way to help manage the symptoms of PCOS. There are five asanas that is specifically designed to help with some of the most common symptoms of PCOS, such as irregular periods, excess hair growth, and weight gain. Give them a try and see how they can help you manage your PCOS. These asanas also work on reducing cortisol levels, elevating stress. Practicing with mindfulness and deep breaths helps one become more aware and experience more benefits.
Learn How to Meditate The Right Way
Meditation has immense benefits for the mind and body. It reduces cortisol levels and unwanted chatter in the mind. There is increased focus, balance and a sense of peace. The mindfulness that is developed stays with us through the day leading to better food choices, sleep routines and positive habits. The improved lifestyle is a major player in managing PCOS.
Prioritize Your Fitness and Lose The Extra Weight
Implementing a healthy lifestyle, including regular yoga practice and a balanced diet, can aid in PCOS weight loss efforts. When we move and sweat, we burn calories faster. The main systems involved in this process are our digestive and endocrine systems. And, almost every yoga practice stimulates and regulates the organs in these systems. Igniting the digestive fire with practices like Surya Namaskar or challenging Vinyasa flows is also extremely beneficial. Asanas that involve twists and bends improve circulation and remove toxins, ensuring good gut health. This strengthens the endocrine organs, boosting the metabolic process and balancing hormones.
Make Changes To Your Lifestyle
It all starts with making a change to your lifestyle. Incorporate a disciplined lifestyle and routine. Prioritize what truly matters to you by choosing your battles. It’s important to learn to respond to what makes a difference and let go of what doesn’t serve you well.
Following a balanced routine that involves eating right and sleeping at the right time have an impact on hormones too. Join a yoga class to bring regular exercise and movement into your life. According to Ayurveda, known as the Science of Life, we are made of three qualities or gunas. They are Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. They have a deep and significant role in determining our personality, mood, metabolism, body structure, and much more. There are also three body compositions, called doshas. One of these is prominent in every body. As per this, there are certain types of foods, beverages, habits and routines that suit or do not suit each type. When you learn the art of eating right, and try to apply it, it can help in managing PCOS to a very great extent.
While yoga cannot cure PCOS, the role it has in managing the condition can be extremely relaxing and beneficial for women. Many scientific studies have also been conducted on how yoga can help you manage PCOS.
In Shvasa’s live yoga classes, our teachers help you manage your conditions in a holistic and sustained manner. You can also speak to our Ayurveda experts to know more about your body type and get advice on improved lifestyle and routine.