A common health problem many women go through today is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. A lifestyle disorder, this condition develops when the ovaries produce more testosterone than it should. This hormonal imbalance results in irregular periods, weight gain, acne, issues with fertility, etc. It leads to enlargement and cysts in the ovaries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, it affects 6 to 12% of women in their childbearing years.
What do scientific studies say about yoga and PCOS?
Yoga cannot cure this condition, but it can help you manage symptoms. Studies have shown practicing yoga balances hormones, reducing the testosterone levels. It also alleviates stress, anxiety and depression, a common cause and by-product of PCOS. One study showed participants who did a one-hour yoga class three times a week for three months reported reduced testosterone levels by 29%. Another study conducted in India showed that yoga helped in controlling endocrine function and decreasing the symptoms of PCOS. And other reported studies have also shown significant reduction in triglycerides levels, decrease in luteinizing/follicle stimulating hormone ratio, and the sex hormone binding globulin levels improved following yoga.
What are the types of yoga poses that can help manage PCOS?
For relief from pain and other symptoms of PCOS, it is important to do more gentle yoga poses, appropriate for all levels. You should focus on relaxing the mind and body through slow, deep breaths. This will reduce the stress levels (cortisol hormone) in the mind, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Furthermore, stretching the body, especially around the abdominal and pelvic regions is extremely helpful.
Garland Pose (Malasana)
Often known as the yogic squat, this posture is one of the best for women’s health. It increases the blood flow in the abdomen and pelvis, and strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. It also opens up the groin and hip region. Also being a squat, it helps in metabolism and digestion, helping manage weight. It is recommended to stay in the posture for 5-10 breaths, and to repeat a few times.
Bridge Pose (Setubandhasana)
The Bridge pose strengthens the spine and pelvic floor muscles, which greatly helps for PCOS. It also relieves tension from the back, which is often a concern during periods. It also opens up the chest and has a calming effect on the mind, helping with stress relief.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
The benefits of bow pose are immense. It helps stimulate the reproductive organs, and regulate hormones and menstrual flow. It also strengthens the back, shoulders and legs. It helps with metabolism and digestion by aiding the process due to the massaging effect it has on all the abdominal organs. It also opens up the chest, inducing better breathing.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
While the cobra pose is excellent for the lower back as it has a stretching and strengthening effect, it also massages the abdomen and pelvic region. It improves blood circulation in the pelvis, helping regulate the monthly cycle and relieves stress from the mind and body.
Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana)
Sarvangasana creates a lot of space in the abdominal and pelvic region, this helps relax any physical stress created due to gravitational forces in the region. The space generated in the inversion also helps improve circulation and removal of accumulated toxins from the pelvic region. Gentle contraction of the pelvic floor in Sarvanga also helps strengthen and stabilize the pelvic cavity contributing to better reproductive health.
What other yogic practices help in managing PCOS?
Frontal Lobe Cleansing (Kapal Bhati)
The frontal lobe cleansing technique is useful in managing the symptoms of PCOS. It helps manage weight, blood sugar and stress levels, all of which are greatly impacted in PCOS. While it cannot cure the condition, it provides a lot of relief. Care must be taken not to practice this during the monthly cycle.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
This balancing pranayama is extremely effective in inducing calmness, releasing stress and anxiety and instilling peace. The balancing effect it has on the mind and body is very helpful in balancing the hormones and regulating the natural cycles.
The relaxing effect yoga has on the mind and body can help alleviate some of the root causes of PCOS, like stress and irregular lifestyle. Adapting a yogic lifestyle, which is one of balance and mindfulness can also help manage PCOS in an effective manner.
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