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Yoga for PCOS

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Now, I must confess, I have not done yoga before and have very little experience with it. But, when today’s guest blogger, Bethanie Wright, offered to do an article on yoga for PCOS, I was intrigued. I’m always interested in finding out about things that can help my PCOS.

Bethanie is has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and was diagnosed with PCOS in 2013. She practices yoga regularly and believes that yoga, along with diet and exercise, has been an integral part of her healing and dealing with PCOS. 

So, I’m going to hand you over to Bethanie to look at how yoga can help us with our PCOS. As with any PCOS management strategies, please consult your doctor if you have any questions or before starting any new treatment regime.

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Recently, yoga has been creeping out from under the woodwork and becoming something that is relatively well-known, at least here in the United States, where I take residence. It’s even become quite trendy with new yoga magazines, new yoga clothing stores, new yoga studios and new yoga props popping up everywhere it seems. As a yoga instructor, some places, I personally feel, have even skewed yoga’s true meaning and purpose combining it with Pilates (not that there is anything wrong with Pilates, just the combination isn’t the best idea), turning it into a lean, mean, fat-fighting machine, catering to very specific clientele and people may be feeling they have to look or be a certain way to jump on the yoga bandwagon. This is untrue. One of the most beautiful things about yoga is you can be who you are, how you are, anywhere you are, believe anything you believe and yoga is still for you. Anyone can do yoga! Even our beautiful, voluptuous, PCOS selves. Actually, yoga is an amazing complementary practice alongside our PCOS diet and exercise and can have some profound changes, even molecularly. Interesting, huh. We are what we…think, too!

yoga-for-PCOS-yogaYou may be wondering, what type of yoga is best for me? Honestly, whatever your doctor approves! The best though, for us women with PCOS, is either Gentle Yoga, Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga. The reasons for this is because these three practices have a profound effect on our stress hormones due to their slow processes and the requirement of complete relaxation. You have the chance to entirely melt into the pose. You do what you wish as you’re responsible for you, but I do recommend beginning with a Gentle Yoga or Restorative Yoga first.

As we are very well-aware, we tend to struggle with mood instability, weight gain, irregular moon cycles (periods), intense carbohydrate cravings and of course a whole slew of additional symptoms that make it a difficult process to overcome. Tarryn has already taught us a great deal on the mechanisms behind our seemingly unruly symptoms but most of our symptoms can be tacked to the increase of testosterone, regardless of the reason, that leads to the cascading effects that we experience. Believe it or not, our periods are programmed to coincide with the cycles of the moon and due to this excess testosterone, our periods are not cycling how they are naturally programmed. Yoga comes in and by completing the asanas and/or meditations, it has an impeccable ability to calm the mind which in turn calms the body, so you start to see a decrease in stress hormones and a regulation of hormonal balance. There are many articles about this all over the internet! Just take a peek at some of them. You can get a small effect if you do yoga occasionally, which is entirely better than nothing, but you will reap the true benefits if you decide to make more of a more frequent practice of it. That’s up to you to experience though! With the better regulation of our hormones, we will see an easement in our tendency toward rapid weight gain too. All of our symptoms are so intricately intertwined, one thing affecting another in turn affecting another. We are all integrated beings. Yoga also helps you learn how to tune into yourself so you are able to more effectively give it exactly what it needs. Now yoga is not a cure-all thing. With the proper PCOS diet and exercise, yoga can help you feel more at ease and slowly decrease these heinous symptoms that we deal with day in and day out and give a little piece of you back to yourself. Give it a try and you will not regret it! I, of course, always encourage speaking with your doctor before beginning anything new, such as yoga, to ensure you do what is truly best for yourself and your unique body.

Here are a few poses to try that are good for us women with PCOS:

Child’s Pose

Start on your hands and knees and pressing through your palms, allow your bottom to move toward your heals curling up into a little ball. Some women, like me, are quite busty so child’s pose tends to be best for these types of figures with big toes touching and knees wide apart allowing the bust to fall between the knees. This positioning is also helpful for those that have larger bellies.

Benefits: Helps release the lower back of tension, relieve menstrual cramps if you have your period, calms the CNS (Central Nervous System)

Energetics: Balancing the Venus Chakra. Is known for reaching the back side of the heart, the dark side where we keep those things we don’t like to address. Shed some light on the back side of our heart by breathing in and directing the breath toward the space on our back where the back of our heart is.

 

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Gentle Twists

There are many different twists and in many positions to do them. You choose whatever you feel is right for you. Starting in a laying position, bend your knees, placing your feet on the Earth parallel to each other and about hip-width apart, allow your arms to come out like wings, as if you were a bird. Inhale then exhale your legs off to the right side allowing them to rest on the Earth and your head moving in the opposite direction, or the same direction as your knees. If you can’t get your legs to the floor, place a blanket or bolster under your legs so your legs won’t be floating in space. Inhale your legs up to center, then repeat on the other side.

Benefits: Helps stimulate digestion, brings fresh blood flow to the kidneys, pancreas (some of us struggle with the functioning of our pancreas) and liver, gently massages and stimulates the reproductive organs, calms the CNS

Energetics: Balancing the Mars Chakra balancing our passion, our anger and aggression, balancing our Jupiter Chakra allowing more expansion and growth in our lives.

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Cat-Cow Pose

You can choose to do this on your hands and knees if they allow or seated/kneeling. Starting in a neutral spine, press through the middle of your shoulder blades allowing the space between them to become larger, dropping and relaxing the neck, tailbone beginning to point downward toward the Earth creating a large “Cat” arch in the spine. Coming back through neutral and swaying the opposite direction, allow your tailbone to begin to point upward toward the sky, allowing your mid-back to arch in the opposite direction, keeping your head in line with your spine, press out through your shoulders and feel the space between your shoulder blades become smaller, creating a large “Cow” arch of the spine. Move through as many of these as you would like. Inhaling on the “Cow” and exhaling on the “Cat”.

Benefits: Creates a lot of movement in the spine, loosens the shoulders and neck (if you relax them during the pose), massages and stimulates the abdomen and the reproductive organs, awakens the CNS

Energetics: Balancing the Venus Chakra known for self-love, increasing our awareness, compassion and self-love, balancing the Mercury Chakra responsible for effective and precise communication.

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Corpse Pose

Lay down completely on your back, arms near your sides or outstretched as if you had wings. Relax every part of your body as much as possible and allow your body to melt into the Earth below you. If you have a tight lumbar spine or it’s just uncomfortable, you can place a blanket, bolster or some type of support under your knees to lighten the torque on the lower back. Also, if you tend to have a larger caboose, you may also want to place a large support under your knees.

Benefits: Centers you, relaxes the lumbar spine, allows you to relax your entire body and work on your abdominal breathing, calms the CNS

Energetics: Balancing of all Chakras

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Dancer

Stand with your feet parallel in your mountain pose. Keeping both feet on the floor at this point, bear most of your weight over onto the right side of your body, feeling your right foot become heavier and more grounded than the left. Bend at the knee, allowing your foot to bend up toward your bottom. Place arms wherever comfortable. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can reach your right arm and grab hold of your right foot. If you’re feeling daring, press that right foot into that right hand allowing the mid-back to come into an arch and lean forward hinging from the hips. Come back to your mountain pose and repeat on the other side. Remember, lift from the chest and don’t crunch with the lumbar spine.

Benefits: Uplifting and energizing, leg strengthening, back strengthening, stretches the quads, heart opening which represents compassion and self-acceptance

Energetics: Balancing of the Mars and Jupiter Chakras

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Wide-legged seated forward fold

Sit on the floor, or propped but a bolster or blanket, allow your legs to press away from one another where your legs become a wide “v” shape. Gently flex your feet keeping knee caps pointed upward, with elongated spine as if someone is using a string to pull your spine upward and out through the top of your head and lean forward between the “v” shape you created. Breathe, hold as long as you wish and come out of it. Repeat as many times as you feel is right for you.

Benefits: Calming to the CNS, stretches the hamstrings and is very comforting, allows for open space for pelvis to be free and not crunched, relieves lower back tension, relieves menstrual cramps

Energetics: Balancing of the Saturn Chakra, allowing for more stability and trust

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f you are on your moon cycle, it’s important to continue to keep the flow downward so try your best to not perform any yoga poses where your pelvis is higher than your head. Good examples are avoiding inversions and if you do perform them, you will actually feel that something isn’t quite right. Our body is cleansing itself and getting rid of a build-up of toxins and matter that have accumulated. It’s best to keep the energy flow moving in the direction it’s supposed to; downward.

I hope you enjoyed this and get a great benefit out of yoga, as I do!

Shanti,
Bethanie

So, what do you think? Have you tried yoga to mange your PCOS? I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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26 Responses

26 Responses

  1. Hi, I tried to post a question earlier but I think got accidentally erased. I would like to know your thoughts on Yoga’s ability to raise testosterone. There are some poses that raise (ofr example the cobra pose can raise T by 33% in just a few minutes; full lotus and headstand are also poses that can raise testosterone), and this would not be good for PCOS. Do you have any thoughts on this and do you know any poses that would do the opposite, i.e. lower T?

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Judi,

      This is such an interesting idea that has recently surfaced, although I’ve seen it related when it comes to projecting power and how standing in a particular way for a few minutes (known as power poses) can increase your testosterone up to 33%. This in turn helps project confidence and power. Yoga poses, I would imagine, can have the same effects because it’s all about posture. I have not read any information about this, and there is no research about it currently, but something doesn’t quite sit well with me about it because you would imagine yogis would have higher levels of testosterone due to this, particularly Yin instructors.

      Something to mention is in most forms of yoga, excluding Yin, poses are held anywhere from 0-15 seconds, not for minutes at a time, so I’m not sure how 15 seconds of holding cobra would effect testosterone levels. This would be an interesting research topic to compare the different forms of yoga related to testosterone levels.

      I wish I had an answer for you with this, and a suggestion on what poses would decrease it (according to some research I briefly did, they inversely correlate testosterone and cortisol…As a scientist, I’m not sure about this relationship), I wouldn’t know either. I am sorry. What I do know is yoga is tremendous for reducing stress levels, which reduces cortisol, which reduces abdominal fat and keeps testosterone in check, allows us to sleep better, improved proper hunger signaling, and so many more things.

      Good luck to you! Keep being thirsty for knowledge 🙂
      Shanti,
      Bethanie

  2. What is your take on yoga’s ability to increase testosterone. There are many poses (ex. Cobra and bow pose, spinal twist, full lotus, headstone to name a few) that increase testosterone levels. Cobra pose I have read increases levels by 33% in just a few minutes. This is obviously not something a PCOS-er wants, so I have been avoiding doing it. Are there any poses that will lower the dreaded T?

  3. hi
    i have been experiancing irregular periods from a year and now i also found that my hairs are grown on the breast, unexpected weight gain, acne, dryness. kindly let me know are these symptoms of PCOS. and what can i do for that. do i need to visit doctor or not. kindly help me because i have been experiancing this from a year

    1. Hi Misbah,

      Those are fairly common symptoms of PCOS. You should see your doctor about a possible diagnosis.

      1. Hi
        I had consulted doctor they gave me birth control pills, I asked why they are going it,said to regularise my period, but I never skipped my periods until I started taking pills after taking them my peri delaying a lot what should I do about this

  4. Hi Bethanie,
    I am suffering from PCOS from past two years. I was under medication. The moment I stop taking tablet I didn’t get my menstraul cycle. When I suffered from Dengue I completely stopped taking tablets for PCOS. Just I started going to yoga class. Can you please tell me how long it will take to cure PCOS with yoga. I am so tensed because of my PCOS. My husband is suggesting to meet doctor but I am preferring yoga. Which is best and effective? The worry is the time it takes to regularise the period. Please help me.

    1. Hi Monica!

      I am so sorry to see your suffering…I understand SO WELL. Yoga is absolutely amazing with being supportive with managing the symptoms of PCOS, however, it is not a “cure” to PCOS. Unfortunately, PCOS is incurable, but there are ways you can help to manage it. Eating a dairy-free, gluten-free and low GL diet, exercising regularly and bringing yoga into your daily life will be a very well-rounded approach to your PCOS management! Of course, I do always say seeing a doctor is important because yoga, on its own will not be entirely effective, but it is important to start somewhere, though. Also, I do want to mention, sometimes when it comes to management of PCOS, try your very best to let the stress go. Our psychological state (i.e. stress for you) can easily interfere with our PCOS and can cause some huge issues with our hormonal balance. This is where yoga can be incredibly beneficial for you. The asanas mentioned in this article are calming, which sounds as if you could really use it. I truly with you the very best, and remember, we are all in this together!!

      Please outreach me if I could be of anymore yogic support!

      Shanti,
      Bethanie

    1. Hi Zahra!

      I am so sorry! For some reason, I haven’t been receiving notifications of the posted comments. Yes, one of PCOS’s main hallmarks is having cysts of our ovaries. Yoga, and particularly these asanas are very beneficial and helpful for PCOS! I HIGHLY recommend bringing these asanas into your life, however, do remember it’s important to also follow a PCOS diet which tends to be dairy-free, gluten-free and low GL and exercise to help with managing your PCOS. Yoga, a PCOS-friendly diet and exercise are what you need to manage your PCOS!

      Let me know if I can be of anymore Yogic support!
      Shanti,
      Bethanie

  5. I’m also excited to hear yoga can help with my PCOS. I am not fit at all at the moment but I have been trying to get back into physical activity. Thank you for the detailed position list with pictures! I have done yoga a few times and love how it makes me feel when I do it regularly 🙂

    1. Hi Kate!

      I am so, so happy to hear that you are finding it helpful! Yoga truly makes you feel amazing when done regularly; you understand! I wish you the best 🙂

      Shanti,
      Bethanie

  6. I have done yoga in the past and the poses that she lifted above are some of my favorites. I didn’t even know it helped with PCOS.

    1. Hi Rajalakshmi!

      I am so, so happy you enjoyed it and I hope that you are reaping the benefits of the practice! Thank you very much for kind words 🙂

      Contact me if I can be anymore yogic support!

      Love, Light and Shanti,
      Bethanie

  7. I am suffering from PCOS and hirsutism. I started with yoga which included 50 rounds of surya namaskar, and few other aasanas. All I want to know is how far will it be helpful in bringing my hormone levels back to normal. I am really tensed and in need of a guidance. PLease help.

    1. Hi Samhita!

      I am so sorry to see you are suffering. I entirely understand the journey! We all do on this blog! PCOS can be such a beast…Surya Namaskar is wonderful, absolutely wonderful and can have some really amazing benefits but depending on where you’re at with your mood and energy level, Surya Namaskar may not be the best option at this point in time.

      If you are feeling anxious and feeling ungrounded, which it sounds as if you are because you mentioned that you are tense, you will want to perform slower, gentler moving asanas such as those that I featured in this article. Slower, gentler poses will calm you and restore you because being tense, depletes your energy very quickly and creates a major disruption in our already chaotic hormone cycles. Having slower, gentler poses will also lower your cortisol levels eventually leading to lower testosterone but also keep in mind, this is complimentary and it takes a well-balanced PCOS diet to level out your hormone levels in conjunction with a regular yoga practice (as well as additional exercise). Take your time in your poses, and do not rush 🙂 If you fall into a mood where you are feeling lethargic and sad, then Surya Namaskar is perfect because it is energizing, uplifting and will help get you out of that funk.

      Hang in there, Samhita. I hope this provides you some relief! 🙂

      Let me know if I can be of anymore yogic support!

      Love, Light and Shanti,
      Bethanie

    1. Hi Danielle!

      Thanks so much for your question! My professional opinion about Bikram for the general population is sort of mixed. I think it is a wonderful exertion, a way to really sweat out toxins and build up especially because many women with PCOS, if not eating well and exercising, tend to be less active thus have a lot more toxins to push out (not to mention sometimes our binge eating on not-so-good foods). However, many people don’t realize that Bikram is not really a newbies sport. Bikram can be dangerous because most instructors(not all of course) don’t teach you how to properly perform the poses which can lead to injury, most instructors (not all again of course) don’t watch you carefully to see if you are actually performing the poses safely, you’re in a heated and moist room which allows muscles to be incredibly pliable and those that aren’t active and may not know their bodies well can very easily overstretch muscles leading to injury AND many beginners to exercise in general usually can’t handle the intense conditions of performing Bikram.

      For women with PCOS, on the other hand, it can be very, very beneficial for us. It is an intense cardio practice which can have a tremendous positive influence on our glucose/insulin regulation/response leading to a better hand at managing our excess testosterone. It is also connecting us to ourselves on a very deep level(as all yoga does)leading to a better hand on our moods. So, if you already have a yoga practice, know how to properly perform most yoga poses (at least the 26 that Bikram consists of), you are active and you respond well to moist heat, Bikram could be a very nice compliment to your overall wellbeing. Of course, as I always say, consult your doctor beforehand to ensure she recommends it to you and feels you could perform it safely.

      If Bikram isn’t your thing, the Mother of all yogas is Hatha Yoga. That is what I teach. There is a wonderful website that I really enjoy as an instructor and it’s wonderful for students as well. It’s Yogajournal.com. Please ignore the advertisements lol but the website is very well-made and can walk you through some beautiful poses helping you achieve more balance. When your mind is in balance, your body is in balance 🙂

      Have a beautiful day and if you ever have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me! 🙂

      Love, Light and Shanti,
      Bethanie

      1. Thanks so much for your answer, Bethanie. I had been doing Bikram for a while but stopped because the studio near me closed. Another opened recently and I wanted to restart my practice. I’ve gone to one class and it was the first I’d been to where an instructor corrected me, so I feel a lot better about going after your response. I do enjoy how I feel afterwards and, hopefully, this will help me lose the weight that dieting and Metformin never seems to get rid of.

        1. You are more than welcome, Danielle! WOW, I am so happy to hear you found a great place with a great instructor! Due to the environment of Bikram, I’ve experienced many instructors simply stand up on their stage, perform the poses and never leave their stage so it is so wonderful and refreshing to hear of other great instructors. Hold on to her or him lol 🙂

          I understand the journey, for sure. Keep working at it, lady! We are all on a similar path with the struggles with weight but with lots of effort, eating right, exercising and achieving overall balance, we can get there 🙂 WOO!

          Happy New Year to you!

          Love, Light and Shanti,
          Bethanie

  8. My OB told me Yoga would be one of the best things I can do for my PCOS. I haven’t really been much into it, but I really need to try.

  9. I love yoga for just about anything, but if it will help with PCOS thanI am even more sold! I am recently diagnosed and just starting to learn about things I can do to help my symptoms. I am glad to hear something I already love can help!

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