Effects of Yoga on Women with PCOS
Yoga is a gentle-yet-powerful form of exercise that can help the body in countless ways. Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago, and the building blocks of a yoga practice include a specific set of exercises and poses. These are combined with breathing techniques and meditation principles. It is a mind/body/spirit exercise practice designed to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. These are just a few of of its benefits, as practicing yoga has many positive outcomes—especially for women with PCOS.
Here are some of the benefits of yoga that we have seen in research directly related to women who have PCOS.
Yoga Improves Quality of Life in PCOS Women Who are Undergoing Fertility Treatment
Going through fertility treatments can not only be physically draining, but can also affect mental health. A small study conducted in PCOS women undergoing fertility treatment concluded that a 6-week yoga as a meditation exercise practice signifcantly improved quality of life score1.
This is especially helpful while going through the stress of fertility treatments, which can include many appointments, repeated testing, and drug interventions.
Yoga Improves Glucose Metabolism and Blood Lipid Levels
In a study that was done in adolescent girls, yoga was compared to conventional physical exercise. Researchers found that yoga over a 12 week period plus 1 hour of meditation daily improved glucose, lipid, and insulin values4. These metabolic improvements are really great to see, especially because a lot of women with PCOS experience insulin resistance resulting in weight gain.
Yoga improves testosterone levels in women with PCOS
Mindfulness yoga practiced 3 times a week for an hour session each improved blood testosterone levels in women with PCOS. The study that was completed also showed improvements in anxiety and depression. High levels of testosterone in the blood can lead to unwanted symptoms when it comes to PCOS such as acne, hair loss and excessive hair growth. Using yoga, levels of DHEAS can be reduced. This is a type of testosterone can comes from the adrenal glands that produce cortisol, our stress hormone. The more cortisol we produce the more DHEAS can come along with it. Therefore by using yoga as a stress relieving activity, we can ultimately help reduce testosterone levels.
Yoga improves endocrine parameters in PCOS
PCOS is considered an endocrine disorder. Meaning it can have an impact on hormone levels in our body. A study conducted with adolescent women with PCOS looked at different endocrine markers showed promising results with yoga in comparison to physical exercises. The study found reductions in Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), Luteinizing Hormone LH), testosterone, Modified Ferriman Gallway (mFG) score for hirsutism, and improved menstrual cycle frequency. No effects were seen on body weight, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), and prolactin4. Therefore, yoga can have an impact on hormonal health in PCOS women.
Yoga improves cardiovascular parameters in women with PCOS
Due to the metabolic disruptions we see in women with PCOS, especially insulin resistance, there is an increased risk of long term cardiovascular disease. This small study showed yoga done once daily for 40 minutes over 12 weeks improved heart rate and blood pressure readings5. However, the study noted more research needs to be done with larger sample sizes and a better study design.
- Bahrami, H., Mohseni, M., Amini, L., & Karimian, Z. (2019). The effect of six weeks yoga exercises on quality of life in infertile women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The Iranian Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility, 22(5), 18–26. https://doi.org/10.22038/IJOGI.2019.13578
- Patel, V., Menezes, H., Menezes, C., Bouwer, S., Bostick-Smith, C. A., & Speelman, D. L. (2020). Regular Mindful Yoga Practice as a Method to Improve Androgen Levels in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 120(5), 323–335. https://doi.org/10.7556/JAOA.2020.050
- R, N., V, P., R, N., & R, A. (2013). Effects of a holistic yoga program on endocrine parameters in adolescents with polycystic ovarian syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 19(2), 153–160. https://doi.org/10.1089/ACM.2011.0868
- R, N., V, P., R, N., & A, R. (2012). Effect of a yoga program on glucose metabolism and blood lipid levels in adolescent girls with polycystic ovary syndrome. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics: The Official Organ of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 118(1), 37–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.IJGO.2012.01.027
- T, V. S. (2018). Effect of yoga nidra on resting cardiovascular parameters in polycystic ovarian syndrome women. National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 11. https://doi.org/10.5455/njppp.2018.8.0411112082018