Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is nowadays a common hormonal disorder affecting individuals with ovaries. A condition that's active typically during the reproductive years, PCOS results from an imbalance in reproductive hormones, leading to symptoms such as irregular menstrual periods, elevated androgen levels, and ovarian cysts. Modern lifestyles have contributed to the its prevalence and the physical and mental health challenges that come with it highlights its broad impact. Manifesting during adolescence, an early diagnosis is crucial, and consulting a healthcare professional is essential for diagnosis and tailored guidance. And while treatments and medication is essential for managing the condition itself, a big lifestyle aspect can help ease the symptoms around it in a holistic way. Enter, Yoga.
The age old practice has been considered by many to help one navigate the symptoms around PCOS. Tu understand it better, we spoke to Riya Ranka, a yoga therapist and wellness consultant from Mumbai with five years of experience. With a focus on energetics and emotional healing, she draws inspiration from her studies in Ashtanga yoga, Hatha yoga, Yoga Therapy, Pranic Healing and Ayurveda. And here's what we learnt from her.
Yoga & PCOS, how are they related?
“Stress aggravates PCOS symptoms, and stress management is one of the pillars of treatment, apart from diet and exercise. The yoga practice works holistically on the mind-body connection. On the physical body, specific asanas (postures) have been proven to improve menstrual blood flow and aiding regular periods. Balancing Pranayamas (breathwork practices) work on lowering the heart rate and activating the rest and digest mode of the body, which helps to regulate hormones. Meditation & mindfulness practices help to deal with mental and emotional stressors in a more holistic manner. The yoga lifestyle offers multidimensional healing and long term solutions when practiced consistently,” reveals Riya.
And how exactly does Yoga help? First off, it's like a stress-buster – tackling those high-stress levels that mess with your hormones. Then, there are the Instagram-worthy poses that get things going in the pelvic area, improving blood flow and helping out with the whole menstrual cycle regulation. Plus, it's got your back on the weight front, which, you guessed it, plays a role in balancing those hormones. So, basically, yoga's all about kicking stress to the curb, getting the circulation flowing, and making PCOS symptoms take a back seat over time.
All about asanas
Riya recommends, “A few asanas that can help when practiced daily (*always remember to practice with a certified teacher and within your abilities), building stability and strength first, and then holding for 2-3 minutes is more effective.”
- Baddha Konasana (Butterfly pose): It helps improve circulation to the pelvic and ovaries region.
- Upavistha Konasana (Stretched Leg Forward fold): Just like the butterfly pose, this asana enhances circulation to the pelvic and ovarian region.
- Paschimottanasana (Forward fold): This yoga pose enhances circulation to the pelvic area, ovaries, and digestive region.
- Sirsasana (Headstand): This pose enhances blood flow to the pituitary gland, your hormone control center.
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand): This asana is another way to enhance blood flow to the pituitary gland.
- Matsyasana (Fish pose): This pose enhances blood flow to the thyroid gland, your metabolic hub.
- Supta virasana (Reclined Warrior): Similar to the forward fold, this asana enhances circulation to the pelvic area, ovaries, and digestive region.
- Balasana (Child's Pose): This yoga pose is restorative for both the mind and heart rate.
- Savasana (Corpse pose): This pose promotes relaxation of both the mind and body.
Breathwork and how it impacts the body
Riya confesses, “Pranayama or breathwork plays a vital role in managing PCOS symptoms. Specific breathing techniques, like deep abdominal breathing, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety. Balancing pranayamas like Anulom Vilom help in relaxing the mind, which helps in improved sleep. This relaxation response directly impacts hormone balance and regulating irregular menstrual cycles associated with PCOS. By reducing stress levels, breathwork indirectly aids in weight management, a key factor in mitigating PCOS symptoms. Integrating breathwork practices into a routine alongside other lifestyle changes can contribute significantly to alleviating PCOS symptoms and fostering a sense of well-being.”
Lifestyle changes matter too
Riya points out that it isn't just effective asanas and breathwork techniques that yoga has to offer. Lifestyle upgrades can help too! that Start with tweaking what you munch on—like adding some anti-inflammatory foods and keeping your meals balanced. It's like giving your gut and hormones the right kind of nutrition and love. Additionally, mindfulness practices tricks and a little bit of meditation mojo can help keep cortisol (the stress hormone) in check. It's basically like a zen garden for your hormones. Riya also suggest that good sleep can be the dark horse of your menstrual wellness journey, and yoga can help you get those much needed Zs. The centuries old practice can guide you through the PCOS journey, making it way more manageable, Riya concludes.