Yoga for PCOS guide: beginner poses & expert tips to get started

A comprehensive guide on yoga for PCOS, including benefits and beginner tips.

Stories abound of the benefits of yoga for PCOS.

These days it's like everywhere we look, social media influencers or wellness experts tell us yoga can transform our lives. And I believe them all...because it happened to me.

Research shows a consistent yoga practice can relieve your anxiety, regulate your hormones, and boost your fitness levels.

Best of all, even a 10-minute a day yoga habit can enhance your physical health and mental wellness. But if you're new to yoga, where do you begin?

In this guide, you'll learn the benefits of yoga for PCOS, the best yoga poses for PCOS, and strategies to build a consistent practice.

How yoga helps PCOS

A wealth of evidence shows yoga relieves stress, reduces insulin resistance, and balances hormones in people with PCOS.

One 2021 study exploring yoga and PCOS involved 61 women undergoing fertility treatment. The women were split into two groups: one group did yoga for six weeks while the other only received the routine treatment. And the findings make a convincing case for yoga and PCOS. After six weeks, the yoga group saw an improvement in hirsutism and abdominal circumference.

Another clinical trial followed 31 women with PCOS. Again, the women were divided into two groups, of which one group participated in three one-hour group yoga sessions per week. Prior to the intervention, researchers measured a number of indicators, like the women’s fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, anxiety scores, and free testosterone levels. Researchers checked the same markers three months later. The yoga group had lower testosterone levels and anxiety scores.

Finally, a group of researchers decided to review the current yoga and PCOS research. Their analysis found yoga was linked to better menstrual regularity, insulin resistance, and fasting blood glucose. While it seems like all the evidence demonstrates yoga is an efefctive PCOS treatment,  the same review called for further randomized clinical trials to evaluate the benefits of yoga for PCOS.

My personal journey is this:

When I started yoga, I was stiff, overweight, and stressed. Granted, I made a ton of lifestyle changes around the same time, but after a few months I suddenly realised I was more flexible than I'd ever been in my adult life. Not only that, but I felt strong and capable. One day, without warning, I held a one-armed plank without collapsing into myself. That type of progress alone was amazing.

Beyond the physical benefits, I was able to enjoy moments of mindfulness. I've started to examine my most common thoughts, and I'm trying to become more aware of when my attention starts to wander. This will be a lifelong process and one I only embarked on due to yoga.

5 PCOS Yoga poses 

Any yoga can deliver health benefits, but there are specific PCOS yoga poses you can incorporate into your practice.

1. Malasana 

Malasana, or garland pose, is a yoga squat targeting specific PCOS health problems, said Samiksha Shetty, a yoga expert based in Mumbai.

Image by shiny red type under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

In this Vogue article, Shetty explains why this pose is beneficial for PCOS:

“Malasana works on your digestive tract, which is important if you're prone to bloating and indigestion as a result of your PCOS. It also provides an intense stretch at the hip, hamstrings and lower back. It strengthens the core and pelvic floor and relieves tension in the hip,” says Shetty. 

2. Butterfly pose  

The butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana), also known as the bound angle pose, is a seated yoga pose that may relieve period pain.

Image by Synergy by Jasmine under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Shetty said butterfly is an ideal PCOS yoga pose:

“Baddhakonasana helps relieve cramps and back pain during menstruation. This pose relieves stiffness in the ankles, knees and hips and improves hip mobility. It also helps with emotional release.”

3. Bridge

Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) is a back-bending posture. 

According to Wellcurve, this pose plays a key role in managing PCOS:

“These yoga asanas for PCOS helps in regulating thyroid function, which is crucially linked to PCOS. It relaxes and activates the organs in the abdominal region, thus relieving the symptoms of menopause.”

4. Sun salutation 

Sun salutation (Surya Namaskar) is a yoga sequence including 12 asanas or yoga postures. 

Fia Majumdar writes about the sun salutation’s PCOS benefits in Femina:

“Surya namaskar is one of the top yoga poses for PCOS. Weight loss, waist and hip fat loss, and menstrual cycle regulation can all be aided by performing the sun salutation yoga pose on a daily basis.”

5. Bow pose 

Bow pose (Dhanurasana) is a backbend that eases menstrual pain and promotes a deep stretch. 

Image via flickr under a Creative Commons license

Monisha Bhanote, triple board-certified physician and yoga instructor, expands on these benefits in this Healthline article:

“It increases circulation to the pelvic region, releases tension from abdominal organs, and also stretches the neck, shoulders, and legs muscles.”

Aside from specific PCOS yoga poses, you’ll also find it useful to learn these basic yoga postures:

Getting started with yoga for PCOS: 3 expert tips  

Embarking on something new is always daunting. With that in mind, there are steps you can take to build a yoga practice you can stick with.

1. Attend a yoga class

The right yoga instructor can guide you through your beginner practice, said Brett Larkin, the founder of Uplifted Yoga.

In this Jade Yoga blog post, Larkin said a yoga teacher can help you learn the postures safely. Larkin recommends arriving a few minutes earlier for your first class.

“If you’re a little nervous to start, then go early and introduce yourself to the instructor. Let him or her know that you’re new and I promise you that they will make modifications and adjustments for you throughout the class so that you don’t have to struggle.”

And when I was getting ready to attend my first yoga class, I didn't really know what to expect.

My preconceived ideas of yoga were mixed. On the one hand, I imagined sitting calmly in silence. But on the other, I'd also seen Instagrammers posting images of themselves in challenging poses -- body shapes that looked nearly impossible to attain.

I was relieved when my yoga teacher assured me I could move at my own pace. And from that moment, I tried to stop comparing myself to others. Instead, I'll monitor my growth using videos to chart my progress over time.

2. Build a habit

Form habits around your yoga practice to ensure you get on the mat consistently.

Dr.Timothy McCall, the author of Yoga as Medicine, tells the New York Times it’s better to start small than do nothing at all.

“I would rather have a student succeed at doing a one-minute-a-day practice, than fail at doing a five-minute-a-day practice.”

For example, you might not always have time to get to a one-hour class, but you have a better chance of grabbing a 10-minute yoga slot each day. And if you’re really short on time, there are even 5-minute classes online. A good beginner habit might be to do 10 minutes of yoga every day before your morning coffee.

If you need advice about forming lasting habits, behavior scientist B.J Fogg put together a useful, practical resource on building habits that stick here

3. Practice at home

According to the Yoga Basics blog,  a home practice will support beginners to “maintain and even deepen”  their yoga practice: 

“Once you have established a regular practice, consider experimenting with different styles and practices. Try different styles, such as Iyengar, vinyasa flow, or power yoga. Consider incorporating some yin yoga or a few restorative poses. Consider shifting your focus to a different type of movement, such as standing poses, back bends, forward folds, twists, or inversions.”

As part of your at-home practice, use online PCOS yoga resources For example:

Yoga and PCOS: the secret to a stronger, healthier you

Even a short yoga session can lead to massive changes in your physical and mental health. When you're ready to get started, find a beginner class  and commit to a brief daily practice. Then watch your life begin to transform.

Featured image credit: Photo by Taras Grebinets from Burst