Researchers found a one-hour mindful yoga class, done three times a week, reduced testosterone levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by 29% over a three-month period. Other androgen levels, like DHEA, were also reduced, and depression and anxiety levels improved by 55% and 21%, respectively, according to the study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
The findings indicate women with PCOS should consider adopting a mindful yoga practice to help ease symptoms and improve androgen levels, says Diana Speelman, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and lead author on this study.
“There are effective pharmacologic options for managing PCOS. However, they come with the potential for some significant side effects,” Dr. Speelman says. “Mindful yoga appears to be a promising option for treating PCOS in a way that can improve several aspects of the disorder.”
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects reproductive, metabolic and psychological health. It is estimated PCOS affects between 5 and 15% of reproductive-age women, and it is the most common cause of anovulatory infertility.
Women with PCOS may experience irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, acne, male-pattern hair loss, subfertility and higher incidence of miscarriage. Reducing androgen levels, including testosterone and DHEA, is key to managing these symptoms. Weight loss, when appropriate, can also help in the management of symptoms.
Researchers recruited women with PCOS aged 22-43 and randomly assigned them into a group, either with no intervention or one in which they would practice mindful yoga for three months. The latter group was given a course in practicing mindfulness one week before beginning the three-month mindful yoga practice.
Mindful yoga sessions were an hour long and took place three times a week, over three months. The benefits of improved androgen levels, as well as reduced depression and anxiety, occurred in the absence of weight loss.
Some participants also reported fewer acne breakouts and improved menstrual regularity following the mindful yoga intervention.
“Yoga has so many benefits,” says Dr. Speelman. “One of its best qualities is that it is accessible to such a wide array of ages and fitness levels.”